Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and UCP Caucus Chair Nathan Neudorf at a recent event in Lethbridge (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Heeeeere’s Kenney! 

One night after saying he was quitting, Alberta’s premier is back by unpopular demand.

UCP Party Secretary Janice Nett (Photo: Linked-in).

You have to admit that, by any yardstick, Jason Kenney’s announcement he would be resigning as leader of the United Conservative Party and premier of Alberta after receiving a 51.4-per-cent stamp of approval from party members, followed hours later by word that he would be staying on as the UCP’s “interim” leader and premier, was one of the epic flip-flops of political history. 

If you’re an Albertan who was feeling disoriented by this turn of events yesterday, imagine how the members of the UCP Legislative Caucus felt after their one-hour pre-lunch meeting in Calgary to discuss the party’s next moves ended seven hours later with Mr. Kenney still in the captain’s chair on the bridge of their mutinous ship of state!

Whip-sawed? Beaten? 

After the meeting, the UCP issued a press release quoting Caucus Chair Nathan Neudorf, the MLA for Lethbridge-East:

Former Kenney advisor Blaise Boehmer (Photo: NATIONAL Public Relations).

“Today, the United Conservative caucus had a vigorous discussion and debate about the future of our party and our government,” he said. (I’ll bet it was vigorous!) “We agreed that we must remain united, focused on the best interests of Albertans, and committed to doing the job Albertans elected us to do.

“In that spirit, we have affirmed Premier Jason Kenney’s continued leadership of our caucus and government until such time as a new leader is chosen, the timing of which will be determined by the United Conservative Party.” (Emphasis added.)

That was all.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting!

For his part, Mr. Kenney yesterday posted to social media a brief letter dated Wednesday to UCP Party Secretary Janice Nett stating that he was writing “pursuant to Section 4.2 of the United Conservative Party of Alberta Governance Manual to advise you of my intention to resign as leader of the United Conservative Party upon the election of a new leader.” 

That shuts the door on a UCP rule that would have allowed an immediate leadership convention to be called in the event Mr. Kenney failed to formally notify the party. 

UCP leadership candidate and MLA Brian Jean (Photo: Brian Jean/Flickr).

This, in turn, will give Mr. Kenney much more scope to ensure the next leader is someone he approves of and who is likely to continue to ride his ideological hobbyhorses, most notably the UCP’s widely scorned rewrite of Alberta’s school curriculum.

What’s more, as a number of pundits have pointed out, there’s nothing in the rules to stop Mr. Kenney from running again – so the possibility, albeit slim, is nevertheless real that UCP Leader Jason Kenney, disdained by the members of his own party, could be helped by Interim Leader Jason Kenney to become the UCP’s new leader, Jason Kenney. As he was, is now, and ever shall be …

It’s very hard to believe that most backbench UCP MLAs, even those who have some time for Mr. Kenney, can be very happy about him sticking around. It’s certainly unlikely to do their re-election chances much good. 

But after being stuck in a room with Premier Kenney and his core supporters for seven hours, maybe they just wanted the yelling to stop. If they think that’s going to soothe their political post-traumatic stress disorder, though, they’re probably deluding themselves. 

Or maybe they just lack the intestinal fortitude to put up a fight when they’re cornered by Mr. Kenney’s hard core supporters, the ones who shout the loudest and who the premier listens to in cabinet.

MLAs who called before the meeting for Mr. Kenney to leave his post immediately, didn’t seem to have much to say afterward. 

For this reason, it may be a mistake to call Mr. Kenney a lame duck, as some commentators were suggesting yesterday.

Still, if the accord holds, at best it means months more of a party focused solely on its political survival without much thought given to the well-being of the province and the people who live in it.

Former Kenney political aide Blaise Boehmer doubtless spoke for many Conservatives when he tweeted yesterday that “the leader could end this chaos in a minute by doing what he pledged to do last night. … this province needs a functioning govt right now—not petty games.”

So the peace in our time the UCP Caucus imagines it bought yesterday has the potential unravel quickly. 

Mr. Kenney’s internal enemies are doubtless plotting right now how to get him, the advisors he listens to, and the party apparatchiks who are his administrative allies to move along as soon as possible.

And Mr. Kenney and his advisors are unlikely to change their tune and suddenly start treating backbench caucus members with more deference and respect. 

So for those of us who follow this stuff, the next few weeks and months are going to put the fun back in dysfunctional! 

