Alberta Politics
Brian Jean does a news conference in his days as Wildrose Party leader (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If the Alberta Party wants to get to the end of the rainbow, Brian Jean is probably not the man to take it there

Posted on August 04, 2021, 1:34 am
7 mins

Can it really be true Brian Jean, who once thought he had a pretty good chance of occupying the Alberta premier’s office as leader of the Wildrose Party, is quietly negotiating to lead the Alberta Party? 

With John F. Kennedy’s caveat that where there’s smoke, there’s usually a smoke-making machine, that’s the grist the Alberta political rumour mill was trying to grind last night, at least according to a former Alberta deputy premier. 

The Alberta Party’s deadline for leadership candidates is at the end of this month, Thomas Lukaszuk reminded tout le monde political Alberta in a tweet, and so far no one’s applied for the job. Will the former Fort McMurry MP and Wildrose Leader from 2015 to 2017 enter the race as rumoured, he asked. “Allegedly discussions are taking place.”

The problem may be that Mr. Jean hasn’t been an Alberta Party member long enough to be a leadership candidate. He is said to be seeking an exemption.

Former PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Lukaszuk was deputy premier to Alison Redford, who wasn’t the last Progressive Conservative premier of Alberta, but might as well have been. 

I’ve always thought of the Alberta Party as a political party in search of an idea. Never having actually found one, despite being loved by the media for some reason, it’s failed year after year to crawl very far onto the province’s political radar. 

If this rumour is true, a more apt description might be that it’s only a name in pursuit of a party. A party of one.

Mr. Jean’s continued ambition and his resentment at United Conservative Party Leader and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for the questionable way he won the UCP leadership contest in the fall of 2017 have been obvious for months. Mostly, it’s been expressed in the form of cranky social media posts.

The Alberta Party tried to be the party of one once before, of course, with former Edmonton Mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel as its leader, and that didn’t work out very well. That is, unless you’re one of those tempted by the theory that Mr. Mandel was the Kamikaze candidate of the 2019 provincial election, drafted to lead the Alberta Party to steal progressive Conservative votes from the NDP in Edmonton. I don’t buy this, by the way. I mention it only to forestall the inevitable commenter telling me I’ve missed the real story. 

If Mr. Jean does emerge as the next leader of the Alberta Party – which began as a right-wing fringe separatist party, morphed into a vehicle for disillusioned Alberta Liberals looking for a way to repair their party’s damaged brand, then became an effort to create a new home for Red Tories – it will have gone full circle back to a fringe party with a great name. 

Former PC Cabinet Minister Stephen Mandel as Alberta Party Leader – dig that crazy tie! (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Nothing would please me more than to see a new conservative party with enough appeal to split the right-wing vote and restore Rachel Notley and the NDP to power. That would be great for Alberta. 

But readers will have to forgive me if I say I doubt that Mr. Jean, who is a nice enough person but a deep well of bad ideas, has either the charisma or the strategic chops to make it happen. 

He may look a little like a grown-up Dennis the Menace, which might not be a bad place from which to launch a successful political campaign, but the cartoon character he actually resembles most is Charlie Brown. 

In any campaign, Mr. Jean would certainly be reminded by the UCP how once upon a time he campaigned that the Wildrose and PC parties must, simply must, be united to keep the socialist hordes from the gates. 

In due time the hordes were elected and turned out to be not even remotely socialist, despite a lot of rhetoric to the contrary from the conservatives nostalgic for the era of Joe McCarthy, and capable of running the place pretty well, notwithstanding the slump in oil prices. 

Sue Huff, Alberta Party Interim leader in 2010 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That is increasingly evident as Alberta suffers under Jason Kenney’s ongoing UCP gong show. If Mr. Kenney leaves office any time soon, either at the prompting of his own party or by the judgment of voters delivered in 2023, it will most likely be his own failings as leader and not anything Mr. Jean manages to do that makes it happen. 

The last Alberta Party leader worth listening to in your blogger’s opinion was Sue Huff, acting leader in 2010, who brought her guitar to a party convention and sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a very sweet voice. I did not make that up. I was there and I heard her sing. I have photos. 

