He’s Baaack! Brian Jean, the UCP candidate in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, which is scheduled for the Ides of March (Photo: Brian Jean/Flickr).

After dragging his feet for weeks, Jason Kenney yesterday named a date for the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election in which his long-time rival Brian Jean will run for the United Conservative Party on a platform of firing and replacing the premier. 

The date of election – the Ides of March. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

So beware! Everybody beware! 

Premier Kenney waited as long as he legally could before announcing the date at an afternoon news conference about a “wellness village” in Edmonton – a story so dull the government didn’t even bother to post a news release or a video on its website. 

When the premier did name the date, in response to questions by reporters, Mr. Kenney explained he had waited until the last possible day to mention it because he was worried about political activities during a pandemic. 

“We’re not going to call an election, in this case a by-election, in the midst of the Omicron wave,” Mr. Kenney said. “We wanted to, as much as possible, defer discretionary political activities like that until we got well past the Omicron peak.”

This caused gasps of astonishment among even seasoned Alberta political observers long numb to the Premier Kenney’s habitual gaslighting. 

This, after all, was the leader of a government in the process of lifting virtually all COVID-19 mitigation measures, and who to the great distress of most teachers, many parents and a surprising number of students had just ended all mask mandates in schools – and made it impossible for individual schools or local school boards to insist on masks anyway. 

And he was worried about political activities during an Omicron wave? Seriously? 

Virtually no one in Alberta believed this. 

Alberta Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler (Photo: Elections Alberta).

When Elections Alberta posted an announcement of the by-election yesterday morning, then pulled it down moments later, it prompted a wave of speculation the premier had found a way to block Mr. Jean’s candidacy, or was planning an early election to take place before his April 9 leadership review vote.

On the other hand, given his subterranean approval ratings, that would have required him to run on a timetable tantamount to political suicide – even if he promised to give every voter in the province a Ralph Klein-style cash “prosperity bonus” after the election. 

With Mr. Kenney’s afternoon admission there was in fact a date for the by-election, and the return of Elections Alberta’s official statement to its website, that talk simmered down. 

“Appointments have been made for the returning officer and election clerk in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche and they are ready to conduct voting in the electoral division,” Alberta Chief Electoral Office Glen Resler said reassuringly in the statement.

NDP candidate Ariana Mancini, a teacher (Photo: Alberta NDP).

Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney were rivals for the leadership of the United Conservative Party in 2017 when the former federal Cabinet minister elbowed aside the former Wildrose Party leader in a leadership campaign marked by unsavoury tactics, some of which are still being investigated by the RCMP.

When Fort Mac-Lac La Biche UCP MLA Laila Goodridge announced last summer she was quitting to run for the federal Conservatives in September in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, Mr. Jean’s interest in returning to provincial politics and rekindling his rivalry with Mr. Kenney was made plain. 

According to UCP scuttlebutt, Mr. Kenney’s political advisors were confident the premier’s favoured candidate, economist Joshua Gogo, would win the nomination with ease.

Others had their doubts. Mr. Jean is the wealthy scion of a prominent Fort McMurray business family and a former MP for the region. He was returning to the fray at a moment Mr. Kenney’s approval was in free-fall and the UCP was deeply divided over how to respond to the pandemic and a host of other issues. 

When the nomination vote was held, Mr. Jean won convincingly. 

Former UCP MLA, now CPC MP, Laila Goodridge (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

At that point, Mr. Kenney had little choice but to live with it. Ever since, though, Alberta political observers have been trying to figure out how he would block Mr. Jean. 

That would be hard to do now, though, without inciting a mutiny in the UCP.

Short of finding an unexpected reason to drop Mr. Jean as a candidate between now and the Ides – and, count on it, Mr. Jean’s advisors are braced for such a possibility – what is Mr. Kenney to do? 

He can hardly get his loyalists to throw their votes to the NDP’s candidate, Fort Mac teacher Ariana Mancini, who will be out there campaigning with Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, seen by many as Alberta’s once and future premier. 