Danielle Smith’s announcement: Was it a news conference or a parole hearing? 

UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith at her virtual news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of YouTube video).

Meanwhile, with former Wildrose Party leader and recently elected UCP MLA Brian Jean clearly in the upcoming leadership race, the other former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith, made it official with a virtual news conference yesterday that she’ll be seeking the leadership of the UCP too. 

Her chances, it’s said here, are marginal. 

Never mind her recent fringy interests in COVID quackery and cryptocurrencies. Those would probably be just fine with the UCP of 2022. 

It’s that time in 2014 when she led Wildrose MLAs into Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Caucus for which she’s unlikely ever to be forgiven.

Making her news conference sound more like a faint-hope parole hearing than a political announcement, Ms. Smith admitted, “it’s very clear that Jim and I made a big error in how we tried to bring the conservative movement together.”

But she’s not the same person she was back then, she insisted, and said she hopes voters won’t judge her on her past. 

Well, good luck with that!

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33 Comments

  1. Yeah, Kenney as interim leader right after promising to step down – not much would surprise me at this point. So yes, he might even run to be leader again, although I doubt even the spineless UCP would be suicidal enough to vote him back in, but again heck nothing would surprise me any more.

    The dilemma the UCP faces now is really the same they have been struggling with for the last year or so. Kenney really should go asap, but no one else in the UCP possesses his political skills, determination and ruthlessness and most are kind of scared of him. So it seems he will hang around as long as possible and likely try to influence the outcome of the race to choose his successor. After all, it is not as if he has much of a family go back to spend more time with. I also suspect he would really like to stick it to those who tried to stick it to him. They say revenge is best served cold, but it will probably be boiling hot at the UCP leadership cafe this time.

    However, Kenney’s unusual clever strategies have often turned out to be counter productive over the last few years. So perhaps someone will loudly run against him in the leadership race and if successful that will help put some distance between the new leader and the old one. It could be a winning approach, but Kenney sure will not make it easy for them.

    As for Danielle Smith, she is going to need a lot more contrition to get people to even consider to forgive and forget. I think heavy mascara and lots of tears are her best bet and even the chances of this working are slim.

    1. For me, hearing Kenney’s “political skills” being praised is like hearing Trump’s “charisma” being praised. Weird. No matter how I tilt my head or squint my eyes, I just can’t see it. I just have to accept that others do.

      1. My reference to his political skills was meant in part in comparison to others in the UCP, so it is not necessarily great praise as the rest of the bunch isn’t much. He did manage to win an election and bring two fighting parties together, which was also part of what I was thinking of. However, I think his skills were mostly lost on those of us who did not respond to his dog whistles. In any event, I would note he sure has seems to have lost his touch lately.

  2. As for the head honcho of the UCP, the captain has to go down with the ship, and in this particular case, the sinking UCP ship. We then have some other pretend conservatives and Reformers trying to cling to pieces of the broken and sinking UCP ship, trying to keep afloat. It’s bizarre how there are Albertans who support this craziness. Alberta has had a longstanding history of pretend conservatives and Reformers making a horrific mess in Alberta. This includes Ralph Klein. Here we are with this trifecta, who are going to make sure they push their neoliberal agenda through, regardless of the long term damage it will do. Peter Lougheed warned Albertans about these types of politicians, but Albertans didn’t listen. They are still not listening. Really sad.

    1. Anonymous It didn’t take the senior fools in Calgary long to jump on board the Danielle Smith band wagon they don’t care how many times she has been defeated, yet in a survey done by the Medicine Hat News 73% say they wouldn’t support her. I am like you I think you would have to be a damn fool to support any of them. There is nothing conservative about any of them. Too bad so many Alberta seniors are really that stupid.

      1. Alan K. Spiller: It’s unfortunate, because these seniors influence the younger generations to support these pretend conservatives and Reformers.

  3. I smell a rat. I have a feeling that JK will suddenly change his mind about leaving and that 51.4% is just fine. Staying on as ‘interim leader’ is also a way to ferret out his political enemies and maintain his control of the party. Remember, he has no other substantive job prospects – leaving before his term is up, with his tail between his legs, would mean an end to his political career.

  4. Yes, dysfunctional for sure. That is the moribund state of affairs for the Albaturda gov’t and so-called conservatives for the last 3 decades.
    You might call it self-serving and self preservation but any thinking person with one iota of common sense will call it for what it is, corruption. Also the legacy of the Klien regime.

