Alberta Politics
Former UCP MLA Prab Gill (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Former UCP MLA warns more scandals are coming for party as election nears … but don’t count on it unravelling fast enough!

Posted on January 18, 2019, 1:36 am
8 mins

It would be a huge mistake to count on the United Conservative Party unravelling fast enough to blow its big lead in public opinion polls by the time the next Alberta provincial election is upon us, which will be almost before we know it.

It is a virtual certainty that even most conservatives who for one reason or another are unhappy with the authoritarian leadership style of former Harper Government cabinet minister Jason Kenney will stick with the party as long as there is a probability of UCP victory.

UCP Maximum Leader Jason Kenney will likely stick with his established Modus Operandi for dealing with party uprisings (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Still, for non-supporters it’s at least mildly entertaining to watch the UCP apparently coming unstuck at precisely the moment a normal election strategy would call for even those whose faith is wavering to keep a smile on their faces and what they’re thinking to themselves.

Yesterday, banished UCP MLA Prab Gill got some headlines warning that more UCP nomination scandals still lie ahead. In an email “obtained by Postmedia,” the now-Independent MLA for Calgary-Greenway urged his former caucus mates to press their Maximum Leader to clear the air over how the party has been choosing its candidates.

Addressing his email to several MLAs still sitting in the UCP Caucus, Mr. Gill told them “you have the chance to end your political careers in service to higher ideals,” and asked them if they will be able to tell themselves after the election they are “proud of everything you did?”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, good luck with that strategy. Mr. Kenney will stick with what he knows: Tight control of caucus members, swift retribution to anyone who steps out of line, and a sunny face pointed toward the public.

Given the hour, one can hardly blame him. With the electoral math suggesting a writ drop in April or soon thereafter, he doesn’t really have the time to round up restive former Wildrosers who actually believed that stuff about a “grassroots guarantee” and horrified Red Tories who may still have some vestigial respect for fairness and due process.

Election speculation during the past few hours has focused on Premier Rachel Notley’s announcement there will be a Throne Speech on March 18. Since former PC premier Alison Redford’s silly “fixed election period” legislation remains on the books, the NDP would have to call the general election between the Throne Speech and the end of April with the date of the vote late in May.

Barring a calamity or a big surprise – say, if the prime minister calls an early federal election in the same time frame – that’s the way things are going to unfold.

There’s lots of speculation that the premier might call the election as soon as the Throne Speech has been read, and some that she may ask her MLAs to pass some legislation first before triggering the month-long campaign.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Dave Hanson (Photo: Dave Cournoyer).

There is said to have been heated debate Ms. Notley’s cabinet over whether to go sooner or later. Sounds like the advocates of a slightly later election have won that argument.

UCP nomination scandals far outnumber similar bumps on the road to voting day among NDP and Alberta Party constituencies. The Opposition party argues, perhaps with some justice, that that’s mainly because they have more contested nominations.

Regardless, the continuing embarrassment led Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Dave Hanson to try to hit back, with only limited success.

Mr. Hanson used a press release to try to lay some of the blame on “NDP rhetoric” for a brick tossed through his window. Needless to say, this was pretty lame – especially considering the source of most heated rhetoric in Alberta these days – and unless things get really desperate for the UCP, my guess is party officials will discreetly shush Mr. Hanson.

And there’s even more to come?

In addition to the usual intemperate comments by nomination candidates on a variety of sensitive topics, here are some of the election-candidate-selection related embarrassments that have bedevilled Mr. Kenney’s UCP in recent weeks:

  • UCP MLA Rick Strankman splits to sit as an Independent after complaining of Mr. Kenney’s top-down leadership style and “unheard of” vote timing designed to help his successful opponent in the nomination race he lost
  • It turns out the successful UCP nomination candidate in the Highwood riding didn’t disclose a past conviction for failure to provide a breathalyzer sample
  • Meanwhile, the UCP MLA defeated in the Highwood nomination race asks Elections Alberta to investigate irregularities with the way the party election was conducted; another candidate complains to the party and then tells the media her concerns were all but ignored
  • Booted UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt, now rebranded as leader of the libertarian Freedom Conservative Party, asks the Elections Commissioner to investigate funding irregularities in Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign
  • The Office of the Elections Commissioner launches investigation into the “Kamikaze” attack on Mr. Kenney’s rival Brian Jean during the same 2017 leadership campaign
  • Mr. Gill alleges in the Legislature that “suspicious donations” from Mr. Kenney’s campaign were used to undermine Mr. Jean’s campaign
  • Accusations are levelled at an auto dealers’ PAC that it illegally financed UCP pre-election activities while delivering laundry list of demands boutique legislation
  • “Soldiers of Odin” show up at three candidates’ beer and wings night in Edmonton-Henday West; one candidate is eventually disqualified for not condemning the SOO members with the alacrity of the other two
  • The winning UCP nomination candidate in the Lac Ste. Anne riding disqualified by the party for failing to report a “legal matter” involving a former girlfriend fired from his company
  • Allegations of fraud and bribery are made against the winning candidate in the Calgary-East riding nomination race
  • A candidate in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding is disqualified for racist and Islamophobic language.