Well, there’s always Paul Hinman, the reliably loony leader of the Wildrose Independence Party, or Marilyn Burns, leader of the tiny and barely relevant Alberta Advantage Party. 

The Alberta Party, which sits somewhere vaguely on the right side of the political spectrum too, will probably field a candidate, although recently chosen leader Barry Morishita seems to have had the good sense to decline the opportunity. 

Unless Mr. Kenney can come up with some kind of Hail Mary play, there will be no one in the race that supports Alberta’s premier – even the candidate for the government party. 

You can’t make this stuff up. But then, as I’ve said before, this is Alberta, so you rarely have to.

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45 Comments

  1. Gee, Kenney sure knows how to pick his dates! It sure is ironic when the by election will be held. I don’t think Kenney wanted it this way and I sure doubt he appreciates the irony. He was basically backed into a corner on this one or, perhaps more accurately, he backed himself into this corner.

    So, unless something very unexpected happens, Kenney will have quite an uncomfortable day come the Ides of March. It was so thoughtful of him to delay the by election until the last minute if as he said because of COVID. However, I would be surprised if anyone really believes this.

    After a moment of candor the other day about needing to focus on the leadership review, it seems Premier Pinocchio is back to his true form trying to spin things like this. At this point I don’t think more bs is going to help him, because no one really believes or trusts him any more.

  2. Bumbles should take note. Brian Jean has a lean and hungry look…such men are dangerous. No doubt Jean sees Bumble’s current weakness and the current anti-mandate madness as the tide he can take at the flood to lead to his fortune.

  3. So this is why the premier is retreating to his ivory Sky Palace until after the April 9 leadership review. First he has to prepare for his March 15 leadership review. The Ides of March — we know how that ends.

  4. Before I retired from teaching I made up a little card that said, ‘Mr. Raynard, I think you are so stupid you will believe that…’. Then, when I realized the excuse a student was going to tell me was going to be a whopper, I would pull the card out and suggest the student preface their excuse by reading what was on the card.

    I have thought of that card many times since Jason Kenney became premier. I don’t think he realizes that when he comes up with some of his lies he is offending people’s intelligence thinking people will believe them.

  5. I despise Brian Jean. I don’t think he’s much better than Kenny. However, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Right now, I don’t think there is anyone in Alberta who has as much leverage against Kenney as Brian Jean. There are many who get under Kenney’s skin, but Jean is the only one who can materially set him back.

    I support anyone who can make Kenney’s life more difficult.

  6. ATHABASCAN I certainly agree with you. Brian Jean as leader of the Wildrose Party proved what a liar he was . There is no question people took a chance on electing Kenney over him as leader of the UCP because of it.

  7. By the way, do the actual vaccine outcome figures from Alberta now constitute that “misinformation” stuff that has to be censored? How about this instead? Why would anyone in their right mind think that the vaccines are not 90% effective when 70% of hospitalized Covid “cases” are vaccinated? They just don’t understand the context in which these people became infected while the vaccines were working as promised. Crazy anti-vaxxers denying science!
    https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#vaccine-outcomes

    I sleep better at night knowing that there are people standing on guard for me and thee, checking facts and keeping the ones that are just too tricky for us locked safely away. I’m wearing three masks, for triple safety as I type this.

    Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

      1. @Bedoich, if you have been following comments to this blog for any length of time, you will quickly realize that Murphy uses statistics to mislead and troll. He often leaves out the most relevant statistics that would undermine his case.

  8. Competition for nominations is a good thing.

    “Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, seen by many as Alberta’s once and future premier.”

    Thanks for the reminder that the NDP is the only one term government in Alberta history. Good times.

    1. BRET LARSON: I’m sure Alberta could benefit from even more of the most priciest shenanigans from the UCP, throwing billions and billions of dollars away. This was perfectly fine for the Alberta PCs to do for decades. Take it out on the core services, that we all hold near and dear to us, and those who can’t defend themselves, such as AISH clients, or seniors scraping by on a very paltry pension. Not a very wise thing to do. These pretend conservatives and Reformers weren’t like the true conservative, we had under Peter Lougheed.