    But all these trolls and mouth-breathers who present themselves as leaders are just carpet-baggers and grifters out to make a buck. It’s the ignorant , feckless, great unwashed rabble who are to blame for this mess.
    And they are not going away soon.

  5. It appears Jason (Vorhees) Kenney will get to personally greet the Pope after all and continue to enjoy all the perks of being Premier (driver, security detail, whiskey, fine dining). This, protecting his weepy sycophants, punishing his UCP critics, and ensuring the survival of his unpopular and destructive policy agenda appear to be top of mind for him. He cares naught about this province, and, if he truly understood the province, we would not be in this mess, and he would leave as quickly as possible.

    I am sure that by staying on he is only going to deepen the fulminating anger that has been building against him since he took office. I can imagine that more than a few UCP MLAs are experiencing a white-hot rage that they have never or have very rarely experienced. If they didn’t loathe and hate him before, they will now. This is not healthy for anyone.

    I can’t imagine his popularity in the province making a comeback. But, what do I know? I thought Trump didn’t stand a chance, and I never thought that “dark MAGA” and fascism would ever be a popular thing among a significant portion of the population, or that we would we see a bunch of ignorant loons and crazies running for the leadership of the CPC.

    Well, give the man a creepy goalie mask; he has certainly earned it. We get to watch our very own made-in-Alberta slasher film play out in real time.

  6. Today I feel as though I have a UCP poo emoji stuck to the sole of my boot and it’s impossible to shake off. What about the long suffering citizens of Alberta? It was never about them anyway, never was right from the start. Jason Kenney is acting just like Aleksandr Lukashenko or that clown from Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
    As the late great actor John Hurt said from the movie Tinker Tailor ” A man should know when to leave the party”

  7. I think it’s all designed to keep Jason Kenney filling his pockets with taxpayers money until he sees if his pal Pawliver is elected in Ottawa, then off to Ottawa he will go to work for him in some high paying cozy job. These Reformers know how to look after their reform party pals. We still wonder what Stephen Harper and Preston Manning were paid to be party of Kenney’s Expert Panel when they literally did nothing but repeat his lies.

  8. CBC’s noon phone-in show yesterday hosted 2 conservative guests, one supporting Brian Jean, the other Jason Kenney. Both expressed the opinion that Kenney would not run for the leadership.

    I can see how Kenney might not only take a crack at it, but succeed. Most of Kenney’s loud dissenters opposed his Covid policies and pushed for FREEdom. Many other dissenters were appalled by Kenney’s lack of restrictions. It isn’t hard to see how Jason Kenney could become people’s second choice in a preferential ballot. It isn’t hard to imagine the comment, “I really don’t want Jason Kenney again, but Leela Aheer (or Danielle Smith) would be even worse.”

    By the way, is Jason Kenney able to run if he is the interim leader? I thought interim leaders were disqualified.

  9. Using AHS as an example, in a quick search I could only come across that 80% of Albertan’s were satisfied with AH services(IPSOS). Yet I remember hearing most Albertan’s want to keep healthcare public. This kind of boggles my mind because it means there is a considerable number of Conservatives are for public healthcare, yet look at the candidates for the Conservative leadership. The hard core Free Marketer and Austeritarians are odds on favourites, Jean and Smith. If Conservative voters want their public services, why aren’t they picking people that actually represent them?

  10. The devil is in the details and the way I see it you need to analyze Kenney’s words very carefully. He said he intended to step down, not that he was immediately stepping down and that the UCP executive is to start a search for his replacement. So all of us that want to see Kenney gone took his comments to mean he was out right now. Ms. Notley must be real happy today as the UCP took 7 hours to make a 5 minute decision, in other words they can’t organize a two person race to a three hole outhouse. Surely the longer the UCP mess about with the leadership thing the better off the NDP will be. On the other hand looking at the cast of characters hanging on to Kenney, there is no one that really stands out to be the one to pull the UCP together.

    1. “…the UCP took 7 hours to make a 5 minute decision, in other words they can’t organize a two person race to a three hole outhouse.”
      Were you a UCP advisor would you suggest they might better their luck with a one man trot to that same three holer?

  11. I’m pleased to discover that I’m always right. Take that, ex-girlfriend.

    I suppose when faced with the prospect of a snap election, the UCP caucus was prepared to allow Kenney to make an unlimited and neverending slow walk to the exit. I also believe that Kenney cracked open his Horn O’Plenty yet again and doled out more goodies and patronage for his loyalists. Who knew that being an idiot could pay so well?