12 Comments to: Former UCP MLA warns more scandals are coming for party as election nears … but don’t count on it unravelling fast enough!

  1. Mike

    January 18th, 2019

    With the UCP in a tailspin I thought maybe, just maybe, I would have to vote for the squeaky clean NDP. I might have to rethink that:

  2. J.E. Molnar

    January 18th, 2019

    Sensible Albertans, and there are still plenty of those, will eventually come see this new iteration of UCP conservatism as the same old PCs/Wildrose conservatism — elitist, entitled and privileged. Continuing bozo eruptions are just added sugar on the cereal.

    What would be helpful to the NDP, once the writ is dropped, would be to start showcasing their outstanding past legislative agenda and social progress instead of introducing fearmongering tactics like “road tolls” and “public service cuts.” Leave that to the NDP PACs and focus on past achievements, of which there are plenty, and take the high road to convince Albertans they’re the party of the “severely normal”. With a new election platform there should be plenty of new ideas to entice Albertans to vote NDP. Just some unsolicited political advice from a novice Rachel.

    • Mike

      January 18th, 2019

      The NDP’s past legislative agenda is what’s not going to win them the election. Carbon tax, Bill 6, GSA’s, “social license” rhetoric, debt-laden budgets, etc. It’ll be Orange Flush 2019.

        • Farmer Dave

          January 19th, 2019

          J.E. all the work this government has accomplished is too much for Mike to absorb. He must be partners with the guy who couldn’t spell and wanted to over throw the NDP like a KUDATAH (proper spelling – coup d’ etat). That’s why this government had to build so many schools so that these types can learn how to spell.

          I know of several schools who hold classes in their gym because they have no room for their students. Previous governments ignored building new schools for Alberts population growth.

        • Mike

          January 19th, 2019

          Thanks for sharing that link J.E.! After reading that fabulous list, I feel reassured that our current government has done a great job with our province. What was I thinking?!?

          God bless you!!!

    • Jim

      January 18th, 2019

      I wish you were right but have a sinking feeling you may not be. The sense of entitlement is very strong in this province and those people are looking for someone to blame. Kenney’s brand of conversativism plays to that point and feeds the base giving them someone to blame for their poor decisions and inability to think into the future. Prentice, I believe, was right Albertans needed to look in the mirror and a lot of us did and we all saw the result. By allowing the public discussion to be so focused on pipelines it will be hard for the NDP to get past accomplisments front and centre. Of course we have to ignore the fact Kenney was in power in Ottawa for much of the time these pipelines were not being built.

  3. Jim

    January 18th, 2019

    Make Alberta Corrupt Again, not exactly the same ring as MAGA but it seems to be where we are headed. The really sad part is Kenney hasn’t presented any sort of plan to better life for the average Albertan. No plan to build pipelines, no plan to somehow increase global oil prices, he really does look a lot like the so called resistance operating south of the border. Which is humorous considering the support his own party members have for Trump. Kenney seems to be a good stop gap solution to prevent any truly populist uprising and ensure entrenched corporate interests maintain control of the right in this province. Ironically the same job Trudeau is doing in Ottawa but not so far to the right. Imagine if our “yellow vest” protesters began taking about bank runs like in France to go after those truly in power?

  4. brett

    January 18th, 2019

    No surprise.

    There is a great deal of post election money, positions, and influence at stake here. Hence the in fighting.

    Everyone is desperate to get back to the trough and the good old days of nudge nudge, wink, wink. It will be just like old home week.

  5. Simon Renouf

    January 18th, 2019

    David, let’s not forget Jason Kenney’s memorable decision to appoint MLA Don MacIntyre to the UCP’s Task Force on Rural Crime in 2017. In another blow to the UCP’s vetters it turned out MacIntyre knew a whole lot about rural crime: his own. As reported in the Star Edmonton, MacIntyre “molested a 10-year-old girl between five and 10 times in Sylvan Lake, Alta., between 2010 and 2011.” The paper states that the girl first reported the abuse in 2015. In other words the abuse was committed some 6 or 7 years before Kenney’s appointment of MacIntyre, and then reported to police some 2 years before his appointment. He resigned only when he was formally charged in 2018.

    The paper continues: “The girl said MacIntyre would touch her sexually all over her body, and says MacIntyre told her that, “God said that God was OK with the touching.” Another god-fearing Alberta conservative.

  6. David

    January 18th, 2019

    I think you are correct that the simmering scandals will not be enough in themselves to cause Kenney to lose the upcoming provincial election. First of all, voters these days seem to have much more tolerance for bad behavior by politician. Perhaps it is a sign of our cynical times, but even evangelical Christians in the US don’t seem to mind supporting a philanderer who has been married three times as President, as long as he will nominate sufficiently conservative supreme court judges. I suspect some in Alberta are also willing to make a deal with the devil so they can get what they want, whether that be power, perks or more social conservative policies. Second, the scandals are only simmering and have not yet come to a full boil. People remember Watergate, but tend to forget Nixon got elected after it happened. Often it takes quite a while for the full scale of the misdeeds to become well known to the public. I also suspect the somewhat UCP sympathetic mainstream media here will not dig too deeply into these scandals before the election and may even down play coverage of them. The flurry of UCP scandals may wound the party, but in themselves not fatally.

