Alberta Politics
Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean in the Alberta Legislature Building back in 2017 – now that he’s a candidate for a UCP nomination, Mr. Jean is living in Premier Jason Kenney’s head (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Brian Jean, the Bonnie Prince Charlie of the Alberta conservative movement, takes up residence in Jason Kenney’s head

Posted on November 12, 2021, 12:14 am
9 mins

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney insists his former leadership rival Brian Jean’s planned palace coup to snatch away the crown of the United Conservative Party isn’t about to distract him from his duty to restore Alberta’s swagger. 

But despite tweeting his agreement Wednesday with a fatuous National Post article claiming “Alberta’s swagger is back,” Mr. Kenney is acting more like he’s letting the former Wildrose Party leader live inside his head. 

Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney in happier times (Photo: Chris Bolin, Wildrose Party).

In politics, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a vow not to be distracted is shorthand for another D-word: Desperation. 

And the embattled premier was showing signs of desperation when he embarked upon a rambling discourse about Mr. Jean during last Tuesday’s beer hall news conference. 

Asked by a reporter about his rival’s claim he left provincial politics on March 5, 2018, because Mr. Kenney didn’t talk to him for four months after winning the leadership race and clearly didn’t want him around, the premier had obviously been giving plenty of thought to how to answer such a question. 

“That’s not accurate,” Mr. Kenney began. “I spoke to Brian the day after I was elected leader of the United Conservative Party in November of 2017 and invited him to consider any position that he might be interested in in the shadow cabinet or in the Legislature in the official Opposition. I said he was a critical member of the team, wanted him fully involved in a senior role, a front-bench role in the party and the caucus, and he said he wanted to think about it.

“He texted me,” Mr. Kenney went on, “I believe the next day, and said that he had decided he wanted to take a bit of time to step back, reflect on his future, and my reply was, ‘I respect that completely, as soon as you want to get reengaged there will be a position for you, and please let me know when you’d like to speak again.’

“I didn’t hear back from Brian until he called me a few months later to indicate that he was leaving his seat.”

In the same interview, Mr. Kenney claimed Mr. Jean is welcome to seek the UCP nomination in the upcoming but still unscheduled Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election.

But since Mr. Jean, a well-known Fort Mac local, might well have what it takes to win there, it’s a safe bet Mr. Kenney would prefer to find a way to stop him.

Joshua Gogo, Mr. Kenney’s preferred candidate for the nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election (Photo: LinkedIn).

It didn’t take long for former Conservative PM Stephen Harper’s one time campaign manager, Ken Boessenkool, a signatory with Mr. Harper to the notorious independantiste Firewall manifesto in 2001, to wonder aloud if Mr. Jean could ever come up to the ethical standard required to be a UCP candidate. 

After all, Mr. Boessenkool suggested, Mr. Jean has violated UCP rules by criticizing Mr. Kenney. “One wonders what sort of defence a recently declared nomination contestant and aspiring leadership candidate … would make against the charge that his recent writings and 23 tweet threads violate the @Alberta_UCP Code of Conduct,” he mused Tuesday on Twitter.

Meanwhile, go figure, members of the UCP Caucus seem to be able to call for Mr. Kenney’s removal without consequences. 

Mr. Boessenkool’s tweet immediately inflamed speculation Mr. Kenney would next try to find a way to get the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP constituency association to block Mr. Jean’s candidacy for the nomination. 

Mr. Jean isn’t likely to put up with more Kamikaze campaign shenanigans without squawking, after all, so that speculation might be justified. 

If he wins the nomination, though, and then wins the by-election, he might be in a position to force a leadership review and win the subsequent party vote. “I’m not going to get into numbers,” Mr. Jean told CTV News Wednesday, but “there’s a lot of support for me.”

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So Mr. Kenney wouldn’t be Mr. Kenney if he didn’t have a Plan B to deal with that eventuality. And that would be Joshua Gogo of Fort McMurray, a local businessman with a PhD in economics who was appointed to the Automobile Insurance Rate Board by the UCP in 2020. 

Dr. Gogo also serves on the board of a Fort McMurray evangelical Christian youth ministry. While he is often described in news coverage as an engineer, he doesn’t appear to be a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, the profession’s regulatory body. 

He is certainly adopting a Kenney-style campaign strategy. He has nothing to say, for example, about how he thinks the government should respond to COVID-19. Nor will he say if he’s been vaccinated – arguing “these types of issues are divisive.” 

