Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, now somewhat more firmly entrenched as leader of the United Conservative Party, addresses the party’s AGM (Photo: United Conservative Party/Facebook).

Alberta’s UCP may not be all that united, but Jason Kenney’s position is more secure than it was a week ago

Posted on November 22, 2021, 12:16 am
7 mins

The agenda for the final day of the United Conservative Party annual general meeting yesterday showed “Catholic and Protestant Service” at 9 a.m., followed by election readiness training for the rest of the day.

Presumably delegates who took part in the devotions prayed hard for providence to smile on their troubled party at least one more time. It wasn’t clear from the schedule whether they petitioned the Almighty together or separately. 

Mr. Kenney, at the helm of the UCP, as the party wants you to see him (Photo: United Conservative Party/Facebook).

If the UCP managed to hold a single ecumenical service that papered over 500 years of differences between Catholics and Protestants, perhaps Premier Jason Kenney’s advisors deserve some of the credit they’re giving themselves for the state of discontented unity in which the party emerged after its three-day AGM at the casino hotel on the Tsuut’ina Nation across Glenmore Trail from southwest Calgary. 

Probably more significant, though, was the full day of election readiness preparation that followed, which as befits a convention held in a hall next door to a casino suggests that Premier Kenney, his grip on the party’s reins now secure for the time being, may be contemplating rolling the dice on an early election call in the event he sees a bump in the polls. 

As predicted here last Friday, media forecasts of a huge fight over Mr. Kenney’s future at the three-day AGM largely failed to materialize. 

On Friday evening, Mr. Kenney’s supporters couldn’t muster enough votes to enact a constitutional amendment that would have raised the number of constituency associations required to demand a quick leadership review. But since the premier got pretty well everything else he wanted out of the AGM, that will probably not turn out to be all that meaningful. 

In the aftermath, though, the punditocracy saw lots of problems for Mr. Kenney in the post-AGM state of the party.

For example, former Edmonton Journal political columnist Graham Thomson, nowadays writing for the CBC and others, emphasized Mr. Kenny’s lousy polls, and the interest of the two former leaders of the Wildrose Party, Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, in his job. As for the upcoming leadership review, Mr. Thomson opined, “it’s hanging over his head like a Sword of Damocles. And a significant number of party members want to cut it loose.”

The vultures, he concluded, are starting to circle. 

Calgary Herald columnist and disillusioned Kenney booster Rick Bell expressed wonderment that the premier’s staff were so jubilant and confident on the final day of the party clam bake.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“For those who cling to Kenney and believe the future’s so bright we gotta wear shades, their man is great,” Mr. Bell wrote. “He’s really great and Albertans will embrace his greatness once again.”

“In fact, the closer people are to the premier, the more they think their man hit it out of the park,” Mr. Bell continued, wonderingly. “Go figure. They feel he had the party members with him.”

Here’s the thing, though. Mr. Kenney’s strategists may well be justified in their confidence, at least in the short term – and so what if the party’s membership is not particularly united in its support for their boss?

With lots of help from deep-pocketed Conservative political action committees, a pro-Kenney slate of candidates now controls the UCP’s new board. That was the principal goal of Team Kenney’s strategists. 

So the UCP really is Mr. Kenney’s party now – just like the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line is Donald Trump’s.

As a result, the premier is in a position to ensure the leadership review, whether it happens soon or even sooner, will be not much of a threat. It is virtually certain it will anoint Mr. Kenney to lead the UCP into the next election, whenever that may be. 

Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith (Photo: Dave Cournoyer).

So Albertans appalled at what the UCP has been up to can’t count on the party’s members to do their work for them. If they want Jason Kenney gone, they’re going to have to do it themselves at the ballot box. 

“It’s certainly within the realm of possibility,” Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey speculated yesterday, that if things look promising for the UCP, Mr. Kenney could call an election “as early as this April.”

And if the planets don’t align for him, or if UCP members and MLAs grow restive again, Dr. Brownsey added, an election might play out just the same. “If Kenney feels threatened, he’ll pull the plug. He’ll take everyone down.” 

And if the premier somehow wins, Dr. Brownsey predicted, “it’s going to be full-blown austerity again as soon as they think it’s feasible.”

So the NDP Opposition, and Albertans who don’t like what the UCP is doing to their province no matter what their politics are, had better stay on their toes.

They can count on the UCP to play dirty when the time comes.