    I think the upcoming election will be hard fought on many fronts; the recent and growing UCP scandals will only be one factor and probably not the main one. However, I still think trust may be big issue in the upcoming election, not in narrow sense of certain specific scandals, but in a much broader sense. On the one hand there is a government that has a record and some fairly clear ideas about the direction it wants to take the province in. On the other hand there is an opposition with not much experience and a lot of niggling problems, nor does it seem very clear what they want to do with power, except perhaps to gain power for powers sake. With the dearth of policy from the UCP, those that support it are effectively writing Kenney a big fat blank cheque. Personally, I don’t think he has either earned or deserves that trust and I think most people, except perhaps his most fervent supporters, already realize that to some extent.

  7. Scotty on Denman

    January 18th, 2019

    There’s no doubt some Alberta voters will exercise their franchise by rote and those who do for the UCP won’t be swayed by revelations of UCP candidates’ peccancy. The same can be said of dyed-in-the-wool Dippers who’ve been voting for the Alberta socialists religiously (history shows SoCons aren’t the sole favourites in this respect, re: soul-stirring, CCF Prairie-preacherman TC Douglas) no matter how close the NDP approached fringe-party status—nor for how long. Rote voting naturally manifests in politcal longevity, the Progressive Conservatives (and Socreds before them, for that matter) as perennial winners just as the Dippers have been as perennially losers.

    Be that as it may, the last election can either be taken as an anomaly or due to some other kind of logic. Certainly JK subscribes to the former in a typically SoCon-ish way since convenient floods, fires, returned exiles and destruction of cities are of arguably coincidental, Biblical significance (especially to those whose hermeneutical stridency preoccupies with sodomy, pedophilia, incest and general wickedness referenced in said Book)—that is, he preaches a return to the righteously static, pre-fab world of the paired clean, hanging his bow on the Bow, as ‘t were, to guarantee no such anomaly will ever happen again.

    Premier Notley probably explains the anomaly by the logic of progressiveness, contrasted all the more by JK’s conspicuous excommunication of the term in any association with his new neo-right/SoCon amalgam. Not that she’d reject rote votes in her party’s favour, but she must know that, aside from rote Dipper votes the party’s always gotten, her upset win showed how longstanding voting habits had changed due to at least some kind of thoughtful reflection leading to her upset win. It might have been only crude but simple decisions to “throw the bums out” or “air the sheets” or, perhaps, reflection upon progressive principles, or simple experiment for its own sake. In any case, those who voted NDP last time, presumably at least some erstwhile PC voters somehow disaffected, will have learned something while sojourning outside the blind of roteness, just like longtime Dippers will have had reason to reflect upon new perspectives gleaned from the governing point-of-view. So, while Notley will accept all the votes she can get, even the usual rote ones, the survival of her government depends on voters actually thinking reflectively about, for example, how much Alberta has changed, culturally, demographically, for sure circumstantially with respect markets for its primary product, and, maybe, maybe, maybe politically as a matter of course. The hope is such thoughtfulness will turns heads hitherto buried in bitumenous sand and far-right hyperbole.

    Naturally Kenney doesn’t want Albertans to reflect too closely about all these changes which he casts as anomalous as the NDP’s upset win: a bump on the otherwise flat, arrow-straight track back to the rapturous reward for the religious few, accompanied by pouche-piping revelations of righteous revenge which lends itself so well to rote thinking.

    Yet it rather looks like rote is being challenged: certainly by way of the upset election last but also by way of the bizarre diversity-in-disarray of the politcal right which appears riven, rebellious, almost wholly rhetorical and, on the UCP’s surface, rigidly regimented, robotic and rote (indeed, rote repetition of the preposterous has become required affirmation signalling—laying bozo-traps in their path). As bizarre —seemingly—is Notley’s usurpation of normally right-wing rote with regard petro-policy—but most observers read this as merely politc in the circumstance. She still needs and wants Albertans to think, probably as much as Kenney doesn’t.

    All we know for sure is Albertans did think outside the longstanding politcal box, probably still are despite the curiously unified appeal to rote by both leaders, and probably will at least as much as they did last election when they cast their votes in this next one.

    If wandering conservatives can vote for the UCP only by holding their noses, I don’t see why they—or any voter—can’t do the same for the NDP. I think this mushy-middle element is significant, the only question being whether it will be consequential. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be.

    The simple facts are that, despite the name and the effort, the political right is anything but unified and, if some voters want it to be, more time in the wilderness might look like a good idea. In the meantime, a single term for the NDP might seem a waste if the party hasn’t been given enough time to get its agenda working smoothly. It might be acceptable to some conservative voters to allow the Dippers one more dip in the pond of petro-power to compel the right to really unify and present a party that can hold the government to account with responsible alternative policies or constructive contributions for voters to consider. So far the UCP hasn’t done either.


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