Are rival gangs of UCP Mods and Rockers* heading for Red Deer spoiling for a fight?
If you thought the recent opposing demonstrations by outlaw truckers, most of whom don’t seem to own trucks, and local residents in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood were rough, imagine how ugly it could get if Mr. Kenney’s Mods and Mr. Jean’s Rockers started showing up in Red Deer and jostling over their place in the voting line at the United Conservative Party leadership review on April 9!
Mr. Kenney, of course, is Alberta’s premier and leader of the governing United Conservative Party. In trouble both with voters generally and his own party, he’s the man whose job is on the line on April 9.
Mr. Jean was his rival to lead the UCP in 2017 and thinks he was snookered out of the job by Mr. Kenney’s electoral shenanigans. Now he’s back as a UCP MLA-elect, determined to topple the premier and go after his job.
Dissatisfaction with Mr. Kenney’s performance as premier, possibly given an additional jolt by Mr. Jean’s challenge and his March 15 victory in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, seems to have encouraged something like 14,000 UCPers, many of them new members, to sign up to pay $99 to cast a ballot at the Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer for or against Mr. Kenney’s continued leadership.
As of today, it’s going to cost $150 for the privilege, but the party says as many as 20,000 could sign up by April 5, the deadline.
Given the premier’s electoral history and recent changes to Alberta’s election laws that allow party memberships to be purchased for multiple people, that kind of talk soon sparked worries Mr. Kenney was up to no good, and might use the number of party members signed up to vote as an excuse to rig the system to win again.
Rumours have been flying that the party board will meet today and change the rules to improve Mr. Kenney’s chances.
The right-wing online news site run by former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt – a man who was booted from jobs by both Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney – reported yesterday that the board will allow voting to take place over three days in three cities, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.
That means, as Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt pointed out on social media yesterday, that while the rebels were focusing on getting party members who could actually make it to Red Deer to register, Mr. Kenney’s supporters were signing up voters in Calgary and Edmonton secure in the knowledge the rules were going to change to make it easy for them to vote.
This, Dr. Bratt said, “looks like the political equivalent of insider trading.”
No one should be surprised by this. As former Kenney communications director Blaise Boemher wrote for the CBC on Thursday, he thinks the premier and his inner circle “have been planning … for this moment for months.”
“In the roughly two years that I worked directly with him, I never got the sense that Kenney would allow his fate to be decided by factors he cannot control,” Mr. Boehmer wrote. “It was never a question of whether or not we would win; it was always how much would we win by.”
So if Mr. Kenney doesn’t win, Albertans should brace for political unpredictably in the wake of the leadership vote, however it’s conducted, he warned.
The premier might call a snap election, or a snap leadership race. His caucus might fire him.
It’s said here the smart money’s on Mr. Kenney getting a satisfactory result in his party confidence vote – perhaps with a little help from all those new members in Calgary and Edmonton, whoever they may be.
If so, Mr. Jean will be sworn in as an MLA and told to get over it. Maybe he’ll stick around and make mischief. Maybe he’ll go back to Fort Mac and retire from politics for a third time.
If the UCP Board acts as expected, presumably the good merchants of Red Deer won’t need to board up the windows of their shops along Gaetz Avenue.
*Those of you too young to be familiar with Mods and Rockers will just have to look them up. I was feeling nostalgically jovial when I wrote this, otherwise I might have called the two UCP factions Bloods and Crips. DJC