If the Alberta Party wants to get to the end of the rainbow, it is said here, Brian Jean is not the man to take them there.

17 Comments to: If the Alberta Party wants to get to the end of the rainbow, Brian Jean is probably not the man to take it there

  1. Anonymous

    August 4th, 2021

    The last thing Alberta needs is another Reformer putting failed ideas into practice in Alberta. We have that with the head honcho of the UCP. Brian Jean also has been known to flip flop on various issues. He said no to a merger of the Alberta PCs, and the Wildrose, after Danielle Smith’s floor crossing gimmick, with a bunch of other Wildrose MLAs transpired, which in itself was a ploy by Preston Manning to unite the right. Brian Jean also said floor crossers would be punished. That never happened under his watch either. There are other issues that Brian Jean flip flopped on. Coal mining, parks policies, and other things. The UCP must be turfed from power. Alberta must not have any pretend Conservatives or Reformers running the show. The UCP have done enormous amounts of damage, as it is.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    August 4th, 2021

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Jean is mulling this. I suppose on the surface it seems to have some merit – listless party, but ready to go as a vehicle for whatever. I agree, personality wise, Mr. Jean seems somewhat pleasant, so for his sake I hope he just says no and stops this trip down the yellow brick road, before Oz is revealed to be a complete illusion.

    If the Alberta Party is a vehicle, it is a broken down one, abandoned by the side of the road. Good, capable people have already tried to start it and failed, so this fantasy will not end well, for any one.

    If Mr. Jean wants to take on his own personal Lucy, he needs to do it head on with the party he helped found and not with some meaningless derivative of something else. No guarantees this will work, but using the Alberta Party as a vehicle is just asking for failure.

    Reply
  3. tom in ontario

    August 4th, 2021

    Following Ms. Huff’s musical lead, Brian Jean could wow the delegates by hiring Stephen Harper and his piano stylings to accompany him as he croons Send In The Clowns and What Kind of Fool Am I. Wouldn’t the blogger love to get a snap of that.

    Reply
  4. brett

    August 4th, 2021

    Could not agree more.

    IMHO, this will not go anywhere unless the Alberta Party gets the support of some big backroom dollars and a few well known and RESPECTED politicians. Not some of the usual washed up has beens.

    I really do not know what will transpire Alberta. Seems me that the UCPP Party cannot continue on the way they are today. Something has to give. It is just not working for them.

    Reply
  5. Carlos

    August 4th, 2021

    I do not agree with you at all that the Alberta Party started as a right wing fringe party.
    I participated in the very first meetings of the Alberta Party and although at the time the ideology behind it was still forming, the feeling was more of a very grass roots progressive party. I do not remember any separatism talk at all.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 4th, 2021

      Carlos: This was probably well before your involvement in the party during its genuinely progressive phase. Nevertheless, the Alberta Party arose from a 1990 alliance of the The Heritage Party of Alberta, Representative Party of Alberta, and the Confederation of Regions Party, all small parties with a separatist bent. Known at that time as the Alliance Party of Alberta (not to be confused, I kid you not, with the Alberta Alliance Party), it adopted the Alberta Party name in 1998. In 2009, the Alberta Party was taken over by a more progressive group, and out of that grew the party in which I’m pretty sure you are thinking of. Since then it’s had a Liberal phase, a Red Tory phase and may be on the cusp of a Wildrose phase. DJC

      Reply
      • Carlos

        August 4th, 2021

        Ok I got it. Interesting that following politics for many years I do not remember what seems to have been a first phase of the Alberta Party. Had I known that I would have never gotten involved.
        My first meeting was actually at Sue’s house along with other people for what at the time were conversations about policy. These meeting were ok but I realized at the time that they were pushing their own agendas and I quit them after 2 of them. I suggested a conversation on the voting system to be changed to Proportional Representation and they right way shot it down as if it was something not to mention in loud voice. I then realized we were basically being schooled into whatever is that they had in mind.

