Jason Kenney wins, completing double reverse hostile takeover of Alberta’s conservative parties

Posted on October 29, 2017, 12:57 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Jason Kenney celebrates his victory last night in Calgary. (Photo: @JasonKenney Twitter account, where it was posted without attribution.) Below: Brian Jean, gone fishin’ … with his wife, photo from his Twitter account. Is this what the future holds for the former Wildrose leader? Next, Doug Schweitzer, the third candidate to lead the UCP, grabbed from his Twitter account. Finally, your one of your blogger’s own photos of NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

As predicted in this space regularly since well before the party actually existed, Jason Kenney has won the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party.

Mr. Kenney, 49, won it last night on the “first ballot” – although there wasn’t really any such thing in this case, more like the first run through the computer – with 61 per cent of the vote. Again, this was no surprise.

Indeed, it was obvious back in July 2016, when the former Harper Government utility cabinet minister and Calgary MP announced his intention to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, that to the well-heeled insiders who pull the strings of Alberta’s conservative movement, Mr. Kenney was their man and the process of reuniting the province’s right would be strictly choreographed from the get-go.

If that wasn’t obvious to former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean at the time, it certainly was by last night when someone at UCP headquarters pushed the start button on the vote-counting machine. Mr. Jean’s foretaste of doom as a UCP leadership candidate was clear in his desperate 11th call just before midnight Thursday for the voting to be halted because of “suspicious behaviour” in the party’s computerized voting.

And so the double-reverse hostile takeover of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties is now complete, first of the Progressive Conservatives by the Wildrose Party, then on the Wildrose Party by the Conservatives, in each case with Mr. Kenney, the consummate political insider, as the catalyst.

Whether we admire Mr. Kenney or distrust him, this accomplishment must be acknowledged. So then, Congratulations, Jason!

Mr. Kenney’s supporters will party tonight, and so too may the NDP Government’s political strategists – for, while they realize re-election will be an uphill fight, and despite Mr. Kenney’s formidable talents as a campaigner, the social conservative baggage the new UCP leader carries is heavy, and may well not appeal to Alberta’s increasingly liberal silent majority.

Mr. Kenney’s victories did not come without flaws and controversies.

In a distasteful exhibition, candidates for the PC Party leadership who seemed to present a real threat to Mr. Kenney were bullied into leaving the race. One joined the NDP, another left the party completely, another has made her peace with the UCP.

The pleas Thursday night to halt the vote by Mr. Kenney’s two remaining opponents in the UCP leadership race, Mr. Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, also highlight practices that are questionable at best, unsavoury at worst.

The head of the party’s leadership election committee, who is married to a paid Kenney organizer, could see no problems worthy of consideration, and the voting proceeded. If there were to be an investigation, it would be conducted by an accounting firm run by the sons of a key Kenney supporter.

This hardly passes the sniff test, although none of that means Mr. Kenney wouldn’t have won both races anyway.

After all, there is a Nixonian quality to the character of the man, a tendency to overkill that was evident is his supporters’ electoral excesses. The same thing infects the insiders club of Tory Old Boys, men like former prime minister Stephen Harper and Reform Party leader Preston Manning, who backed him from the start.

The right-wing media echo chamber will be onside in the run-up to the next Alberta general election, of course. The financially troubled Postmedia newspaper corporation’s last gasp may well turn out to be the full-court press for Mr. Kenney that has already begun in its pages. Last night, one of Postmedia’s columnists was already calling this entirely predictable result “a miracle”!

You have to know, if it hadn’t been for the Calgary election polling fiasco, Postmedia’s Calgary Herald would probably be releasing a poll today “proving” Mr. Kenney is wildly popular among women and Millennials. (I’m joking … at least, I think I’m joking.)

Whether Mr. Kenney will now strategically moderate his radical social conservatism or double down on his controversial views about gay rights, sex education and reproductive rights remains to be seen.

Whether he will run for a seat in the Legislature or snipe at the government of Premier Rachel Notley from the safety of the outside also is not yet clear. Most likely, he’ll wait outside.

Whether he will welcome well-known Airbnb host Derek Fildebrandt back to the UCP Caucus may already have been decided. At least, Mr. Fildebrandt was reported to have been seen on stage with Mr. Kenney last night.

Characteristically, Mr. Kenney refused to speak with media after his victory was announced in Calgary last night. Instead, he will hold a tightly controlled news conference in that city this afternoon.

As the results of Alberta’s recent municipal election suggest, there really is a silent majority in this province that, while far from radical, is still bound to be extremely uncomfortable with Mr. Kenney and what he would do in office.

