UCP leader demands by-election he likely doesn’t want; premier, presumably anxious to tie him down in House, is silent

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PHOTOS: Jason Nixon, the UCP’s new House Leader. (Photo: Dave Cournoyer, Daveberta.ca.) Below: Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, seatless UCP Leader Jason Kenney, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean in happier times, Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman, Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, and Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark.

Happy Halloween! Nothing is as it seems!

Now that he’s safely the leader of the United Conservative Party and has found an MLA willing to step aside for the good of the party, Jason Kenney is demanding that Premier Rachel Notley hop to it and get him a by-election so that he can take his place in the Legislature.

For the moment, Ms. Notley is maintaining a stately silence on the topic. However, according to the Globe and Mail, Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman says her boss is thinking about it and will make a decision in the dispensation of the fullness of time – my words, not hers.

Regardless, it’s one of those oddities of politics that both Ms. Notley and Mr. Kenney are obligated to indicate they desire the opposite of what they almost certainly actually want to see happen.

The premier, who would surely like Mr. Kenney in the House sooner than later to keep him bogged down in Edmonton where her supporters can concentrate their metaphorical fire on his extreme social views, can’t appear to be knuckling under to the head UCPer’s demands.

The UCP leader, who needs to be on the road pressing the flesh and getting his troops fired up, has to appear ready to take the fight to the premier’s front yard, pretty much the last place he ought to be, strategically speaking.

So I’m sure Mr. Kenney’s fingers are crossed that he can goad Ms. Notley into waiting as long as possible to call the by-election.

Since it’s the government that gets to make the call – within a time limit of six months – I think we can expect a by-election sooner than later. However, aside from a willingness to look foolish if it turns out I’m wrong, I am not prepared to put my money where my mouth is.

Any riding whose voters were willing to elect Dave Rodney double the number of times he climbed Mount Everest is presumably not going to balk at electing Mr. Kenney their MLA in Calgary-Lougheed.

Then again, you never know. Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, who like Mr. Kenney is seatless, will probably use the opportunity to get his name before voters too. No one is going to deny Mr. Khan is more charismatic than the new UCP leader, are they?

Kenny makes changes to UCP’s Legislative Caucus; more to come

Meanwhile yesterday, Mr. Kenney made a few changes, naming Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon as House Leader in his absence, and assigning a few others caucus leadership positions. He will name legislative critics soon.

While the situation is slightly different now that the UCP has an official leader – just one who doesn’t have a seat in the House – this ends the short tenure of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper as interim UCP leader.

Mr. Cooper, well spoken and knowledgeable about Parliamentary procedure, is probably the sharpest knife in the UCP’s cutlery drawer. Mr. Nixon, once said to have been the highest-paid student society executive in Alberta, is not. He was, however, a Kenney loyalist in the recent leadership campaign.

As for Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Brian Jean, the former Wildrose Party and Opposition leader defeated by Mr. Kenney for the top UCP job, the Edmonton Journal reported he didn’t make it to the party’s caucus meeting yesterday morning. The CBC said he looked as if he were choking back tears. So I wouldn’t advise placing any on Mr. Jean sticking around any longer than absolutely necessary.

Notwithstanding the rumour yesterday morning that Vitor Marciano, Mr. Jean’s loyal strategist who served as the UCP’s director of logistics, wanted to stay on the job, by this evening his name had disappeared from the government’s online directory.

By contrast, Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt – who quit to sit as an Independent after being caught renting his subsidized Edmonton apartment on Airbnb and being charged by Edmonton Police with leaving the scene of a minor traffic accident – is drifting back toward the centre of the UCP universe.

Mr. Fildebrandt, another Kenney loyalist, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. As for l’affaire Airbnb, no laws were broken. Expect him to be welcomed back to the UCP Caucus if he is found not guilty. A verdict in the traffic case is expected on Dec. 18.

Greg Clark to Alberta: Do as I say, not as I do

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

When Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark contemplated the efforts of former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith to roll her caucus in to premier Jim Prentice’s PCs in December 2014, he found he didn’t approve.

“The Alberta Party believes that in a parliamentary democracy, there’s a right way and a wrong way to cross the floor,” Mr. Clark said huffily in response to a question form students at Red Deer Lake School south of Calgary in a video that has now appeared on Youtube.

“When an MLA really disagrees with what their party is doing, they have the opportunity under our system to cross the floor,” Mr. Clark said. “But we believe the way that Danielle Smith and Wildrose did it … is the wrong way to do it.

“What should happen is the MLA should consult with their constituents and explain to them why they’re going to cross the floor. And give their constituents an opportunity in an open, public forum to provide feedback to that MLA as to why they should, or shouldn’t, cross the floor. When the conditions have been met, the MLA can cross the floor, and in our system they will have the opportunity at the next election to either vote for or against that MLA.”

Well, not much like that happened before Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill MLA Karen McPherson, elected as a New Democrat in 2015, was welcomed to the Alberta Party Caucus by Mr. Clark yesterday after sitting as an Independent for a few days.

But, you know, that was then, and this is now.

Categories Alberta Politics