How things looked the last time Alberta’s United Conservative Party had a big in-person meeting, in 2019 – Mr. Kenney may have his hands up, but he’s not surrendering (Photo: United Conservative Party).

Whatever happens to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in the weeks and months ahead, the smart money’s on him winning every fight at the United Conservative Party annual general meeting that starts tonight near Calgary.

So don’t get your hopes up that the AGM will turn into a battle royale that’ll make the great Canadian Liberal Party war between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin look like a hotdog-eating contest. 

Mr. Kenney as he looks nowadays (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

This is hardly a bold prediction. Mr. Kenney has a track record. 

Nobody’s better at rigging a party machine to work in his favour than he is.

He’s already proved it with his justly renowned double reverse hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative and the Wildrose parties in 2016 and 2017, and his subsequent assumption of the leadership of the Franken-party he created to succeed them – the UCP.

Mr. Kenney may be low enough in the polls right now to frighten his MLAs into thinking they could lose it all in the next election to Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party – and to persuade gullible NDP supporters they have an easy win ahead of them in 2023. 

But his fight this weekend isn’t with the NDP. So this suggests his 22-per-cent approval rating with Albertans in recent polls generally won’t count for as much as you might think. 

What’s more, we’re not talking about a general election where at least some rules exist to ensure fairness. It’s an AGM where Mr. Kenney and his minions hold most of the strings. 

Right now his fiercest intramural opponents appear to be with a group of mostly rural MLAs, some of whom act as if they’ve just fallen off a turnip truck that bumped into town last night. 

Former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Sandra Jansen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

They’ve managed to get the 22 constituency association boards to hold votes calling for an early leadership review for the premier. Under the UCP constitution, that should be enough to make it happen. 

But a motion to amend the constitution brought by the Edmonton-Northwest Constituency Association president Dave Prisco, the party’s communications manager and therefore in effect Mr. Kenney’s employee, is likely to come first. 

Chances are good Mr. Kenney will sweep aside his hayseed opponents as easily as he ran off his naïve Progressive Conservative leadership competitors in Nov. 5, 2016. That was the night the mysterious boys on the bus in camo Kenney caps rolled into Red Deer, voted for their candidate, got Stephen Harper’s autograph, and rolled out again, reputedly back to a Bible school somewhere in the hinterlands.

Ask former MLA Sandra Jansen, one of the candidates for the PC leadership that year, about how that worked out. 

Earlier this week, we learned about Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie’s complaint that PACs supporting the premier have been paying the $349 AGM fee and offering other favours for members willing to support Mr. Kenney’s wishes. Mr. Guthrie wants an investigation. The NDP and exiled former UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen all maintain the practice is illegal. 

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

But that question should be moot long before anything gets investigated. Because Mr. Kenney will have won the vote. 

Yesterday, Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid reported on plans by Kenney supporters to keep the premier’s opponents from getting close to the microphones. He also said he’d read a letter that shows an Alberta oil company is rounding up and paying for new members to support the premier – in return for future favours. 

If they lose every vote, will Mr. Kenney’s disgruntled rural opponents have the cojones to quit the UCP and sit as independents or form another party? Don’t count on that either. 

And as for Brian Jean, who wants to contest the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election and then challenge Mr. Kenney for the leadership, don’t put money on his success either, deep as his pockets may be. Roadblocks can be expected to appear suddenly in the path of the former Wildrose Opposition leader and UCP leadership contender.

Mr. Kenney may depart before the next election if there’s no miraculous recovery from the party’s horrible polls. 

But it is unlikely to be on Peter Guthrie’s, Drew Barnes’s or Brian Jean’s timetables. And there’s no guarantee it’ll happen at all.

The AGM, the UCP’s first in-person mass meeting since the onset of the pandemic, will open at 5 p.m. today at the Grey Eagle Casino on the Tsuut’ina Nation adjacent to Calgary’s southwest. Debate and voting on governance questions are scheduled to take place between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Policy debates will be held Saturday. It looks like the effort to ensure the results suit Mr. Kenney is also well in hand.

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  1. I suppose we will see how the UCP AGM goes. Procedurally, it will probably not be terrible for Kenney if he has things like who speaks under his firm control. With all the PAC money, he probably also has enough delegates under his control to prevent total disaster.

    However, it mostly hinges if he can get that 22 constituency early leadership review problem of his fixed. Raising it to 29 will not be easy and even if he does manage to do so, it will look real bad and a number of UCP members will be totally furious.

    All that those who want to to get rid of Kenney need to do is make sure the early leadership review goes ahead and avoid doing anything over the top stupid or embarrassing themselves. So actually a meeting that is not otherwise too eventful is fine for them too.

    Kenney has managed to hold on this long because he has put loyalists in most key positions, there is no obvious successor who would likely be better and he really, really does not want to go. However, as the clock ticks more people in his own party are realizing and becoming increasingly concerned about the electoral liability he has become.

    So even if he survives the weekend without too much more damage, that does not mean the end is not near still.

  2. It’s fair to say that a heist is unfolding. Judging by the prohibitively expensive UCP membership fees, it’s clear that the majority of those who want Kenney turfed (all of them) will not be able to get into the building to cast a vote. What is unfolding is a boldfaced action to make the UCP a vehicle for autocrats and, effectively, the Jason Kenney Party.

    There’s no way the leadership review will happen. Ever. It will reworked in the bylaws to assure it cannot happen. Next, I suspect the entire policy handbook will be written and certain aspects of it that bothered Kenney will be expunged. Effectively, what grassroots mandate? What membership?