So “uniting the right” is not the end of this story when the progressive wing of the PC Party and the grassroots-oriented philosophy of the Wildrose Party have both been destroyed within the UCP by Mr. Kenney’s ascendancy.

Alberta has changed and, no matter what happens in 2019, it is not going to change back into what it was before. We face interesting times.

21 Comments to: Jason Kenney wins, completing double reverse hostile takeover of Alberta’s conservative parties

  1. Edwin Mundt

    October 29th, 2017

    Last two paragraphs were bang-on.

    Reply
  2. Frank

    October 29th, 2017

    And so the great conservative enterprise is 75 percent complete. The remaining piece of the puzzle is to form the government in Alberta in 2019. However, this may not be a certainty.

    As most centrist, Red Tories like myself have been repelled and and scorned by this ultra right wing social conservative UCP Party the welcome mat has been extended from both the Alberta Party and the NDP.

    Brian Jean should have seen the writing on the wall at the 2016 Conservative Party of Canada Stampede BBQ. It was already decided that the party elite along with the disciples of the Manning Institute had already picked their chosen one named Jason Kenney. The elites did not stab him in the back, but stabbed him in front with smiles on their faces.

    As for Doug Schweitzer to present himself as the second coming of Peter Lougheed is not only downright laughable, but sadly pathetic . This guy was no where to be found when the rebuild and renewal campaigns of Richard Starke and Byron Nelson were trying to save the PC Party. Mr. Schweitzer, thankfully you did not quit your day job and now you can disappear into obscurity.

    The other only happy person about Jason Kenney victory is Derrick Fildebrandt. As he is cut from the same cloth from JK, he will be welcomed back into the UCP Party as he can be a useful idiot to get the base riled and excited for the next election. However, he will be told what to say and when to say it. The trusted party mandarins from the Harper Administration will now be in charge and will inform him once that any embarrassing antics from him will not be tolerated and he will have his ass punted out the door. This might not be a fun job for Derrick Fildebrandt anymore.

    Reply
  3. David

    October 29th, 2017

    If Mr. Jean’s and Mr. Schweitzer’s allegations have some truth to them, it is not a “miracle” that Kenney won. Perhaps it was to use another term – “preordained”. Kenney does seem to have a sort of Nixonian air about him, which was more evident in the PC leadership race. Perhaps that was because it was a more hostile crowd running that party, who were not always necessarily willing to do his bidding.

    I expect he will try to present a moderate face for a while, but I do not think it will last long. Moderation is not his style, character or preference. In any event, I think most of the moderate PC’s have made up their mind about Kenney already. It would interesting to know the breakdown of votes for Kenney by predecessor party.

    I agree he will probably not rush to get a seat in the Legislature. He seems to like to hide away from controversy and having to be in the Legislature regularly would make that more difficult. I think he will become the peek a boo leader of the opposition – we will only see him when he wants us to see him and when the media has difficult questions to ask, he will supposedly be out “campaigning” in some far, far away place in rural Alberta.

    I expect like most new leaders, he will get a bit of a honeymoon in the media, but it will also be more difficult for him to avoid more serious scrutiny, which he has up until now. For instance, we don’t really know much about his personal life or what he does in his spare time. I don’t think the press will like his policy free approach (on the grounds that the party has not yet come up with policy) and will soon grow impatient with that.

    He will tend to divide Albertans and like other divisive leaders, he may find the more we get to know him the less we like him. His best strategy may be to maintain a mysterious distance, and carefully control his image much like some recently previous Prime Ministers did.

    If the main criticism of Wildrose was that it was out of step with modern Alberta, I can not see Kenney succeeding with a similar approach. Eliminating another party may be a successful strategy in the short term, but politics, like nature abhors a vacuum. There seem to be a lots of centrist and progressive people in power in Alberta now, more than can be dismissed as a coincidence or an accident, no matter how much Kenney try to make that claim. I have the sense that Albertans are not really looking for an extreme right wing leader. The UCP is a clever idea that could work with a more moderate folksy leader, but I don’t think Kenney is the person to carry it off.

    Reply
  4. Bill Malcolm

    October 29th, 2017

    Consistently great commenting by Mr Climenhaga.

    I am afraid I cannot write or speak of Kenney without bile rising in my throat, leading to vicious characterizations that polite folk regard as over the top.