Jason Kenney isn’t going to go quietly, and he’s more secure now than he was a week ago. 

21 Comments to: Alberta’s UCP may not be all that united, but Jason Kenney’s position is more secure than it was a week ago

  1. Dave

    November 22nd, 2021

    For a while when Kenney popped into provincial politics most of the media saw him as some sort of golden boy, rather than a carpet bagging opportunist who happened to find an opportunity in the right place at the right time. Now most of them are on his political death watch.

    As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. The annual meeting gave Kenney a chance to show case his organizational and campaigning skills, which still seem solid. However his problem has been the consistent ineptness at the other thing politicians are expected to do, which is govern. Perhaps, they balance each other out, but I feel in the end governments are judged on how they govern.

    Albertans never wanted a very right wing government, they wanted a government that could somehow just bring economic good times back, not be too arrogant and be more ethical than the PCs. Now, the UCP party, well some of them just made a deal with Kenney so they could get back in power.

    So, I believe what the UCP does with Kenney will largely rest on whether he can convince them that he is their best option to stay in power. At this point, I don’t think he has convinced them, but he has a few months to do what he supposedly does best, which is campaigning and organizing.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    November 22nd, 2021

    It really doesn’t matter what these pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP try to do. It’s not in the best interests of Albertans, and we’ll end up paying for it, in one way or another. Still, Albertans will be duped by them, and who will they blame, when it all goes awry?

    Reply
  3. Just Me

    November 22nd, 2021

    I suspect that even though Kenney may have tightened his ownership of the UCP, it will become increasingly clear that Kenney may ditch the SocCon agenda entirely, for the time being.

    We’ll have to see if Drew Barnes can turn his Rural Bloc Alberta into reality, but given Barnes tendency for mouth-breathing and word salad, he may not be the man to do it. Enter Brian Jean to be Barne’s man. Of course this will only be possible if Jean is denied his UCP nomination, which I’m sure Kenney has already put the fix in on that one.

    Kenney’s UCP wagons have circled and all their guns are pointing inward. Disaster awaits unless Kenney gets that sweet bit of news that Erin O’Toole has been thrown overboard. Then, Kenney has his escape strategy set for him.

    Mmmm… popcorn good.

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      November 22nd, 2021

      “Then, Kenny has his escape strategy set for him.”
      If he became CPC leader or campaigns for them in Ontario it would be a Liberal/NDP sweet dream. No one would attract more overripe tomato fastballs than your arrogant prince of darkness.

      Reply
  4. Hammer

    November 22nd, 2021

    So what happens to the Smith and Jean’s of the world if JK comes out on the top end of the review. Do you believe they will go quietly into the night, or splinter the Alberta right and allow the NDP to come up the middle regardless.

    Reply
  5. Alan K. Spiller

    November 22nd, 2021

    It didn’t surprise me. We saw what Klein did to us while these stupid Albertans let him do it. Ignorant seniors and rural hillbillies believing every lie he feeds them. They don’t care Kenney tried to kick out their rural doctors so he could close their health care services.
    Handpicked fools to make certain they were on his side. Stupid formerly defeated Reformers in Brian Jean and Danielle Smith coming out of the woodwork wanting another chance at destroying our children’s future while they fill their pockets and those of their rich friends with our tax money. Now that the oil industry is recovering they know they will have more money to steal and want in. How many times does Danielle Smith have to be defeated before she wakes up and realizes she’s not wanted?
    I can still hear the American Oilmen that I was involved with calling Albertans The dumbest people on the planet for letting Klein give away our royalties and taxes. Nothing has changed a lot of them are still willing to let these Reformers do it, they don’t give a damn about our children’s future.

    Reply
    • Neil Lore

      November 22nd, 2021

      My current theory on how right wingers vet their facts.

      1)Will this fact require me to rethink anything I have accepted as true? If yes, fact is false, if no, goto #2.

      2)Will this fact allow me to continue to bask in the warming glow of my perpetual self-righteous outrage? If yes, fact is true, if no, fact is false.

      Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    November 22nd, 2021

    Mr. Kenney might want to consider how an early election worked for Jim Prentice in 2015 and Justin Trudeau a couple of months ago. I don’t remember what Mr. Prentice’s polling numbers were going in to the election, but I assume they were good, and Mr. Trudeau certainly was polling in majority territory when he called the election last August.

    Reply
  7. A little bird

    November 22nd, 2021

    Really looks like Trash Can Dani is taking the role of the kamikaze this time out, doesn’t it?

