Alberta Politics
It’s a social conservative party and a progressive conservative party! The Amazing Kenney performs his best-known trick! (Photo: Universal Studios, Creative Commons)

UCP policy list controversies will disappear in a puff of smoke as Jason Kenney performs his best-known magic trick

Posted on May 03, 2018, 1:43 am
7 mins

Alberta’s Opposition United Conservative Party has distributed to its members a list of 782 policy proposals to be considered at its founding convention in Red Deer this weekend. Inevitably, the list was immediately handed over to media and the blogosphere by Conservatives unknown.

Much was immediately made by the UCP’s enemies, and a few of its friends, of the list’s many potentially controversial and embarrassing entries. These include encouragement for privatized medicine, lax gun laws, cutting public employees’ pay and ripping up their pension plans, brutal budget austerity, 19th Century definitions of marriage and family, permission for health care professionals not to offer medical services they disapprove of, and pots of public money for private schools.

In addition, there were a few of the dog whistles you’d expect – voter ID, anyone? Plus a few proposals that indicate the originators don’t really get how our system of government works. The ever-popular referendum on Canada’s equalization program, for example. There were also a surprising number of suggestions that while leaning to the conservative side of the political spectrum were reasonably sensible.

The real Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party, as he now appears.

The task now for UCP Leader Jason Kenney will be not to get too much of the stuff that’s bound to be unpopular with middle-of-the-road voters into the party’s policy books, but hang onto enough to keep the party’s social conservative base sweet. After all, they contribute a lot of the money, time and enthusiasm without which no political party can succeed at election time.

If anyone understands how the policy planks that become a political party’s platform can be dangerous, it is Mr. Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister and a lifelong professional politician who has managed to have a highly successful political career while holding social conservative views that are well outside the Canadian mainstream.

This is no insignificant trick. It relies, to a considerable degree, on simply refusing to acknowledge what is in plain sight – as in the recent case of the NDP Government’s abortion clinic “bubble zone” legislation, which caused the entire UCP Caucus to disappear from the Legislature in a flash. If the government benches were more appreciative of the art of illusion, they would have applauded!

This, by the way, is how American evangelical leaders can demand the restoration of Christian values at the same time as supporting Donald Trump, who by the sound of it is a man who thinks two or three ain’t bad when it comes to the Ten Commandments. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

UCP apparatchiks are toiling as this is written to winnow the long list down to about 250 resolutions that will be presented to party delegates on Friday to vote on over the weekend. Successful resolutions will become the party’s official policies.

And no matter what the UCP’s opponents say now, I doubt there will be too much left for them to take potshots at once the process has been completed on the Christian Sabbath, which out of political necessity this weekend UCPers will not honour.

After a carefully choreographed convention – at which the party’s social conservatives will have enough time in the spotlight to reassure them their enthusiasms are taken seriously – a carefully parsed and anodyne policy package will be ready for public consumption in time for the 2019 election campaign. Understandings are certain to be reached behind closed doors, plausibly deniable.

That, at least, is what I imagine the UCP plan will be. You just never know when members are involved, of course, when someone might wander outside the lines. This is a problem faced not only by parties on the right-hand side of the political spectrum. Count on it that Mr. Kenney’s stage managers will be watching closely.

After the weekend, the UCP will quietly get to work on its real priorities: tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor, and carte blanche for the fossil fuel industry.

Irony alert: Brad Wall takes a job in Alberta

Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (Photo: Daniel Paquet, Creative Commons).

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is so infuriated at what Rachel Notley and her NDP Government have done to Alberta that he’s going to come to work for a Calgary law firm.

The ironic snickering you hear is that of the many non-fans of the cranky former Mr. Congeniality of Confederation, not all of whom are New Democrats and not all of whom are in Alberta.

One theory is that Mr. Wall hates what the NDP has done so much he took the first job he could get in Alberta once he’d retired from politics. Another is that Saskatchewan’s economy is such a mess, not to mention the soaring sales tax, that the only post-premier employment the man could get was in rebounding Alberta.

Mr. Wall – who is not a lawyer, but has a university degree in public administration and a certificate from the Investment Funds Institute of Canada – will go to work as a “special advisor” in the Calgary office of the venerable firm of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP, which was founded in Dundas, Ont., in 1862.

He has assured his former supporters via Tweet that he will continue to reside in Swift Current, which he represented as MLA in the Legislature in Regina for 19 years. As time goes by, though, one imagines he will be drawn more and more to the bright lights of Calgary, the Paris of the Western Plains.