    However, considering his track record, I’m afraid you Albertans are going to have him as Grand Vizier of All He Surveys two years hence. Some inevitable things you can see coming down the track from leagues away. As you say, Kenney’s tendency to overkill even when he’s in the lead, to smash, humiliate and grind to dust his opponents nominally on the same political page, is all too obvious. Whatever it takes, sleaze, backroom deals, lies, Jason is determined to win by hook or by crook. When he does, his current hangers-on will be cast to the four winds, no longer needed, just like the PCs and Brian Jean, nominal allies who Kenney disrespects, because it’s not about the UCP, it’s about His Imperial Majesty.

    Unless the NDP gets down to some real strategizing, some acknowledgment that their opponent will not fight fair, then on election night just like Jean, you will be bleating about polling inconsistencies, incorrect counting, hacked systems and so on. And it will be too late. Now is the time to get serious or Kenney will steamroller right over you. Politeness does not count with this sociopath.

    Reply
  5. Maureen Ebel

    October 29th, 2017

    Hopefully Albertans have moved beyond this Mafia hillbilly view of the world. Born and bred here I finally felt this was an Alberta that reflected my values when Rachel Notley became premier. She certainly has my vote in 2019.

    Reply
  6. Farmer B

    October 29th, 2017

    My thought is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Electing Rachel Notley Premier was the action. Electing Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP is the beginning of the reaction. The NDP’s carbon tax is still not popular, latest poll I saw 59% still don’t support it. They have just released a 200 page document on how wcb regulations will be applied on the farm. The NDP is now in disagreement with the Catholic school boards of Alberta over sex education. They have also been increasing Alberta’s debt at an unprecedented rate and have no problem with it and offer no solutions. It looks to me like the NDP has given Jason plenty to work with. He has a strong record of successfully getting out the vote and I look forward to watching him and Rachel Notley do political battle.

    Reply
  7. J.E. Molnar

    October 29th, 2017

    Slapping a smiley face on toxic conservatism isn’t going to rebuild a battered brand. The old axiom of putting lipstick on a pig, to make it look more palatable, still makes it a pig.

    What I’m most concerned about is not Rachel Notley going toe-to-toe with Jason Kenney, but the case for suitable amendments to the Fair Elections Act. Third party advertising rules “outside of an election period” need to be tightened up. We know through the Kenney PC leadership campaign ($500,000 raised before the start of the campaign) that he was very selective in revealing his donor list and failed to comply with promises to reveal all donors who contributed to his campaign in the pre-writ period (see link below).

    Political Action Committees (PACs) are an ever-growing concern, since Alberta’s election financing rules banned corporate and union donations in 2016. Unless third party advertising is revisited to prevent “dark money” from securing a toehold in Alberta politics once again, the Kenney juggernaut of sleaze and questionable campaign tactics will likely continue unabated. Conservative parties, federal or provincial, capable of questionable “robocalls” and contentious voting disruptions are capable of anything. This law needs to be fixed posthaste.

    http://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/no-disclosure-of-pc-donors-until-end-of-leadership-race

    https://www.alberta.ca/election-financing.aspx

    Reply
  8. Jerrymacgp

    October 29th, 2017

    The next shoe to drop, will be when the new party holds its founding policy convention and figures out what, if anything, it actually stands FOR. To date it has only been able to state what it is against, that being the political legitimacy of the current NDP government (an “accidental” government, as though Alberta’s voters were too stupid to know for whom they were voting in 2015).

    If the party, despite electing a doctrinaire social conservative to be its leader, puts together a balanced, moderately conservative suite of policies that steers clear of “divisive social issues”, then perhaps they will give the NDP a run for its money, and might even win. If they put together a regressive, Paleolithic platform that tries to turn back the clock on social issues like women’s reproductive health and LGBTQ+ rights, then the NDP can hammer them hard in the cities and suburbs, and probably take the next election, albeit with a slimmer margin of victory.

    Another question yet to be answered, will be what will the more “moderate” conservatives do? I use that term “moderate” advisedly, since on fiscal and economic issues, like the role of government in the economy, there is little that separates the Kenney-Jean-Fildebrandt axis from the former PCs, other than varying and often subtle gradations of free-market conservativism. However, on social issues and the role of government in protecting diversity, there is yawning gulf between Kenney’s brand and that of the more moderate members of the conservative spectrum. I’m referring here to ex-elected movers & shakers in the late PC party, like Thomas Lukaszuk and Stephen Mandel, as well as sitting former PC MLAs like Wayne Drysdale (my own MLA, BTW). Will they stick with the Kenney-led UCP? Or, as Mr Mandel appears to have already done, will they jump ship, and onto what other ship or lifeboat will they clamber? Will Greg Clark’s Alberta Party benefit from their experience, money and contacts? Will they go to the increasingly irrelevant Liberals? Will they follow Sandra Jansen to the NDP, as the most viable, moderate alternative to this new party on the right? And, when will they decide what to do, right off the bat or after the policy convention early next year?

