PHOTOS: The plot thickens … like the gravy at a certain truck stop restaurant. The spectral presences of Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper eating breakfast are not quite visible in the booth. Below: Mr. Jean, plus the real Mr. Kenney and the real Mr. Harper as he may appear today.

A spectre is haunting Alberta, and Brian Jean wants to assure you it’s not him.

So the Wildrose Party Leader said yesterday he’s On Your Side, and he’ll be at your side too all over Alberta this summer. All you have to do is fill out the form on the Wildrose web page and he’ll let you know when he’s going to be close to you.

If this seems to be a little creepy, don’t worry about it. It’s only politics, and in particular the politics of which person and right-wing party gets to lead the fight against Alberta’s NDP Government.

So the Opposition leader officially launched a summer tour yesterday, to be called The Brian Jean Town Hall Series – complete with a nice cursive logo that includes some Rocky Mountains and a sheaf of free-market barley untainted by contact with the Canadian Wheat Board. He says he hopes “to welcome all Albertans who believe in these core values of small government, strong families and safe communities” to his town halls.

Small government we can argue about, as in conservative circles that term is normally a coded signal to those in the know meaning lots of privatization. Certainly Mr. Jean also wants you to associate big government with the NDP. But as Mr. Jean and what’s left of his brain trust understand, you’d be hard pressed to find any Albertan who doesn’t believe in strong families and safe communities.

The tour announcement also promises economic growth, “fiscal discipline” and “once again … having effective health and education systems.” Presumably, given what else the Wildrose Party has said about Alberta’s alleged golden age under Ralph Klein and the more recent Tory governments that followed it, they would like to return to the heady days of blowing up public hospitals with dynamite.

Some readers may want to suggest that strong families and safe communities are code for something else too, but personally I’m going to take Mr. Jean at has word and assume that two outta three ain’t bad and we’re all welcome whenever the Wildrose dog and pony show hits the dusty trail.

But hovering above all this – Tweeting continually – is the spectre that haunts Alberta nowadays: Jason Kenney, once Stephen Harper’s minister of defence and multiculturalism in Ottawa and now a not-quite-declared candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, as the PC Party is legally known.

At any rate, for the past week or so Mr. Kenney’s supporters have been feverishly running flags up flagpoles and sending balloons aloft, apparently heedless of the danger that, this being Alberta, some conservative supporters may shoot at the flags and salute the balloons.

What Mr. Kenney and his still mysterious backers seem to have in mind is an unusual double reverse hostile takeover, first of the PC Party by Mr. Kenney, a Wildrose supporter, and then of the Wildrose Party, of which Mr. Jean is already the leader, by the newly rosified PCs, thereby turning the PCs in to the Wildrose and then the Wildrose into the PCs. Still with me?

No wonder Mr. Kenney is reported to have breakfast many mornings at a discreet Calgary truck stop with Mr. Harper, who is not only Mr. Kenney’s former mentor and boss, but Mr. Jean’s sometime boss as well. Mr. Kenney presumably needs a devious mind like the former prime minister’s to help him keep all the plotlines straight!

Speaking of which, the only person known to have had breakfast with Preston Manning recently is Derek Fildebrant, still the Wildrose Party’s finance critic, Mr. Jean’s recent efforts to skid him from that role notwithstanding. Tom Flanagan, once a political strategist for both Mr. Manning and Mr. Harper has been the man responsible for hoisting most of Mr. Kenney’s flags and inflating the majority of his balloons.

Meanwhile, the Wildrose Party is said to be packed with a Fifth Column of Kenney supporters ready to turn on their present leader if he is unprepared to pack it in and make way for the not-so-young pretender. Indeed, another attack on Mr. Jean from a Wildrose constituency association is rumoured to be planned in the next couple of weeks.

So, as readers can see, the plot not only thickens like the gravy at the sort of truck stop used by former senior Tories to launch their schemes, it’s practically congealed!

Amid all this skullduggery, it is reassuring from the perspective of political bloggery to learn that Mr. Jean seems to have decided it’s worth a fight to keep his job – which, if he succeeds, could leave the province with two Wildrose Parties and a vacuum where the PCs used to be. That could be filled, I suppose, by either the Alberta Party or the Alberta Liberals, rebranded yet again.

Alas, no actual details of Mr. Jean’s Town Hall itinerary seem to have been set, or at least made public, possibly an operational necessity given all the intrigues the Wildrose leader is facing. We’ll do our best here at to pierce the veil of secrecy and keep you updated.

In the mean time, we can tell you that the names Conservative Party of Alberta Association and Alberta Conservative Party Association have been registered at the Manning Avenue address of a well-known car wash in Fort McMurray. That business – seemingly being used as a pawn to block Mr. Kenney’s queen – is owned by Mr. Jean’s family.

In conclusion, it must be noted that the title of Mr. Jean’s tour – whether it turns out to be one farewell or victory – is not exactly original. At Your Side & On Your Side is the rallying cry of Alberta’s Registered Nurses, thank you very much, and Mr. Jean should acknowledge that fact wherever and whenever he speaks!