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, who like Dr. Gogo hails from Nigeria, has been campaigning on his behalf. That wouldn’t happen without a nod from the premier. 

Meanwhile, Wednesday night, Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid reported Mr. Kenney’s allies were organizing another procedural counterattack on Mr. Jean at the UCP annual general meeting that starts on Nov. 19 in Calgary. 

Their plan? To amend the party’s constitution to “sharply raise the bar for a quick leadership review.” 

A vestigial trace of the UCP’s Wildrose origins in the party constitution allows just a quarter of its constituency associations to demand a leadership review. Mr. Kenney’s foes are nearing the required 22 constituency votes.

The motion to amend the constitution was brought by the Edmonton-Northwest Constituency Association president Dave Prisco, the party’s communications manager, said Mr. Braid, a well-connected political columnist who has signalled Mr. Kenney’s moves before. 

It is absolutely in character for Premier Kenney to use a party employee to help change the rules to tie the hands of the Bonnie Prince Charlie of the Wild Rose Country conservative movement in the event he’s elected.

If he fails to win the UCP nomination, Mr. Jean could still run as an Independent and win the by-election. But he would be in a far weaker position to thwart Mr. Kenney’s apparent intention to hang on until it’s too late for party insiders to dislodge him. 

Some former Wildrose MLAs might quit the UCP caucus to join Mr. Jean in such circumstances, but probably fewer than he imagines.

All this leaves the UCP’s problem with Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP unresolved, of course. But from the premier’s perspective that’s a battle for another day. 

Right now, to get there, Mr. Kenney must one way or another dispatch his conservative rival. And that’s why Mr. Jean has taken up residence in the premier’s head. 

24 Comments to: Brian Jean, the Bonnie Prince Charlie of the Alberta conservative movement, takes up residence in Jason Kenney’s head

  1. Dave

    November 12th, 2021

    Yes, for Kenney it’s not so much Alberta is back, but Mr. Jean is and he wants … Kenney’s job amongst other things. Also, Jean has been fairly clear about he thinks of Kenney.

    I suppose Kenney has to get busy as he only has a few months left to convince us, or at least a sizable number of his own party, that Alberta is possibly back and forget about the horrible mess he made over the last few years. So expect a non stop flurry of positive economic news stories, whether real or hype, and for Kenney to try not to mention the word COVID again if at all possible. So basically expect a repeat of the best summer ever type hype, except this time with an economic focus.

    Kenney may not be that good at governing, but I also suspect he still has tricks up his sleeve when it comes to campaigning particularly when it involves using proxies.

    Reply
  2. tom

    November 12th, 2021

    Jason Kenney has managed to get this far in life by being too clever by half, so he probably thinks he can pull this off too. I wonder what post facto procedural stunt he can concoct to overcome the deep dislike of himself that he’s inspired in Albertans?

    Reply
  3. Anne Wilson

    November 12th, 2021

    Isn’t The UCP membership done with Kenney no matter what he does though? Albertans across the board are so upset with him, and they never liked him even at the start. They thought he could win with the strategy of putting together two different parties, and he did, but as we can see that means a spectacularly bad government. There needs to be a new word for how bad the UCP government is, and it’s not only on Kenney. They have no talent or experience and they’re mean.

    I realize Jean is better liked than Kenney and that is a low bar.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      November 13th, 2021

      The UCP’s done with Kenney, and probably as done itself without him. I’m inclined to think it’s symptomatic of a particular partisan disorder typical of conservatism these days. Your observation reminds me, though, that stitching two parties together is always risky, no matter their respective ideological positions.

      Most would agree that Kenney put two parties together purely for his own political advancement rather than design a purpose-built public policy organization; it’s either a case of one faction being an exaggeration of Kenney’s own ideological notions, such as they are, or both factions simply serving as an ideological vehicle purely for his own convenience alone. His tactics are simplistic, base, non-stop stumping and ginning of ‘identity politics’—and the province has suffered a lot as a result.

      It takes a real politician with the broad public welfare foremost in mind to lead a party—even of like-minded members, never mind anything less— and make it a cogent policy-proposal machine. Such a party doesn’t stop proposing policy contributive to the broad public enterprise just because it hasn’t won power, nor does it risk the public weal in the pursuit of power by contriving ulterior purpose. It might have been better (a totally moot point, I know) if Kenney had simply become leader of the WR, say (certainly many ProgCons were repelled by Kenney commandeering their party solely to kill it), and crafted a policy-proposal machine less disingenuous than the Frankenstein/Bride-of he actually did dice and splice. Presumably it would learn by trial and error, at very least, the best politics for influencing policy, even from the opposition benches, its odds of winning power improving as its positions broaden And become more inclusive.