      1. Politicians who are always looking for a victim tend to want to make all of us victims, its their way to power.

        I prefer politicians who want to provide opportunity for the jurisdictions they represent, you know, like the UCP is doing. For instance, I took in a training session on the Hydrogen industry today.

        Here is an interesting utube you should watch if youre actually interested in good governance:
        https://reason.com/2022/02/16/p-j-orourke-r-i-p/?utm_medium=email

          1. I agree, H2 is a con, at least as a replacement for coal or gasoline.

            But that is where we are at. Its a much smaller con then green energy. It could actually do the job.

            That said, the CO2 to produce hydrogen can be dealt with enmass instead of point sources on every road. So less of a con then the Guardian can glean. They really should hire some engineers to make their propaganda less laughable for a technical point of view.

            Maybe they want to be spotted?

        1. Bret: glad you are learning about hydrogen – it is an amazing way to sell the idea of burning more natural gas to turn black into green. It rivals “self-charging hybrid cars,” perpetual motion machines, and carbon capture and storage for green-washing and separating rubes from their money. Here is a link about green hydrogen in transportation based on a report in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. The graphic says it all:
          https://electrek.co/2022/02/15/study-hydrogen-fuel-cells-cannot-catch-up-battery-electric-vehicles/

          1. Of course, Bumbles and the UCP know-nothings that comprise his caucus are behind blue hydrogen because this is what the fossil fuel industry is pushing as an alternative to burning fossil fuels directly in vehicles. This is just another form of green washing to provide cover for extracting fossil fuel from the ground and consuming it for as long as possible. What we don’t see from the UCP government are any significant initiatives to encourage the development of a charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Why not? Because electric vehicles are anathema to UCP supporters.

            These UCP clowns are so short sighted. They think resource extraction is the only thing that can drive the economy. Well, education can as well. Switzerland has a non-existent resource extraction industry, yet they do very well. Could this be attributed to the fact that Switzerland places a high value on having a highly educated population?

    2. …Uh… you know Alberta’s rejection of Notley’s government says way more about Albertans than it does about Notley, right? “We sure showed those NDP villains what a bunch of clueless rubes we are! We are better off with the extremely competent governance of Jason Kenney than we were with that dastardly commie, Rachel Notley.”

      I’m not a partisan and don’t identify with any parties or politicians, but as far as I can tell, Notley is an adult. The UCP is full of grown children who believe that they can make things be true if they hold their breath and stomp their feet.

    3. Well, not because the NDP were incompetent or did not sincerely attempt to govern well but because there are too many gullible fools of voting age in Alberta who are easily deceived by the CONS/UCP (by and large, puppets of billionaires and the fossil fuel industry) to vote against their own interests. In some parts of this province, you could elect a rotting, stinking corpse of a dead goat to the legislature/parliament if it were running as a UCP/CPC candidate.

      1. “In some parts of this province, you could elect a rotting, stinking corpse of a dead goat to the legislature/parliament if it were running as a UCP/CPC candidate.”

        Or driving around in a blue pickup.

        1. Covkid Our legislature is full of those rotting corpses of very stinky and useless goats. Unfortunately it seems that too many Albertan’s can’t smell them.

          I wonder if Alberta has been in the throws of a covid pandemic for decades.

      2. I live in one of those parts. It is true. People will never vote anything other than conservative. It’s partisanship, tradition, and laziness. It’s too much effort for them to actually ferret out the facts with an open mind. I agree with your statement that they “vote against their own interests”. That is why I wish more information and policy decisions were broadcast regularly ‘on the news’ – it might wake up a few more people.

  9. Expat Albertan Absolutely nothing unless the party kicks him out and they let Jean run for leadership. But don’t be surprised if a bunch more of these former defeated reformers don’t challenge him, some how they seem to think Albertans give a damn about any of them.

