Alberta Politics
The United-Conservative-Progressive-Conservative-Wildrose Party as it might have been illustrated by William Blake, had he been an early 21st Century Albertan (Image: Public Domain).

Why is the UCP keeping the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties on life support?

Posted on December 11, 2018, 1:04 am
9 mins

Inquiring minds want to know: Why is Opposition Leader Jason Kenney keeping the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Parties around?

Media generally refer to Mr. Kenney as the United Conservative Party leader.

UCP-PC-Wildrose Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But in reality, he’s the leader of the United Conservative Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Wildrose Party, so why not UCP-PC-Wildrose leader?

If you had imagined the two Alberta legacy conservative parties would just disappear once they were merged into the United Conservative Party, it appears you were mistaken.

Leastways, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, as the PC Party was formally known, still exists as a party registered with Elections Alberta. According to the provincial elections agency, Mr. Kenney is leader, Erika Barootes is president, and Cheryl Cymbaliuk is chief financial officer.

UCP President Erika Barootes (Photo: Twitter).

Meanwhile, down the list a little ways, the Wildrose Party also still exists. Once again, according to Elections Alberta, Mr. Kenney is leader, Ms. Barootes is president, and Ms. Cymbaliuk is chief financial officer.

As for the United Conservative Party, as is better known, Mr. Kenney is shown as leader, Ms. Barootes as president, and Ms. Cymbaliuk as chief financial officer.

Readers may reasonably assume that the UCP is simply camping on the old names to keep someone from making off with them, and this may well be part of the strategy. Despite effectively ceasing all operations after July 2017, however, both parties have continued to take in some donations, although the amounts to date are small.

Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to ask if there are additional reasons these two effectively defunct political parties are being kept on life support by Mr. Kenney and his senior UCP officials. It seems likely.

For one thing, while under current Alberta election financing law sums raised by the parties couldn’t be used directly by the UCP, they might be able to be used for other helpful activities, say, attack ads against the NDP Government. Moreover, if he becomes premier, Mr. Kenney is likely to weaken Alberta election financing law to allow the three parties’ war chests to be combined, and probably to permit Wild West corporate financing of political parties to return to Alberta.

UCP House Leader Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Then there is the matter of the PC Party’s debt after the 2015 election. Thomas Lukaszuk, former PC deputy premier of Alberta under premier Alison Redford’s leadership, said recently on social media that when the late Jim Prentice was premier the party borrowed a substantial sum without proper board authorization.

It would be interesting to see documentary confirmation of that, and to know what Mr. Kenney plans to do about it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney has been loudly demanding that the NDP Government of Rachel Notley ignore the province’s Redford-era fixed-election-period law and call an early election.

This reinforces, of course, the UCP/Postmedia narrative that Mr. Kenney’s victory is inevitable, a mere formality. Never mind that Mr. Prentice’s decision to call an election a year earlier than he had to in 2015 was one of the significant factors that led to the election of Ms. Notley’s majority NDP government.

But it also suggests that the stream of scandals about UCP nomination fights may not be about to abate any time soon, or at least may be causing some nervousness in UCP circles.

Readers will recall Independent MLA Prab Gill’s allegations in the Legislature of “suspicious donations” from PACs associated with Mr. Kenney being used to sideline former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean in the 2017 UCP leadership race.

UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington (Photo: Twitter).

Last night, moreover, a recording briefly surfaced then disappeared that appeared to be of a briefing by a Kenney strategist on how leadership candidate Jeff Callaway would run a “Kamikaze campaign” to derail Mr. Jean, clear the way for Mr. Kenney, and then drop out.

Then there are the claims of the former president of the UCP’s Highwood riding constituency association that she was verbally sexually harassed by another member of her board, then removed from her party position when she complained about it.

Laurie Rennich told High River Online that UCP officials told her, “We expect these interpersonal matters to be resolved quickly and completely, so that further ongoing damage to the party itself is avoided.”

Political observers with sharp memories were reminded of revelations in 2017 of how UCP House Leader Jason Nixon fired a single mom he employed in 2005 at his workplace safety consulting company when she complained of sexual harassment by a client at a worksite in British Columbia.

And then there were the embarrassing recordings of things Mr. Kenney has said that keep popping up on social media. Press Progress reported last week on a just-surfaced audio “showing Jason Kenney bragged about leading the push to repeal a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples.”

A “high-profile individual,” at right, like the one expected to run for the UCP in Red Deer-South – actual candidates may not appear exactly as illustrated (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

This, the progressive news site said, “has left one of the United Conservative Party leader’s favourite talking points in tatters.” Mr. Kenney’s “success” in the U.S. in the 1980s resulted in men dying of AIDS being denied visits from their life partners. The clip surfaced after Mr. Kenney released a video marking World AIDS Day.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding his recent squawking about the need for an early election, Mr. Kenney is stalling the UCP nomination meeting in the Red Deer-South riding until next year to accommodate an unnamed “high-profile individual.”

Who that candidate is, though, is for the leader to know and for the rest of us to find out.

Mr. Kenney can be authoritarian with his party faithful when it suits him – and not so much when it doesn’t, as when people are demanding the head of his friend John Carpay, the Pride-flag-is-the-same-as-a-swastika guy. Then there’s nothing Mr. Kenney can do. It’s all up to the party’s board.

No need to worry about what the party board thinks in this case, though.

UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington was happy to go along with Mr. Kenney to inform nomination candidates that – so sad, too bad – they would not be running for the nomination any time soon.

“I recognize that this may be disappointing for some of you to hear, but please understand that we’re seeking what’s best for the members of Red Deer-South,” she said in a letter to nomination candidates quoted by the Edmonton edition of Star Metro. “That decision was made with the intention of providing as many qualified individuals the opportunity to seek the nomination in Red Deer-South as possible.”

In other words, we’re seeking the best, and you’re not it.

Stay tuned. There’s sure to be more.

9 Comments to: Why is the UCP keeping the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties on life support?

    • David Climenhaga

      December 12th, 2018

      Don’ spoil my fun, Dave! DJC

      • Jim

        December 12th, 2018

        3 paycheques for the dear leader, those truck payments don’t pay themselves. I am sure this theory would surprise no one.

        Let us hope the high profile candidate for Red Deer South isn’t our mayor, her aspirations for higher office are rumored. She would easily win both the nomination and election is she were to run. Of course not having the stain on her record of just voting herself a raise like the so called conservatives on council. One a failed PC nominee and then a failed Wildrose candidate the other a failed UCP nominee.

        Just a rumor of course, the Winter Games end March 3rd we will wait…

  1. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 11th, 2018

    The litany of UCP flaws, defects, and failures will certainly deter NDP supporters from voting for Jason Kenney. The effect on UCP supporters and even moderate conservatives is less clear. Witness the Trump effect down south.
    Jason Kenney is Alberta’s Saviour. All His sins are forgiven.
    When Kenney fails to resurrect the oil industry, the right will find suitable scapegoats and a new saviour.

  2. J.E. Molnar

    December 11th, 2018

    Is the Lake-of-Fire party rising from the ashes like a Phoenix?

    It should surprise no one who follows politics in Alberta closely, that the dysfunctional UCP is quickly morphing into the Lake-of-Fire Wildrose Party of 2012. Not so much for homophobic rants (although John Carpay could certainly be considered as the poster boy for UCP homophobia), but more for their marathon of on-going bozo-eruptions that has steadily become the ignominious narrative showcasing “conservatives behaving badly” in both the provincial and national media.

    Let’s hope voting Albertans are paying close attention to the UCP’s new election campaign mantra: “Same Sh*t—Different Day.”

  3. Sassy

    December 11th, 2018

    It’s fun to speculate on the mystery “qualified individual” intended to take Red Deer-South for UCP. Some comments on the CBC news item are betting on Brad Wall. My guess is Rona Ambrose. We’ll see soon enough. Pass the popcorn.

  4. Scotty on Denman

    December 11th, 2018

    Best reporting and analysis anywhere, especially given the historical-versus-emergent complexity of the world’s oldest polity, now a strange and appalling, quasi-sorta-pseudo-con, slow-mo train wreck we can’t look away from. As if the milestones of life flashing by at the last, DJC’s astute journalism helps us recognize the significance of KeKKenney’s strobing avatars.

    Is it because of, or in spite of, conservatism’s broad spectrum, from jackbooted reactionaries beating ethnic minorities in daylit streets to Red Tories serving soup to the dispossessed in church basements, that the venerable polity can contain a SoCon disguised as a neoliberal disguised as a neo-con disguised as a Tory? It seems the constituency of such a Franken-chimeric chameleon would have to be as mythically schizophrenic as a nine-headed hydra beast.

    Thanks for keeping it clear for us!

  5. Bill malcolm

    December 11th, 2018

    If the UCP spent even half the time designing policies for citizens as they apparently do scheming behind closed doors to make sure they have every nook and cranny covered for advantage in election spending and barking at progressive policy, they might be worthy of some respect. With the UCP and Cons in general, the public comes in last. No, it’s all about getting in power by gilding the lilly about fiscal restraint, then installing incompetent pals as heads of provincial agencies like Ford is doing for a very pleasant lifestyle at public expense. It’s a share the personal spoils type of thinking, diss any opposition on any trumped-up ground a dozen beers inspire, and all on the taxpayer dime in the end. Yes, sure, these people have YOUR best interest at heart while lining their pockets and advising people to stand on their own two feet and decrying modern social values. It’s transparent nastiness, and pro-cigar-puffing business deals are the reality. Who needs a $15 minimum wage and no paid lunchbreaks? Let them live in tents if necessary. Unimportant.

    And guess what? The dumb proles are falling for it nationwide! That’s the sad part. A populace unable to discern sleaziness deserves what it gets, and these UCP people must laugh their heads off at the idiocy of half-asleep citizens willing to be fleeced . Prime for plucking, that’s Alberta. Unfortunately, the entire country seems to be heading that way.

  6. David

    December 13th, 2018

    I suppose an unintended consequence of Mr. Kenney”s unholy trinity is his political opponents can properly refer to him as the PC or Wildrose leader when they care too knowing both labels carry some negative political baggage with different groups of voters.

    It seems Mr. Kenny wants to have his political cake and eat it too here. Probably in addition to prevent anyone else from using these names, he also wants to keep them to allow him to somehow double dip on political spending.

    Also, UCP is really not a great name, particularly if the used car party label sticks, maybe the party will go back to calling themselves the PC’s as if nothing happened and the last few years were just a bad dream like in some soap opera story line. As the grassroots must already realize to its dismay, Kenney is quite the political chameleon so this unholy trinity suits him.


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