      Naturally, pursuit of power is desirable for any party, but the priority should be to work out the compromises required to present proposals that are cogent, more easily sold, politically, to the public. The UCP, made how it is, never really had the opportunity to do that salutary work together as a team; rather, Kenney put together a sort of partisan commando squad purpose-built solely to get power for his sake, but not very practiced at rendering policy ideas and its leader not experienced at leading a party that governs for all, works with the federation, and strives to win favour once power was won.

      In many respects the HarperCon government (whence Kenney) reflected the same strategy which prioritized getting power, worrying only later about getting its constituent, shotgun-wedded caucus to run smoothly and develop good policy tested by popular politics—and worry it did, too late, as it turned out: that regime was, many agree, terrible (its latest leader inherited the ongoing struggle to make voters forget how bad it was). The HarperCon government did bad things to keep power it didn’t deserve, measured by political success: its popularity was tepid, it failed to achieve its main policy agenda, much of what did get passed was struck down by the SCoC, and it was turfed immediately the Liberals resurrected from their own internal conflicts.

      Again I confess I’ve tended to attribute these horror stories to (pseudo-)conservative psycho-theology but, as you point out, it could just as well be a generic rule that bundling different parties together like ligatured batons and battle axes will get the same, undesired result, whatever the particular mismatches are.

      But in my own defence, please consider that the federal NDP has had its internal differences, too, but has rarely (if ever—an arguable point given members ultimately rejected the short-lived Layton-Mulcair strategy) put achieving power above good policy; goodness knows there’s a super-abundance of ideologues in the party, and undeniable potential for schism. But because it has a proven track record of influencing policy without necessarily winning government (the closest it gets is holding the balance of power and/or tacitly allowing the Liberals to steal policy proposals from it)Or gaming the system or cheating the electorate, the obsession with power isn’t near as intense as the neo-rightist incarnation of bygone conservatism.

      Nevertheless, taking Alberta parties as natural units, there isn’t an immediately apparent vehicle for right-wing politicians to gain power, and only vague possibilities for any one party of the right to contribute constructively to the public enterprise from opposition benches or gradually earn popularity. Indeed, the Alberta NDP is the only natural party that can do both, propose good, broad policy AND win power. It appears an organically whole, untroubled party of like-minded, cooperative people…

      …by those measures, the diametric opposite of the governing UCP for which gradualism is incomprehensible and, unless it has power, it’s all no good.

      Thank you for your insight.

      Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 12th, 2021

      His LinkedIn page says his Masters degree and PhD are from Carleton University. DJC

      Reply
      • CovKid

        November 14th, 2021

        This could well warrant further examination: perhaps he’s not a graduate of either.

        Reply
  4. Phlogiston

    November 12th, 2021

    It is a bit rich for Ken Bossenkool to wonder whether Brian Jean can meet the ethical standards required by the UCP. We are, after all, talking about party and caucus that put ideology and rank appeasement of their base ahead of the health and well-being of all Albertans. As just one example, their incompetent and ideologically driven response to the pandemic has resulted in needless suffering and death.

    It seems to me that Kenney and his motely clown crew are in violation of the UCP code of conduct, which states that members shall “speak and act honestly, in good faith, with the best interests of the UCPA and the people of Alberta foremost in mind.”

    Kenney certainly has not been forthright or honest, nor has he acted with the best interests of the people of Alberta foremost in mind. Furthermore, he has not, in the performance of his duties, exercised “the care, diligence, and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in carrying out a public trust.”

    He has consistently put his political survival ahead of all else, with the UCP coming in second and the people of Alberta coming in a distant third.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      November 12th, 2021

      When a Con talks about ethical behaviour, he means one thing, and one ONLY: complete, absolute and unquestioning loyalty to the Leader.

      What’s significant now is that Jason the First, great and wise Leader of the Chosen (a.k.a. the United Conservative Party) is so unpopular, so hated and therefore so weak, he can’t punish the apostate within the Party of the Chosen.

      I won’t say Brian Jean is the Antichrist, but you gotta wonder how many of Kenney’s Faithful are thinking it….

      Reply
  5. Abs

    November 12th, 2021

    I’m not entirely sure there will be an election in 2023. Fear the reptilian grin of the Alberta Tyrantosaurus rex. It’s not a smile. It’s the thought of how delicious you will be when he eats you.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 12th, 2021

      I agree, Binky. A delay of a year on this excuse or that is far from out of the question. DJC

      Reply
  6. A little bird

    November 12th, 2021

    Kenney starting to look like a man fighting for his life, not his job.