    1. ALAN K. SPILLER: I still don’t understand why Albertans never learn their lesson. For decades, they supported these pretend conservatives and Reformers, and these Liberal turned Reformers, like Ralph Klein and the head honcho of the UCP. Alberta isn’t any better off, and we get shafted. They aren’t like the true conservative, we had with Peter Lougheed. Where is the sense in this?

      1. Anonymous The true conservatives in my world don’t understand it either. It’s no secret that Albertans are easy to fool and sadly a lot seem to be in rural Alberta. Kenney’s support is still coming from rural Alberta the polls show.

        All the while my wife and I were living and working in Alberta with the Royal Bank we never thought they were like that. The ones in southern Alberta have certainly proved it. They fell for every lie Jason Kenney and these lunatics fed them.

        Of course Brett Larson insists on proving what a fool he is. To dumb to believe what lawyers, accountants, oilmen, bankers and former MLAs have said about Rachael Notley’s plan to get us back up to the Lougheed levels . He would rather to believe the Jason Kenney lies. He loves Liberals who become Reformers and pretend they are conservatives.

    2. Not sure what his strategy will be – he either takes the position that Kenney has bungled covid by not taking it seriously enough, and thereby alienates the anti-reality segment of his caucus/electorate (you know, the fools who think facts care about their feelings), or he takes the position that the only problem with covid was that Kenney tried to do something about it, which would thereby alienate any adults remaining in Alberta. No idea why a reasonable adult would think they can salvage the UCP, or what their plan of action would be. Wear a cowboy hat and discharge pistols into the air? Seems as good a bet as any, and better than lots.

  10. Well, this could be quite interesting. Assuming Brian Jean is elected and Premier Bumble and Stumble wins the leadership approval, he will have right behind him a fellow in caucus trying to knife him in the back. Sound familiar? John Turner and Paul Martin? So as we whistle past Kenney’s political grave . . .

  11. The sooner the UCP are gone, the better off we will be in Alberta, albeit the damage done by the UCP will take such a long time to fix up. The closest type of premier we had to Peter Lougheed, was Rachel Notley. Haven’t Albertans had enough of these Ralph Klein and Reformer types, who do the most priciest shenanigans, throwing away billions of dollars, gutting essential services, such as healthcare, just so they can privatize it, not supporting public education, destroying the environment, with unregulated industry, supporting their rich corporate friends, and not caring for seniors, or the marginalized in society, like those on AISH? Where is the sense in any of this? The UCP are devoid of common sense.

    1. At coffee today the guys were saying they aren’t interested in watching another gong show between Jason kenney and Brian Jean trying to win the title of who is the biggest liar, like we have seen from these Reformers for years. There is no question Brian Jean as leader of the Wildrose proved what a liar he was. That’s why Jason Kenney got elected as leader of the UCP.

      Now after these fools took the Notley caps off our utility bills and seniors are in a terrible mess it has some how become Notleys fault and you can bet there will be seniors dumb enough to believe it.

      While the Reformers praised the Truckers for storming Ottawa and Coutts and now that it’s gone south on them it’s all Trudeau’s fault for putting a policy in place to help the police deal with it.

      While Edmontonians whine about why the city police didn’t jump in and start busting heads they ignore the fact that You can’t take a chance that there might be guns involved like in southern Alberta and a whole lot of innocent people could get killed.

  12. “Beware the Ides of March’!”

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!”

    “Beware Macduff!”

    Now that I got all that out of the way, here’s some completely unlikely but totally worthy speculation for this upcoming by election.

    First thing is that there will an attraction to the crazy, the crazy being the WRIP. (or whatever they call themselves) Paul Hinman will be providing heavy doses of crazy because…well, there are voters who love voting for crazy. He will declare that Brian Jean is no more than a Ginger Kenney and seek to smite him and strike him down.