    Reply
  8. brett

    November 22nd, 2021

    I suspect that the NDP got the result they were hoping for.

    Reply
  9. David A Wasserman

    November 22nd, 2021

    If a blip in the polls is what it takes to get Kenney to call an election, I call on all anti-UCP Albertans who get called by pollsters to express the strongest possible support for Kenney, and of course vote for anyone but UCP when the call comes.

    Alberta may not be recoverable after another year and a half of UCP destruction of the environment, the education systems and the health care system.

    Reply
    • Bill Hrynchyshyn

      November 22nd, 2021

      Snap election? Bring it on!

      Reply
  10. Alan K. Spiller

    November 22nd, 2021

    I just read some comments in the national post and another guy noticed that the majority of people at the convention were seniors . It proves what my RCMP friend said for years. Seniors have a horrible reputation for being easy to fool, con-artists make a living at targeting them and these phoney conservative politicians , starting with Ralph Klein do also. Amen.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 22nd, 2021

      ALAN K. SPILLER: You will also notice how on The National Post, how many people still try and defend these pretend conservatives and Reformers. It’s appalling. They were taught to do so by their older relatives. The majority of the comments are like that on articles. What you have said is correct.

      Reply
  11. Neil Lore

    November 22nd, 2021

    IMAGINED SCENE FROM SECRET UCP CAUCUS MEETING:

    SOME MOOK IN A SUIT: Okay everyone, we’ve agreed Kenney is the political equivalent of something the decade of darkness Oilers sired on a dumpster fire. We’ve agreed he has to go before he takes all of us with him. Who wants to take his place?

    *crickets*

    SMIAS: Anyone? Seriously? C’mon, we can see what a disaster he is. Anyone at all?

    *more crickets*

    SMIAS: *sigh* I wonder if Notley’s campaign team is hiring?

    Reply
  12. Neil Lore

    November 22nd, 2021

    Sorry for the double post, these ideas don’t really belong together. RE: the sentence “They can count on the UCP to play dirty when the time comes.”

    Where have the RCMP been? There is still no result into their investigation into the shady dealings of the last campaign. Maybe “investigating electoral crimes” should be added to “wellness checks” in our “list of things cops shouldn’t be asked to do because we won’t like the results.” At this point in time it seems that if someone DID break the law to get elected, nothing would happen. I would ask the same questions about Elections Alberta, but they’ve already kind of announced who they are and what they’re about (they are effectively a taxpayer funded extension of the UCP party).

    If Jason Kenney’s campaign broke the law in the last campaign (not yet established but credibly alleged), what is there to stop them from doing it again?

    *crickets*

    Reply
  13. Scotty on Denman

    November 22nd, 2021

    K-trumpBoy has aped tRumpublicanism so many times during his maiden mandate, can a US-style, year-long election campaign be in the cards for Alberta? Or, how about non-stop rallying, a la Donald J? How should we read readying the UCP for election readiness?

    Already?! Yikes, yes! The next scheduled election in the fixed, four-year term isn’t for another 16 to 18 months, but that’d be nothing for a non-stop, self-boosting tRump, damn the tRumpedos. Kenney take heart, shield, lance and steed!

    Though the political seas be stormy, Danielle’s and Brian’s boarding craft will be tossed as well as the spunky K-Boy’s—that’s a Zero-sumuri advantage right there! The rival NDP might be riding out the roiling riptide comfortably hove-to, but there’s still a chance the premier can catch a stadium wave from the maskless rouges’ gallery of morbid sycophancy and full-patch fealty and, he hopes, glide past the Dippers on furiously frothing foam. Amidst all the maybes, one thing’s probably sure: if Jason can find an eye in the tornado, he won’t hesitate to take it. Give him an inch and he thinks he’s a ruler. Make Alberta Great Again, Again.

    Thus an early election can’t be ruled out. A general election, that is. If odds look better, generally, than that —ahem!—other kind of election (a party leadership review), then the die will most probably be cast. But, really, will UCP members cast Kenney into the pit of iniquity with only a year left before the Big Day? I’m undecided because there’d still be enough time for a new leader to ride the momentum of a successful leadership campaign seamlessly into a general election. That possibility almost guarantees a K-campaign stealing a march before any potential review. Tricky, but it’s wise not to underestimate the K-Boy’s campaigning skills—his governing skills notwithstanding.

