PHOTOS: Dr. Phillip van der Merwe, the brave Calgary physician the NDP has lined up to run against United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election scheduled for Dec. 14. (Photo: Screenshot of Dr. van der Merwe’s Primary Care Network video.) Below: Mr. Kenney, who is widely assumed to be far in the lead; Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan; and Dave Rodney, the UCP MLA who “obligingly” gave up his seat so the celebrated Mr. K could take his place in the Legislature.

Jason Kenney to Rachel Notley: Give me a by-election, right now!

Rachel Notley to Jason Kenney: Sure. Whatever …

These are not actual quotes, of course. But this is not “fake news,” just the same.

Jason Kenney, Stephen Harper’s former and perhaps current lieutenant, has been demanding a by-election with undue haste ever since he was elected leader of the United Conservative Party late last month.

He was hoping, it has been argued here, not actually to get one because it would tie him down in the Legislature instead of letting him wander the province making extravagant, undeliverable promises and letting his supporters take selfies with him. (We’ll let you know if he’s spotted shopping for colourful socks.)

Mr. Kenney’s UCP had even been trying out social media memes, awash with faux outrage, about how awful Premier Rachel Notley was being not giving Mr. Kenney the by-election he’d been demanding for hours, even a few days.

Now she has. The by-election in the Calgary-Lougheed riding will be on Dec. 14.

Even a political columnist for the UPC-loving Postmedia chain has admitted this is lightning fast. “This call isn’t just quick, it’s light-speed for a by-election, especially when decision day will come so close to Christmas,” said the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid in his column yesterday.

So that’s one thing Mr. Kenney won’t get to complain about – although I’m sure he’ll manage to come up with other stuff.

Mr. Braid also noted that Mr. Kenney had a riding to run in thanks to Calgary-Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney, who “obligingly resigned the seat on Oct. 29, right after Kenney won the UCP leadership.”

Could be, although that’s not the way I hear it. Oh, the timing’s described accurately enough, but the story I get from one of Mr. Rodney’s former PC colleagues is that he was given a hard choice: step aside now to let Mr. Kenney run in the safest possible Conservative riding or run as an Independent if he ever decides to seek re-election. Maybe that’s fake news, maybe it’s not. The source is certainly no fan of Mr. Kenney. If true, though, it’s what we used to call “stepacide” back in my days in journalism.

The sole NDP candidate for nomination, Calgary physician Phillip van der Merwe, is expected to be acclaimed on Saturday, according to the CBC.

Dr. van der Merwe has a truly spectacular professional resume. Nowadays, he operates a vasectomy clinic in Calgary. He’s an openly gay man, who is married, and who has strong views about Mr. Kenney’s opposition to Bill 24, the just-passed NDP legislation making it illegal for schools to out students who join gay-straight alliances.

So even if Mr. Kenney is considered a shoo-in, some interesting questions about his plans and positions are bound to be raised in this campaign. It’s a long shot, obviously, but I’m sure Dr. van der Merwe would like to snip Mr. Kenney’s political chances before Alberta has to live with a government we don’t really want.

Once upon a time, the South African-born Dr. van der Merwe supported the Alberta Party. But now that the Alberta Party is experiencing new life as a rebranding exercise for the old Progressive Conservatives, he is touting the NDP as a centrist choice for Alberta – which is completely fair, even though it flies in the face of the rhetoric we hear nowadays from the UCP and its media echo chamber.

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan is also expected to use the by-election to showcase his political talents, a well-placed source in that party tells me. I expect Mr. Khan, a Calgary human rights lawyer, has views similar to Dr. van der Merwe’s on GSAs and the rights of LGBTQ Albertans.

Ditto Romy Tittel, the recently chosen leader of the province’s Greens, Alberta having a surfeit of political party leaders without seats in the Legislature and only one by-election. And, who knows, perhaps the Alberta Party will be able to sort out its identity crisis in time to find someone to run in Calgary-Lougheed too!

Mr. Kenney will have a platform to make his points against the NDP during the pre-holiday season, when not very many Albertans are likely to be paying attention, which suggests if nothing else that Ms. Notley and her advisors are paying attention. That’s not likely to affect the by-election outcome that much, but you take your victories where you can find them.

It does suggest that the fairly constant buzz lately – emanating from an unidentified source, possibly a Conservative one – that the NDP is likely to rush into an improvident early election does not reflect reality. That assessment, of course, might change if by some political miracle Dr. van der Merwe won on Dec. 14.

You don’t believe in miracles, you say? That’s probably wise. Just the same, they’ve happened before in Alberta, haven’t they? Like on May 5, 2015, for example.

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  1. Another miracle example: Premier Don Getty unable to win his own seat in a provincial election. Premier Getty had to relocate to Stettler to continue his political career.

    I wonder if Ms Notley wanted to have the by-election while Kenney’s position on GSAs was still fresh in everybody’s minds.

  2. Good writing is always fun to read like “Dr. Van der Werwe would like to snip Mr. Kenney’s chances”. Political messaging is the same. I read a quote from Premier Rachel Notely yesterday in the Edmonton Journal, we are going to “carefully and compassionately tighten our belts”, as she was talking about how we now will have to curtail spending. So when the UCP wants to curtail spending it is slash and burn, when the NDP wants to cut spending it is careful and compassionate lol. As for thoughts of an early election, the one advantage would be that they would catch the Alberta Party electing a leader.