    Donations to the UCP will completely dry up, save for only a few choice O & G industry insiders. Now that there’s no limit to third-party contributions, there will be shenanigans aplenty.

    What’s left for Brian Jean? He doesn’t have a chance of winning a UCP nomination, may as well start another party. Or take over an existing one.

    Maybe Derek Alexander Gerhard Fildebrandt has an unused party he can lend?

    1. Socreds tried printing their own money, were basically the legitimate arm of the KKK, I’d say we have a way to go yet.

  3. We all know what will happen
    Jason Kenney has all his goons out to make sure things work his way and all the MLA will suddenly have a change of heart and will say NOTHING

  4. It’s going to take something Shakespearean to get rid of Kenney. What AGM? What provincial election in 2023?

    “Remember the carbon tax” will be the cry as they storm the Capitol, er, Legislature. To those of you manipulated into voting UCP in 2019, please don’t think you’ll get another chance to vote in this lifetime. He is the king of retroactive laws and rule changes. He is the king for life. Are you happy now, in peasants?

  5. I suppose Kenney’s tactics aren’t really that different from any other party leader’s. I suppose it’s really a matter of “everybody does it,” and the Boss always covers his own a$$ first—always. I suppose the anonymous CEO is just following the ancient tradition of “one hand washes the other,” and any businessman worth his stock options will suck up (or browbeat) the Premier for favours and advantage (personal or business, if there’s a difference). I suppose dirty tricks are “in the eye of the beholder,” or victim. After all, “all’s fair in love and war [and politics].”

    But Kenney can give master classes in political manipulation. He’s not overly burdened by scruples (I prefer not to be sued), nor is he above ignoring inconvenient trifles like mere rules. After all, “rules are made to be broken,” especially when obeying them pretty much guarantees you’ll be out on your a$$ shortly.

    Kenney might be able to survive another six months if the economy suddenly recovers, job counts bounce back above pre-Covid levels, and Covid magically disappears. Oh, and if all the Covid-susceptible Albertans have already died, so the daily Covid death count suddenly falls to zero. Maybe, with all that, Kenney will be forgiven and the Base will give him a maskless embrace again. Maybe.

    Given that Oilberduh peasants hold grudges almost as well as Kenney, we can hope they’ll overcome Kenney’s obstruction by sheer numbers, and kick him out. But it’ll take months, and whatever happens, other UCP yahoos will still be around to screw things up. It’s gonna be a long 18 months to the next provincial election….

  6. Alberta isn’t any better off with these pretend conservatives and Reformers in charge. They are not like the true conservatives that we had when Peter Lougheed was premier of Alberta.

  7. Urban MLA’s can also display evidence for the possession of limited critical faculties. Jason Stephen, an individual never known as a potential rising star amongst the UCP back benchers, during a Quebec bashing rant this week informed the Legislature that equalization is socialism. Really? Thank you for the warning Jason. Despite Senator Joe McCarthy being long dead the specter of reds lurking under the bad is being kept alive in some quarters. Perhaps the honorable member fell from an SUV and landed head first.

  8. Lots of conspiracy theories running around, its almost Facebook like. Yes, nobody likes Kenney, thats because hes sitting in the middle taking shots from all sides.

    Keep in mind, the people who go the convention arent uniformly dupes, simpletons or rednecks. You dont need a microphone to work the room. The will talk and they will come to a consensus.

    Im pretty sure that will be that Kenney has done a good job. Which is why he will survive.

    Not the fake news conveyed in such articles.

    1. Here I thought nobody liked Kenney because of his cold arrogance and ideological destruction of the province, but that’s just what I hear people saying about the guy.

      Centrist he is not.

  9. In 2003 six of us formed S.U.N. Seniors united now. The idea was to travel Alberta to organize senior groups to help us get rid of Ralph Klein . Instead we got called liars, traitors, communists , leftest, lefties, left wing nuts and closet liberals from these ignorant seniors who called Klein a hero and believed every lie he fed them , just like they have done with Kenney.

    The interesting thing was remarks by one senior who was on our side. She had worked on one of the elections that re elected Klein. While having a smoke break she said five school bus loaded with seniors showed to vote and made it clear they were voting for Klein. About two hours later she was asked to go help out at another polling station , short of staff, and once again she was outside having a smoke and she swore that the same buses showed up with the same seniors and once again they voted for Klein. They were Chinese. She said when she told senior officials they passed it off that she must be mistaken.

    Wouldn’t you like to know how they did it and how much they got paid? I bet Kenney knows how , and will try it. Reformers will do anything to get elected , according to former MLAs . I am furious that the RCMP has still not reported on, this corrupt party, and how their investigation is going. Why has it taken so long?

  10. My guess is that there may be a few bumps, a few pregnant pauses and Jason Kenney will move forward. A bit less clapping, and some annoying handshaking with the great unwashed grass roots

    After all, that is what he apparently paid good money for…or at least what his corporate backers paid for.

    No doubt this also EXACTLY what Rachael Notley and the Alberta NDP are hoping for Christmas. And perhaps even Tyler Shandro, Adriana LaGrange,or Sonja Savage in their respective stockings.

  11. I’m channelling Hunter S Thompson …….”Fear and Loathing in the Gonzo Alberta UCP Convention”!
    Damned edibles and Dewar’s Whisky!

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