        Reply
      • Carlos

        August 4th, 2021

        The Neo-Liberal era pushed everyone to the right so much that even the NDP, especially in Alberta seems more like the Liberal Party. During their 4 years reign very little social democracy was ever their main dish of the day. It became way more important to protect the oil industry and be afraid of the right wing parties reaction. Little did Rachel Notley know about the total lack of any common sense and character coming after her. The UCP has been awful and still with 29% of support. I guess this province is a deep Oil state for a while to go, the party in power matters little other than having to put up with lies and outrage when the right wing is on.

        Reply
      • jerrymacgp

        August 6th, 2021

        If memory serves, the 2009 version of the AP didn’t so much as take over the older nuttier version, as take over its name after the nuttier version became inactive. Remember the “Big Listen”? Wasn’t that the founding process of the current Alberta Party? Wasn’t your colleague @Daveberta involved with that at one time?

        Brian Jean would be completely wrong for the AP, being a dyed-in-the-wool Wildroser. Perhaps the AP & the Alberta Liberals should merge to become more relevant.

        Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      August 4th, 2021

      Carlos, I also remember the Alberta Party as being a tiny and struggling center-right party, then center-left (Sue Huff’s party) but equally tiny and struggling–though I was never a member. Alberta’s right wing parties tends to splinter constantly, so I’m not surprised a bunch of “We’d be better off if we left Canada” types could start something that wiser heads later transformed.

      Reply
  6. Mike J Danysh

    August 4th, 2021

    Brian Jean is so desperate for attention he’ll lead the Alberta Party? Lord, he needs help. If you want an example of “moribund,” here are two: the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberal Party. The sooner they join the now extinct Social Credit Party, the better. (Yeah, I’ve heard the SCP was zombified as a front for some anti-abortion group or other. That’s a problem for another day, when somebody outlaws PACS in Alberta completely—I hope.)

    I don’t recall the Alberta Party being spawned by splinter parties from the loony right. I remember when it tried to be small-L liberal party, under Sue Huff (who I thought would have made a good leader). By Stephen Mandel’s time, the party was just another clique of Old Tories pining for the Good Ol’ Days when the Good Ol’ Boys ran things.

    As things stand, the Wildrose Independence Party seems the only group of right-wingnuts who can make Kenney nervous. They might split the vote a little in the most reactionary ridings, but I can’t convince myself they’d be a serious threat to established UCP MLAs. Maybe if Drew Barnes jumped in, but otherwise, no.

    As for Brian Jean…he’d be better off finding a hobby not even remotely related to politics. He’s a leftover from the Old Tory/ Reformer warriors who lost their way when Stephen Harper lost the 2015 election. And the sooner we send Jason Kenney to join his fellow warrior-used-to-be’s the better.

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    August 4th, 2021

    The Alberta Party.

    The may as well call it the “Kamikaze Party” because that’s really it’s only use.

    On the one side, you have the extremist crazies and grifters within the UCP; on the other, you have the Lougheed-styled NDP; and on the other, you have the fake middle of the road, faux liberals, fugazi centrists of the Alberta Party.

    The Alberta Party has one role and one role only: to draw off some NDP votes and strengthen the UCP’s hand come election day. As much as too many Albertans want to believe that the Alberta Party is a reasonable and centerist alternative, they are out of their collective minds and falling for another grift.

    And it should also be noted that the last leader of the AP, Stephen Mandel got a nice appointment c/o of Premier Crying & Screaming Midget. Another AP leader, Greg Clark, scored himself a sweet appointment. Promises made, promises kept.

    If Kenney can’t save his own skin, maybe keeping the AP breathing will give him and fighting chance? It has before.

    Reply
  8. Scotty on Denman

    August 4th, 2021

    Former Wild Rose leader Brian Jean probably knows a little about being a little fish is a big pond—likely a little too much to seriously entertain swallowing the Alberta Party hook line and sinker. The last time he felt the big-fish illusion was when the Alberta right’s pond had evaporated to nearly a muddy puddle. Once released into the more refreshing waters of Rachel Notley’s NDP victory, he could better see that the big fish could only be the one which swallowed the blood streaming bait-bag of reunited right-wing parties’ scales, bones and guts which had been clipped to the downrigger Jason Kenney’s flasher.