    But wait! Wouldn’t calling an early election be hypocritical, given it was the political right, embarrassed by Chrétien’s 1997 snap-election smack-down of Opposition leader Stockwell Day, that reacted by nominating fixed-election dates? The right said, at the time, that never again would a politician “play politics” with election dates (parenthetically lusting that governing neo-right leaders be more presidential than merely first-ministerial for which Westminster is actually designed). Gordon Campbell (sometimes visceral Liberal-haters don’t get that his BC Liberals were as far right as any government on the Left Coast), taking advantage of the right’s feigned outrage over the Day nightmare, made BC the first province to impose the fixed term; he explained quite openly that by fixing a predictable election date, cabinet should be able to dispense with parliament and be held to account every four years by voters only (indeed, he drastically reduced the number of days the Assembly sat, gamed the Freedom-of-Information law to make it virtually inaccessible, insulated, Kafkaesque-like, the premier’s office by increasing the number of staff eight-fold, and created a bloated, partisan “Public Affairs Bureau” to issue stealthily parsed communiques). The effect was to encourage secretive governments and lazy loyal oppositions left with nothing to do but spend the term polishing policy platforms for quadrennial election campaigns. Soon most provinces governed by parties of the right followed suit, as did the HarperCons (which then included Kenney) federally.

    Right-wing parties aren’t the only ones to break the fixed-term rule (early elections also happen in Westminster parliaments when the elected government loses a confidence vote like, for example, the Christy Clark-led BC Liberal minority did against the combined NDP and Green votes in 2017; the BC NDP and federal Liberal governments both called early elections in 2020 and 2021, respectively), but when right-wing governments have arranged early elections for voters, despite the fixed-terms they arranged for themselves, they’ve been unabashedly “playing politics”, therefore committing an hypocrisy each time. It might be distasteful, but it’s not that astounding. The option is definitely available for the UCP and Kenney would have no qualm in seizing it if he thinks it advantageous. That’s the big ‘if’ for the time being.

    Would K-Boy stoop to such depths? His consistent reference to the tRump playbook certainly suggests he would, and readying the party for campaign at last weekend’s party AGM says he probably will if political winds are favourable. While it seems they couldn’t get much worse for Canada’s least-loved premier, he did survive the AGM and averted pulsating potential for a party revolt. Thing’s are looking up from Kenney’s point of view.

    All Alberta voters should therefore be ready for an election, whenever it comes, and particularly for the kind of dirty pool we’ve seen in the Terebinths of tRump: ‘if I cheat to win, I win! If you win, you cheated and justify insurrection…’—or some such thing.

    Dirty, double-standardized hypocrisy? Ha! Say it isn’t so!

    Stay safe, my Alberta friends!

    Reply
  14. Just Me

    November 22nd, 2021

    Kenney can appear to be confident because his gumbas were all over the AGM making sure the stupid didn’t overflow. He brought his own muscle to keep the party in line. That’s an old Mulroney/Chretien move, btw. If this thing turns into a COVID super-spreader event, it will turn out just as Kenney planned. (Greatest. AGM. Ever.)

    So, a snap election seems to be in the cards. Could happen. Of course, Kenney may have to consider running in a rural riding away from Calgary. I’m sure there are dozens of rural riding that would love to have a glad-handing premier as their MLA. And there’s the matter that other MLAs expect to see their loyalty rewarded, so that cabinet is going to get a lot bigger in a little while.

    Wow. From Lougheed to Boss Hogg, the quality of Alberta’s leadership has really hit rock bottom.

    Reply
  15. Bret Larson

    November 22nd, 2021

    Is the NDP propaganda machine hoping for an early election again? Maybe its a Constantine gambit?

    I seriously doubt, they would make that mistake again.

    Reply
    • Anne Wilson

      November 23rd, 2021

      I think Albertans are hoping for an early election. The UCP caucus can’t dump Kenney, and Jean and Smith don’t have the same skills and stomach as Kenney in “organizing”, for example, the unethical and sly kamikaze campaign. I also think Albertans would weep for joy to get Rachel back. Can’t wait.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 23rd, 2021

      Ha, ha. The NDP propaganda machine! That’s funny, because only one propaganda machine exists in Canada and especially Alberta, and it’s decidedly conservative, or should I say republican.

      If only the NDP had a propaganda machine, then they might actually win elections and Canadians would be better off for it.

      Reply

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