    There are still a lot of shoes yet to drop in this well-shod political centipede.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      October 30th, 2017

      Jerry, your post shows David’s veracity when he concluded his post with ‘interesting times’

      As you suggested, the Alberta Party will be interesting to watch, as the progressive refugees climb into the AP lifeboat. How much will they push the AP to a more rightward position on the political spectrum? Greg Clark came out in favour of a PST several months ago when it looked like he had no chance of forming a government. Will he renounce that position, or will a party convention filled with former PCs renounce it for him?

      The biggest question I have, however, is what happens if the AP winds up with a balance of power in a minority government? Which party would be the least distasteful to support, the NDP or the UCP? I can certainly see how Jason Kenney could rue the day he allowed his attack dogs to alienate people who might have otherwise been inclined to support him.

      Thanks for a great post.

      Reply
    • Jason Yan

      October 30th, 2017

      There is only one thing I am worried about. That JK can use his connections in the ethnic communities to ram through the suburbs. Many of these communities are concerned about things like GSA’s and all what not, so social issues wouldn’t really be a black or white issues, it really depends on the riding.

      Reply
  9. ronmac

    October 29th, 2017

    “Characteristically, Mr. Kenney refused to speak with media after his victory was announced in Calgary last night. Instead, he will hold a tightly controlled news conference in that city this afternoon.”

    Sounds like Stephen Harper all over again. He was a maniac about controlling the message.

    Fatherly advice dept: any kids out there nearing graduation? Haven’t staked out a career yet? Adrift in a dea of choices. Or you keep telling your parents that dental hygiene ain’t “your thing.”

    Maybe it’s time to ditch the liberal arts personna and adopt a free market dogma. The more ideologically pure the better. Then join an astroturf organization like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Who knows, in no time can become the right hand man to Jason Kenney’s right hand man. A few steps away from the levers of power.

    Watch this video.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2XQ2m2uBPI

    Reply
  10. October 29th, 2017

    “Whether he will run for a seat in the Legislature…”
    – Which are the 3 most likely seats JK would want to contest, if there were to be a seat open up?

    “The right-wing media echo chamber will be onside in the run-up to the next Alberta general election…”
    – Perhaps the answer to the death spiral of ‘traditional’ media is to simply stop pretending and declare themselves. So instead of a perennially money losing ‘business’ they can claim the tax status of political apparatchiks.

    Reply
  11. Expat Albertan

    October 29th, 2017

    Well, we have a pretty good idea of how Kenney will try and moderate his message; just look at his old boss and mentor, Stephen Harper. My guess is that he will talk about ‘unity’ and ‘fiscal prudence’ while, at the same time, throwing a nice, fat, juicy bone to the base. If the last federal election is anything to go one, that bone might be something the base loves but that the rest of the electorate (the majority?) will choke on (think the barbaric cultural practices hotline) and think twice about voting UCP.

    Reply
  12. prairie observer

    October 29th, 2017

    All the nuts are now in the same jar.

    Reply
  13. Bob Raynard

    October 29th, 2017

    Jason Kenney is probably the easiest of the three candidates for a progressive government to defeat, but is the scariest if they don’t.

    Reply
  14. Farmer B

    October 29th, 2017

    I see on the CBC website that a Calgary MLA is stepping down Nov. 1 so that Jason can run for a seat in the legislature. I guess he is not going to “wait outside”.

    Reply
  15. Conrad

    October 29th, 2017

    Very appropriate that Jason Kenney would run in Calgary-Lougheed. He has already proven to be a much better leader than Lougheed and will bring back true conservatism that Albertans both need and want!

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      October 30th, 2017

      “He has already proven to be a much better leader than Lougheed”

      I agree. Kenney’s leadership skills are so strong he already has people absolutely devoted to him even though they have no reason to.

      Reply
    • Murphy

      October 30th, 2017

      The bloviating carpet-bagger hasn’t lead anything yet. Your post is typical Kon rubbish, lacking event a scintilla of truth.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 7th, 2017

      Oh, sure! Don’t forget Kenney’s catch phrase, “Make Alberta white again – and straight again.”

      Reply
  16. wlh

    October 30th, 2017

    Take that, Conrad! Your man is nothing more than a bloviating carpetbagger!

    Reply

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