    Having been skunked by Jason Kenny’s leviathan for that sumptuous feast must have left Jean feeling like a two-headed minnow stranded on a sandy bar of the Athabasca River somewhere north of Fort Mac. The last thing he needs politically is to present, replete with a diaper pin tied to a willow switch with kitchen string (although that might well match his boyish looks), holding up a trophy shiner like a kid who’s caught his first fish. The big fish he presumably wants to be could never viably be caught telling the kind of big fish tale that would be needed to make hooking the tiny Alberta Party look like a real accomplishment.

    No, if Brian wants to present more like a Jonah surviving being swallowed by the whale, he needs to fish, not cut bait. In this prospective derby of SoCondom the trophy would have to be leadership of the UCP, and that means beating the derby’s inaugural champ, Jason Kenney, the gloating goatfish who once decorated his shit-eating grin with a swatch of Brian Jean’s trousers—the ass-pocket part.

    If it be true that Jean covets the UCP leadership—if only to assuage the embarrassment of Kenny’s pole—and if it also be true that the K-Boy himself might abandon the leadership—or be abandoned by restless factions thrashing among the sundry bones, licence plates and plastic flotsam within the party’s belly, then this little morning hatch of tiny flies might be the early probing of a careful angler in what he hopes is the misty dawn of a political comeback he feels he deserves.

    To discount that Jean might be testing the political waters, even with the tallest of big fish tales, would be to miss the reel story.

    Reply
    • Just Me

      August 4th, 2021

      Unless Brian Jean’s interest in the AP has more to do with pulling a Kenney on Kenney.

      Become leader of the AP and raid the UCP for support. Sure, it could happen, provided that the AP is crazier and even more irrational. I suppose a Alberta-version of the PPC would sell and make Alberta look even more ridiculous, but it’s not like Albertans have ever cared about how stupid they look. Hell, they wear their idiocy like it’s some badge of honor. (Kind of the way Florida considers their rising infections rate proof that they are freeDUMB loving.)

      About the only thing Jean can do is compete for the UCP’s coveted corporate interest in how much spending Kenney is willing to dole out. Imagine starting a bidding war over raising the bar for graft and deceit with the public purse. Only in Alberta.

      Reply
      • Mickey Rat

        August 4th, 2021

        Well JM, exactly my thought when I saw the headline. I’m not saying it’s the story but “reverse takeover” came to my mind immediately.

        Oh yeah, the UCP is losing financial support – and access to this is likely a consideration and an enticement to be harvested. Those donors aren’t disappearing, the big ones are just on the sidelines – I suspect.

        But my guess is that Scotty’s right, Brian is fishing around and eventually would like to take a shot (or trolling) at either taking on Kenney or just getting the leadership place by default.

        Reply
  9. Firth of Fifth

    August 4th, 2021

    A main event featuring William H. Macy vs Randy Bodandi (of Trailer Park Boys fame), full of mud-slinging goodness and a sure way to split the loony Right vote and pave the way for the NDP? Yes please, I’ll sign up for that!

    As someone else around here is fond of saying, pass the popcorn and enjoy the show.

    Reply
  10. Alan K Spiller

    August 5th, 2021

    You don’t need to be a genius to figure out what a farce these Reformers are. The former MLAs from the Lougheed era certainly had them figured out.

    They are hungry for power and I won’t be surprised if Brain Jean runs for the Alberta Party it took Stephen Mandel long enough to realize he wasn’t wanted. He forced us into a new arena without listening to the people and having a plan for the old one.

    Refused to show any respect for the 93,000 petitioners who wanted him to honour their democratic right to vote on what was done with the city centre airport and trust me they haven’t forgotten.

    Danielle Smith gets fired by the conservatives as a trustee for the Calgary board of education and loses three elections as a conservative but still won’t go away. Somehow she thinks people care, they don’t.

    Reply

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