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    November 12th, 2021

    Brian Jean’s claim that Kenney didn’t speak to him for four months after the leadership contest is par for the course for Kenney. No doubt Kenney learned about the Irish practice of “ghosting” while spending many days and evenings down at the James Joyce Irish Pub. Who says Kenney isn’t into the immersion of other (drinking) cultures?

    Kenney’s blowing off of Jean sounds a lot like his obsessive blowing off of Peter McKay. There has been many tales about how this legendary tiff got started. Whether it was on orders from Harpo because McKay’s leadership challenge, or if it was over McKay’s relationship with Belinda Stronach, who also challenged Harpo’s leadership, Kenney’s has an extremely prickly and toxic relationship with McKay. Story is Kenney refused to share a stage with McKay more than once. And there’s the whole matter of Erin O’Toole resisting the notion that McKay seek the CPC nomination in his old riding. O’Toole or Kenney’s work? Who can say?

    In any case, I expect to see Kenney use all kinds of shenanigans and nonsense meant to thwart Jean’s leadership aspirations.

    The fun is just getting started.

    Reply
  8. alkyl

    November 12th, 2021

    More low, picayune drama emanting from the Alberta junior high school student council style political backwater.

    “Mr. Kenney is acting more like he’s letting the former Wildrose Party leader live inside his head.”

    “Relax into the need
    We get so comfortable
    Remember when I was
    So strange and likable
    I just want back in your head
    I just want back in your head
    I’m not unfaithful but I’ll stray”

    The slow fade into irrelevance by Mr. Kenney will surely be rewarded by his corporate benefactors when the transition from ‘public’ life to ‘private’ life is fully realized. The political game being sold to the electorate is after all, only elaborate theatrics; where, the ‘events are characterized more by showmanship than by content.”, i.e. it is a clownish and clumsy blending of kayfabe and reality (Best Summer Ever!!!!).

    It appears to be an emerging axiom in 21st century 1st world economies, that the more useless you are, as a human being, the more highly rewarded you will be, as long as you are a part of the ‘network’, or ‘family’ and as long as you can keep fooling the gullible.

    Reply
    • Just Me

      November 13th, 2021

      Wasn’t that the premise behind the scifi classic They Live?

      Anyone — I mean anyone — can become wealthy overnight, provided they join the aliens’ network. Even the alcoholic homeless guy turned and because extremely wealthy and influential, for doing practically nothing.

      Reply
    • Just Me

      November 13th, 2021

      Wasn’t that the premise behind the scifi classic They Live?

      Anyone — I mean anyone — can become wealthy overnight, provided they join the aliens’ network. Even the alcoholic homeless guy turned and became extremely wealthy and influential, for doing practically nothing.

      Reply
  9. Anonymous

    November 13th, 2021

    It seems Albertans have learned nothing from supporting these pretend conservatives and Reformers, who aren’t like the true conservatives we had under Peter Lougheed. It’s likely they never will learn.

    Reply
  10. I.Wonder

    November 13th, 2021

    Ginger Kenney

    Reply
  11. Alan K Spiller

    November 13th, 2021

    Now Brian Jean has announced that he would not enforce mandated vaccinations, would not support vaccine passports.How stupid does he think we are?
    In other words he doesn’t care who they kill off by not listening to doctors. I guess we should start calling Alberta The Reform Party Killing Field because that’s what it’s become.

    Reply
  12. pogo

    November 13th, 2021

    So why are we here? Do we have a big picture? Is it to level the playing field and protect the weak? Ok then! Our reason should produce less inequality! When it doesn’t? Trim the sails! It’s our core value! Without it? We are nothing! https://youtu.be/86e90MwKRAQ

    Reply
    • pogo

      November 13th, 2021

      Well, after a cleanser like Woody? I’d tell him to his face, if I could, that this is the best train song I ever heard! https://youtu.be/G-gwQkJOphI

      Reply
  13. ema

    November 13th, 2021

    Jean got himself into a bit of bother today, with a (dog whistle) tweet about the “Nigerian economist” in Fort Mac.

    It reminded me of the untimely post at the end of the 2019 campaign, by the ND candidate, that allowed Kaycee Madu to win an extremely close race in Edmonton-South West. I hope the NDs are gearing up to have a strong, qualified candidate in the next election, as Madu needs to be defeated.

    Reply

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