    1. Ah! But political spin aside, the big difference is we have experience with slash and burn from the Klein Cons. They gave us absolutely unforgivable cruelty and a lot of government assets needlessly given away to the private sector.

      Most people still remember the empty promises about cutting costs but not cutting staff who took pay cuts and freezes. Now we have the same bunch and much worse in the UCP. Been there, done that.

      I can only assume you live in the urban shadow of Red Deer so perhaps you did not see the full effects of the Klein cuts but I can tell you the cuts fell very heavily on rural Alberta and most of the small communities it hurt have yet to recover.

    2. As for Farmer B, we have dedicated and I must admit, delicate troll from the lunacy wing of politics. Want to live in Kansas? Listen to Farmer B.

      1. He’s certainly well-versed in the technical details of bitumen processing. I know that many actual farmers in Alberta moonlight in the energy sector, but I would have thought that few of them were chemical engineers as well. He may have blown his cover that one time.

  3. I read something so shocking in the Guardian Weekly of Oct. 23: I knew Albertans and Canadians were getting cheated by the oily guys but had no idea by how much. If the article is googled it can be read in its entirety. – Revealed: Oil Giants Pay Billions Less Tax in Canada. Thanks to the Mannings and the Social Credit and PC governments. They should have listened to Pierre Elliot.

  4. I find both Braid and Thomson are generally pretty pragmatic; the Editorial staff not so much. I suspect Kenney will be asked hard questions by what appears to be a very talented NDP candidate. The problem is he won’t answer them, and his constituents won’t care. I’m not sure the NDP (Who are becoming a little too politically savvy for my taste…………but whadya do?) aren’t wasting this talent. Hopefully he stays around afterwards.

  5. I wonder about this: “… tie him down in the Legislature instead of letting him wander the province making extravagant,…” Based on his past performance in his “double-reverse take-over”, Mr Kenny didn’t seem to have any problems with being a sitting MP in Ottawa, drawing his salary every month, and touring AB in his big blue truck.

    1. Curious why this is always brought up about Jason Kenney. Yes he did tour Alberta in the summer while he was still a MP but when the actual leadership contest began on October 1 he resigned his seat. Now let’s compare that to the newly elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. He was a Member of the Ontario legislature all through the NDP leadership contest and did not resign his seat until after he had won the leadership. So he collected his salary from the Ontario government the whole time he was running for the leadership. Now who was more in the wrong?

  6. Premier Notley gave Kenney just what he asked for, but perhaps didn’t really want or expect. I think you can score one point for the Premier here. Now Mr. Kenney, if he made any plans to take a break or a rest in late November or early December, may have to hurriedly cancel them. As a veteran career politician he probably realizes well how damaging a photo of him lounging on the beach could be next to one of an UCP chair with a stuffed chicken or an inflatable pig at an all candidates forum.

    However, I think Mr. Kenney has made two mistakes here, just one here. First, the obvious mistake is his bluff and bravado call for an early by election that he expected the Premier to not to agree to. His second and related mistake is rushing to become an MLA. I believe Kenney, who is really a political insider, would have benefited politically from more time traveling around Alberta in the big blue truck, never mind those niggling still unanswered questions of who paid for all those travel expenses. It at least provided an opportunity to create an image of being an outsider, after 20 or so years in Ottawa as a politician, and also to conveniently disappear into the countryside like a big gopher, when any inconvenient issues he didn’t want to speak about came up. Its harder to hide in suburban Calgary than somewhere in rural Alberta between Whitecourt and Westlock. While I doubt his attendance will be stellar, it will be even harder to hard as an MLA in the legislature, if he is elected. At this point, Mr. Kenney’s platform is very light on details and as the saying goes the devil is in the details. It will be much easier to hold his feet to the fire if he can not so easily hide from the media and Albertans.

    I don’t think Mr. Kenney’s victory in the by election is a sure thing, there have been unexpected upsets in the past, but generally leaders of the opposition do win their seats, even in Alberta and I suspect Mr. Kenney put some thought into choosing a fairly safe seat. However, it is fair of the other parties to run good candidates against him and campaign hard. It may end up being a bit more work than he expected and it might tie him down more than he wants for a while. One of my first political experiences was in a by-election in rural Alberta the PC’s were initially expected to win fairly comfortably. Well, they did win it, but the race was closer than they thought and I am sure they were quite nervous towards the end – a political message was sent. Even if it is a safe riding, it would be nice to at least see Kenney sweat a bit and to answer some difficult questions about his policies he has been ignoring until now.

  7. his policies? What policies? Apart from playing to the socially regressive and foolishly promising to scrap the carbon tax (giving Trudeau control over it instead) he doesn’t actually appear to have any policies apart from “whatever gets me votes.”

  8. We live in the riding. We have no intention of voting for anyone who does not enunciate specific policy.

    So, If Jason wants our vote he has to do more than spout off about family values, economic growth, and deficits. And the blue pickup does not impress us either. Time for the rubber to hit the road. Got that Jason???

    Mind you, Bill Smith had no real policy and he did win polls 13 and 14.

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