Jason Kenney’s keynote speech at the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting yesterday didn’t amount to much more than the usual Conservative bromides, empty promises, and unjustified braggadocio.
Typical headlines for the day’s efforts emphasized the unity theme: “Alberta premier urges unity among UCP members ahead of April leadership review,” said the CBC.
Under the circumstances faced by Mr. Kenney and the UCP, this is hardly an unexpected message.
Mr. Kenney’s claim that he, and pretty much he alone, was responsible for saving us from the worst ravages of the pandemic seems farfetched given the incendiary role he played in creating the conditions for the fourth wave of COVID-19 at his now notorious Open for Summer news conference on June 18.
His vow to the members gathered at the Gray Eagle resort and casino on the Tsuut’ina Nation adjacent to Calgary’s southwest that Alberta is Back and the economy is about to boom is standard fare for such events, not worth much until there are some actual contracts to back up the vague corporate promises he cited.
“We’re havin’ the best year ever,” he exclaimed, arrestingly. After a couple of beats, though, he went on … “in venture capital.”
“We are seeing an entire new industry taking root, filling up hospitals …” Whoops. That was supposed to be hotels full of people making movies. But it may have been, as one wag observed, the most accurate observation in the premier’s speech.
Certainly his apology to members for the current fractured and unpopular state of the party seemed glib and cursory, at least to your blogger, who has heard professional politicians in hot water rap off this kind of insincere balderdash before, summed up, as indeed Mr. Kenney did, with the plea for everyone to pull together and hope for better days.
“I hear you,” he said. “And I do so respectfully…” Mmmmm-hmmmm. This is the political version of “just move along, folks, nothing to see here.”
Mr. Kenney’s effort to make it sound as if his own and the party’s unpopularity with voters and even many members was because he took too hard a line on suppressing COVID-19 would be hilarious were it not tragic.
He is either deluded about what the UCP’s principal problem with voters is, or, more likely, disingenuously trying to have it both ways, dogwhistling to party’s the anti-vaxx base that it could have been worse from their perspective while telling the rest of us he deserves credit the province’s hospitals didn’t quite collapse at the height of the fourth wave.
And, no, badgering U.S. President Joe Biden to bring the Keystone XL pipeline back to life isn’t going to work.
Yet, with the exception of his not-quite-successful effort Friday to raise the bar on a leadership review, Mr. Kenney seems to have largely succeeded at pacifying most of the opposition to his continued leadership, if only for the moment.
The most interesting, and entertaining, news of the day was that Danielle Smith, the other former leader of the Wildrose Party, will challenge Brian Jean for the leadership of the UCP in the event Mr. Kenney fails to keep himself from being pushed into quitting.
Having already committed political suicide once, why not a second time? I refer, of course, to Dec. 17, 2014, a day that shall live in infamy with former Wildrosers, when Ms. Smith led a tattered remnant of the party back to the bosom of the Progressive Conservative Party.
That was when Mr. Jean emerged from his first retirement to save the Wildrose Party for a spell. He returned to the life of a gentleman of leisure in Fort McMurray after Mr. Kenney’s sharp practices ensured he did not inherit the leadership of the UCP. Now he looks to be preparing a second coming.
If Ms. Smith proceeds with her rekindled ambition, nothing will prevent the frequent use of the term “Kamikaze Candidate” on social media, and questions are also bound to be asked about who will do the wrap for her campaign bus this time.
It will also be interesting to see, as a commenter on this blog observed, if the mostly maskless delegates manage to spark a fifth wave of COVID-19 just in time for the winter holiday season.
Not that I was paying attention: A note to readers from the author
The observations in this post were mostly based, well after the fact, on news accounts by reporters who were at the UCP AGM and the party’s own highlights video, which presumably didn’t include what the premier’s boys in short pants judged to be their boss’s worst moments.
I would have loved to have been there, but even if the UCP hadn’t been seemingly striving to ban progressive media from the meeting, I had other fish to fry.
I have been training hard these past few weeks for an important milestone in karate, my fifth-degree black belt test, which took place today at the Desa School of Karate in St. Albert. So I was in the dojo much of the day today working on something that really feels like a big accomplishment, especially considering that my 70th birthday fast approaches.
The day was a success and my name now hangs in the “godan” section of the dojo wall. I am extremely pleased with this development.
As a result, I gave very little thought to what Premier Kenney had to say for himself until yesterday evening. I certainly wasn’t following it in real time. And I’m not sorry.