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  1. “Some readers may want to suggest that strong families and safe communities are code for something else ….”

    Perhaps, one day, a simple country blogger will take a crack at deciphering that code. Who knows?

  2. Harper and Kenney having many breakfasts at a discreet Calgary truck stop planning how they can eat Brian Jean for breakfast.

  3. So the Stephen Harper method is to hide a self destructive agenda behind something familiar and comforting so people will support your stupid ideas.

  4. Neither the PC’s or the Wildrose leadership seem prepared to roll over so Mr. Kenny can take over and combine their parties. There seem to be a number of people with experience at the provincial level in both parties who would lose from this happening. Mr. Kenny’s experience and contacts are mainly at the federal level and he does not have a lot of friends in at least one of the two parties.

    Free enterprise Alberta is full of hilarious ironies sometimes – I suppose if the former UFA party which governed Alberta many years ago can now run farm fuel and supply outlets, why can’t the Conservative Party of Alberta Association run a car wash in Fort McMurray? This could all get very interesting. Mr. Jean may not be Mr. Charisma, but neither is Mr. Kenny. This may not necessarily turn out the way Mr. Kenny hopes.

  5. Speaking of having breakfast, Harper and Kenney look like they’re ready to cadge a free one during Stampede week.
    As for Brian Jean, he might head for the calf roping’ and hope he ain’t the calf.

  6. “Tom Flanagan, once a political strategist for both Mr. Manning and Mr. Harper has been the man responsible for hoisting most of Mr. Kenney’s flags and inflating the majority of his balloons.”

    Well, The Wiz Flanagan certainly has a more than adequate supply of hot air for balloon duty.

    As for Kenney’s clever switcheroo takeover of one or both right-of-center parties in Alberta (it won’t matter which because he plans to make it all one again – Kumbaya!), on what planet did he think something like that would work? All hat and no cattle? The season of madness is upon us.

  7. Brian Jean’s family business in Fort Mac is on Manning Avenue? This thing has more angles and plot twists than a John Le Carre novel!

    1. Alas, there is no Preston Street, Road or Avenue in Fort Mac. I checked. The nearest seems to be in Saskatoon. The corner of Preston and Manning had a nice ring, though.

  8. Politics in Alberta has become very interesting, and unpredictable. What is the cause? Alberta’s young population? Influx from other provinces? Or the uncomfortable truth (for Conservatives) that Alberta never really bought into the right wing vision, but simply feels obliged to vote conservative out of some kind of duty? Thus, policies that are too conservative can make a premier very unpopular in Alberta…

    Kenny really doesn’t know what he is stepping into. The Calgary Cabal operating out of the School of Private Policy simply has no grasp on the real world of Alberta politics. They are feeding Kenny and he is feeding them and together they are dancing on the decks of the titanic.

    1. Most Albertans aren’t social conservatives and sooner or later a lot of people were going to have to choose between habit and loyalties, and their liberal or progressive natures.

  9. Wow , David your analysis of the situation and theory of a DOUBLE REVERSE TAKEOVER, is so crazy , but yet contains a certain ring of truthfulness to it, that is undeniable. I cant help but think about jason kenney and tom flanagan standing around a conference table laying out their plan of attack… first restablish Alberta beachhead, use beachhead and provide safe space for social conservitives and other allied organizations to attack federal liberals and Kathleen Wynne , then retake Ottawa. Wow

    1. A psychopath repeats what worked once by chance unable to see it was only chance not a winning strategy.

  10. If memory serves that is the truck stop that made the news by changing their French fries to Freedom fries a few years back because France didn’t support Bush’s middle east policies. How’d that turn out for ya?

  11. “…core values of small government, strong families and safe communities…” Let’s just parse each of these phrases a bit, shall we?

    Small government: apparently many social conservatives feel government needs to get bigger, not smaller, in order to put the State back into the nation’s bedrooms, from which they were evicted back in 1968 by a certain federal Minister of Justice who very soon thereafter became Prime Minister, and whose son now holds that same office. On the other hand, most progressives tend to think the State is plenty big enough, thank you very much, when it comes to regulating personal behaviour that harms nobody else, and could even stand a bit of trimming, like in the area of marijuana use.

    Strong families: everyone favours strong families; where progressives and conservatives differ is how “family” is defined. So-Cons, in particular, have a very narrow definition of family, one which is very constrained to breeding pairs and their biological offspring, all living together as an economic unit; meanwhile, Progresssives tend to allow families of all shapes & configurations to define themselves, based on relationships of love, caring and mutual respect.

    Safe communities: progressives feel rural communities and agricultural workers deserve the same level of workplace safety as more urban industrial and commercial workers; conservatives want to turn back the clock and allow rural families to continue to suffer tragic losses due to hazardous work on big corporate farms.

    It’s not really about “core values”, but about the fundamental assumptions underpinning those values.

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