9 Comments to: UCP policy list controversies will disappear in a puff of smoke as Jason Kenney performs his best-known magic trick

  1. May 3rd, 2018

    Brad Wall to work for a Calgary law firm while living in Swift Current?

    Helluva commute. Start with 2.5 hours driving, then fly for an hour or 2… much like his economic policies: I don’t think Bradley thought this one through.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      May 3rd, 2018

      Soft landings for spavined Conservative hacks don’t require long commutes, or even any commutes. Just a bank account number for the automatic deposits.

      Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    May 3rd, 2018

    If Albertans still have any lingering doubts about the UCP pursuing back-to-the-future conservatism, that notion can now be safely put to rest with this smorgasbord of regressive, anachronistic resolutions.

    Jason Kenney pledged a “Grass Roots Guarantee” to his unsuspecting obsequious flock, who bought in hook, line and sinker. After the dust settles from their founding AGM, it’s quite probable that many of these UCP boosters will walk away greatly disillusioned and feel they were unceremoniously duped by a snake oil salesman known more for his bombast and bluster than his can-do attitude. There is no way this meet-and-greet with plow through 250 resolutions in two days.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      May 3rd, 2018

      I agree. Until they have their policy meeting, every member will look at the new party’s ‘Grass Roots Guarantee’ as doing exactly the things they want.

      Reply
  3. David

    May 3rd, 2018

    It amuses me to no end that the family values crowd in the US supports Trump, who values his wives so much he has had three of them. I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad if he spent more quality time with them and say less quality time with playboy bunnies and strippers. However, at least Trump does have a bunch of somewhat photogenic kids, which is more than Kenney can say. Kenney is in some ways an odd choice for leader for a social conservative group.

    It will be an interesting balancing act for him to water down and drop most of the more contentious policy proposals, no doubt put forward by his more enthusiastic and ardent social conservative supporters. They may start to wonder if Kenney is really committed to what they want or if he is really just interested in the next part of his long and so far fairly successful political career. After him repeatedly running away from controversy recently, it may take more than a wink or a nod or an “understanding” to mollify some of them.

    In the end, I suspect the policies will be more about economics and not so much about social issues, where even the UCP and Kenney realizes it is seriously out of step with Albertans. However, I suspect there will be some carefully coded words and stealth here too. Recent polling has affirmed that Albertans are not interested in big cuts to health care and education, which the UCP is.

    Perhaps the biggest magic act will be to convince voters he can balance the budget, while not raising taxes and not cutting services. If Kenney and the UCP can do that, they are good illusionists or politicians (perhaps the same thing?). How long he can pull that off is anyone’s guess, but I am thinking people will really not be very happy with him when they figure out they have been duped.

    Reply
  4. Lars

    May 3rd, 2018

    It relies, to a considerable degree, on simply refusing to acknowledge what is in plain sight…

    I believe that the term you’re looking for here is “doublethink”.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 4th, 2018

      Yer probably right there, Lars. DJC

      Reply
  5. Mike in Edmonton

    May 3rd, 2018

    Actually, I think Jason’s new and improved Wildrose 2.0 isn’t much different than the original. The hysterics and female-bashing at the start were mostly to scare off anybody sensible, thus ensuring Jason I of Oilberduh would be crowned King-in-Waiting. Unfortunately, I doubt any tactical move away from the extreme right will disillusion his True Believers. They’ll simply ignore any signs they’ve been “betrayed,” and go right on believing.

    As for Brad Wall, his new Calgary job is less ironic than disgusting. Here’s a guy who encouraged Alberta oil barons to flee to Saskatchewan–and I wish the noisier ones had. Immediately he grab the first lucrative offer (I assume he’s being paid minimum wage times about 100) for his “insight” into Saskatchewan politics. Presumably his new masters know what they’re paying for. “Money talks, BS walks.” But in Brad’s case, he won’t have to walk, much less fly. That’s the beauty of tele-conferencing.

    Reply
  6. Jerrymacgp

    May 6th, 2018

    One wonders, though, whether the party rank & file, more of whom come from the Wildrose side of the new party than the PC side, will pull the same stunt on Mr Kenney & his brain trust that the original Wildrose did on their most recent leader, the estimable Danielle Smith—who tried unsuccessfully to decouple the party from its so-con base in order to become more palatable to mainstream urban voters, only to be cut off at the knees by the party.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)