“Let’s be clear, this premier is a bully. And the people around him are jerks. And they will come after you, and they’ll come after your family, and they will come after your business, and they will spread any secret or any lie that they can get on you.”
The speaker quoted above is Vitor Marciano, an experienced conservative political operative nowadays associated with former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean’s campaign to win the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election on the Ides of March and thereafter to relegate Premier Jason Kenney to Alberta history.
He’s describing what will happen to people like Bonnyville-Cold Lake UCP MLA Dave Hanson, if they stand up and show their opposition to Mr. Kenney.
The occasion was a Feb. 17 meeting of United Conservative Party supporters disillusioned with Mr. Kenney’s leadership and determined to hand the premier his walking papers at the party’s leadership review on April 9 in Red Deer.
In addition to Mr. Hanson and Mr. Marciano, former Kenney organizer David Parker can be heard on a recording of the meeting in Bonnyville, 260 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, which was posted to YouTube last week and has been circulating on social media since.
Mr. Parker, said blogger Dave Cournoyer on Tuesday, was Mr. Kenney’s Central Alberta organizer in the 2017 leadership race. Now he is a bitter foe. He is executive director of Take Back Alberta, a political action committee set up to defeat Mr. Kenney in the leadership review.
“On April 9, we’re voting out a tyrant,” Mr. Parker can be heard saying at the Bonnyville meeting.
Mr. Marciano was at Mr. Jean’s side during the UCP leadership battle of 2017 and was given the shove as a party employee after Mr. Kenney’s victory in October that year – suggesting the premier might have been smarter, as the saying goes, to keep his friends close but his enemies closer.
Whether or not Mr. Marciano’s colourful remark is a fair description of the current state of affairs in the UCP, it certainly suggests Alberta is being run by a crime family, not a political party.
That’s overstating it, but the recording shows the depth of the rift in the UCP.
How deep is the distrust of Mr. Kenney’s campaign ethics?
“My nomination, and our next AGM within our constituency association, will be interfered with,” predicted Mr. Hanson, who told the CBC he participated in the meeting on the understanding it wouldn’t be recorded.
“We’ve already seen it in a couple areas in southern Alberta, where the party has stepped in and taken over constituency associations and interfered with the nomination process,” he went on. “They tried to do it with Mr. Jean up in Fort McMurray as well.”
Soon after, Mr. Marciano can be heard saying, “Joseph Stalin once said, ‘I don’t give a damn who votes, I care who counts the votes.’” Voices of agreement can be heard in the background.
When Central Peace MLA Todd Loewen was kicked out of the UCP after a caucus vote on May 13 last year, Mr. Marciano said, nobody knew what the actual count was. “Todd wasn’t told. Nobody else was told. And Todd has since taken phone calls from more than one cabinet minister who said, ‘Todd, I voted for you to stay.’ So we’ll never know.”
The same thing happened in November, he claimed, at the annual general meeting of the Rimbey Rocky Mountain House Sundry Constituency Association, where Government House Leader Jason Nixon appears to be in deep trouble with party members in the riding.
It happened again at another AGM, Mr. Marciano insisted. “They did it as an online meeting. The chair said people have voted and you’ve lost. And that was it. No counts, no telling anybody who could vote, no confirming the number of votes, no confirming even the number of people on the meeting. These guys are prepared to cheat. … They’re prepared to do everything they can to win.”
Now don’t imagine, dear readers, that Mr. Kenney’s intramural rural opponents are unhappy with him for being too far to the right.
“He’s now trying to paint us if you’re opposed to him that you’re a white, right wing fanatic,” complained Mr. Hanson.
“When you’re actually a liberal, all conservatives are on your right,” he said of Mr. Kenney. “Because we oppose you isn’t because we’re all fanatics. It’s because you’re not actually conservative, you’re a liberal. …
“If you wanted to know what Jason Kenney is going to do next,” Mr. Hanson asserted, “just listen to what Rachel Notley was saying last time!”
Well, that’s one way of looking at things, I guess.
“If we all do our jobs,” Mr. Marciano can be heard summing up, “he’s gone on April 9, and then there’s a leadership race, and we’ll get to have some influence on who the next leader is. And whoever that person is, you know, he or she will have realized that you can’t cross Albertans too much.” There is applause.
Well, those of us who don’t have a dog in this fight will still be watching the leadership review with great interest. One prediction is probably safe to make: Whether Mr. Kenney goes or stays, bitter division will haunt the UCP long after his date with destiny in Red Deer on April 9.