    Brian Jean, on the other hand, will play his always reliable aw-shucks everyman shtick that has served him so well in the past. I suppose there are plenty of voters who will buy into the Destroy Kenney angle of Jean’s campaign, but how far can you get on anger? I’m not sure in any of this type of voter will have a moment of clarity about the nonsense of this rationale, but it’s there if they want to consider it.

    But if the motivation for those voters is reasonable policies that are forward-thinking, and emphasis at the very least a middle of the road consensus, then Ariana Mancini (NDP) is the worthy choice.

  13. For anyone who will actually be voting in Fort McMurray – Lac La Biche please remember that while Brian Jean will be running to replace Jason Kenney if elected he will not be representing the electorate but he will be working on furthering his goal of getting rid of Jason Kenney. Brian Jean will be a one issue candidate and that interest will be him and not you. Brian Jean has demonstrated when he was an MP and as an MLA that he does not support the electorate but supports his own interests.

    Ariana Mancini will be focused on representing the actual people of the riding. She will also be working with a caucus that has a proven record of supporting real people of all socio-economic backgrounds.

    On March 15th there will be a choice between a candidate who has a single purpose vendetta or Ariana Mancini who will work for everyone.

  14. My suspicion is that becoming UCP honcho is simpler than actually leading this disparate group of PC’s, Reformers, nut jobs, conspiracy theorists, shallow opportunists and separatists into a credible party characterized by anything approaching focus and cohesiveness. We’ll be hearing more of the usual one liners grounded in endless gripes about Ottawa, Liberals and the NDP. Come convention time Ms. Notley’s ears will be bright red.

  15. I wonder what the background of Alberta Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler is? Who are the people he has appointed to run the election? Most important, who will be counting the ballots?

    1. Remember the very recent Municipal elections?
      It appears kenney and the ucp like efficiency. Voting machines were used to ‘count’ the ballots. No recounts were allowed even when the difference between winners and losers were under a hundred ballots.

      I know someone who lives in St. Albert (which apparently voted using paper ballots to the left of centre in most elections). There was an election held some years ago, in which ‘voting machines’ were used (don’t know if it was municipal, provincial or federal) and needless to say the candidate elected was very much to right on the politcal spectrum. Quelle suprise.

      So, I expect that all future elections will be held using voting machines, again with no recounts – especially recounts by hand will be held with all ballots destroyed shortly after. This rapid destruction of ballots was implemented by the conservative harper regime when Pierre Le Peu passed his ‘Fair Elections Act’. I hope the Liberals have reinstated the powers that Election Canada once held with respect to recounts etc.. If they haven’t, that would be a mistake.

      I have only dealt with Glen Resler once. It was a complaint about an irregularity regarding impeding the ability of observers to observe what was happening at tables where ballots were being handed out. The complaint was not taken seriously by him although according to Elections Canada the rules were not being followed.

      Perhaps it is time to write to the conservative mla who represents the riding live in and request that a snap election be called and indicate March 15th would be the best date to hold it.

  16. It’s been a while since I looked at this, but I believe I’m right in saying that if the legislature is dissolved before March 15, the by-election will not occur. In effect it will be merged with an April general election. Thoughts?

    1. Simon: I wouldn’t rule it out completely. It was one of the rumours circulating the day before this piece was written. But since it would solve one problem by creating a potentially bigger one, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Mr. Kenney is like a political Wilkins Micawber. He always expects something to turn up. “Welcome poverty!..Welcome misery, welcome houselessness,* welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!” DJC * Can always stay in Mom’s basement.

  17. Caption typo: Ms Goodridge was a UCP MLA before going federal, not “UPC” — which is the acronym for Universal Product Code, i.e. the barcode found on most retail items. Of course, many others make this same error :-).

    I, too, don’t think Brian Jean is any better than Jason Kenney, but he will make the by-election & its aftermath more interesting — unless Mr Jean loses. Not likely, I grant you, but not impossible either.

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