    Looking at Kenney’s actions since he began his career in public life, it’s becoming clearer to me why he’s still single: he’s a commitment-phobe.

    Never has there ever been someone who is so ideologically committed to the right side of things (ideologically speaking) but who is so willing to jump that ideological fence and do something that is the complete opposite of what he says he believes, for pragmatic reasons of course, is the sort of thing that will give someone whiplash. Now that the entire UCP has endured the enormous G-Forces of Kenney’s erratic and bizarre leadership, one wonders how many of them are willing to stick around until the next election?

    There’s no doubt that Kenney intends to eject many of the less than loyal MLAs from his caucus (Was there ever any doubt that the UCP was his party?) So, if these MLAs want to stay on the gravy train and enjoy the good life, so magnanimously granted to them by Daddy Warbucks, he better toe the line that Kenney has scratched out on the floor, even if he keeps moving it for — you know — pragmatic reasons.

    It’s clear that Kenney had every intention of rejecting the premise of the leadership review, and has no intention of honoring or even regarding the significance of the vote itself. He very much still holds the pen.

  12. Oh, Alberta… there aren’t enough facepalms in the world. Mrs. Smith must be thinking, “Alberta has sloughed off the bonds of decency and good sense… now’s my chance!”

  13. Quote: Still, if the accord holds, at best it means months more of a party focused solely on its political survival without much thought given to the well-being of the province and the people who live in it.

    Was there ever a point where the UCP cared about the well being of Albertans? I have not noted that even once.

  14. So, as leader, does Mr Kenney have the power to decide who is, or remains a member of the party? I’m thinking party membership is a prerequisite for someone to run for leadership. Will Todd or Drew, or even Brian hold memberships if they apply to run?
    Will there be a convention or mail-in vote?
    Will the six credit cards of infamy make a reappearance?
    Will the vote be held before the next general election?
    Can ordinary Albertans sue Mr Kenney for whiplash?
    Sooooo many questions?

    I remember Allan Fotheringham writing about the Alberta Legislature as the most boring political arena in the nation. I believe in the late ‘70s. I suspect the Kenney term in office (whenever it ends) would have changed his mind.

  15. The scam continues. What will it take to put a stop to it? Will it be something personal, something too egregious for Martha and Henry of Alberta? Surely everyone has a price, or do they? We live in interesting times.

  16. In the meantime….

    Kenney used his first public remarks Friday morning to outline progress his government has made on a number of files before issuing a statement that they will continue to work until a new leader has been selected.

    “This is a demonstration that Alberta’s government continues to do the people’s business, continues to fight for this province, to work for a strong economy, to make life better for Albertans,” said Kenney.

    https://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/critical-time-in-albertas-history-jason-kenney-speaks-for-first-time-since-signalling-resignation

    Touting all the things that made life more miserable for Albertans of all shades and shapes. Gaslighting much?

  17. David just so you’re aware the ads today were “defund the cbc” and something about putting Coca Cola in your gas tank, roughly equivalent I would say, I know it’s not your fault

  18. Contrary to what you seem to claim, that simply cannot be the case, because Jason Kenney surely rejects your entire premise. Even as, Jason Kenney, the Alberta/UCP ‘reject’ exemplar continues to be “a person or thing dismissed as failing to meet standards or satisfy tastes.”, excepting, of course, for all those individuals belonging to the ‘true believer tribe’.

    Besides, “”What’s the easiest path for me? Just to take a walk. I don’t need this job. I could go to the private sector, have my evenings, weekends off,” the premier told the gathering.” But, then again, “The lunatics are trying to take over the asylum. And I’m not going to let them.” So there you go. The Savior has been resurrected, so to speak.

    Further, “. . . . Ms. Smith admitted, “it’s very clear that Jim and I made a big error in how we tried to bring the conservative movement together.”” Like a good bowel movement in the morning? Ms. Smith is living proof that 2 university degrees are a rather meaningless affair these days, unless they are used to transition from the ‘career’ of a serial babbler/crank on the radio back to the job of political used car saleswoman/hustler/political con artist. A fence post by any other name is still a fence post.

  19. It’s no secret that unlike the conservatives under Lougheed and Getty who treated all of us with dignity and respect these reformers are only interested in looking after their own well being and that of their rich friends. As lawyers I have known over the years have pointed out they look to the rich for their votes and don’t care about anyone else, or who they hurt in the process. They pick on professionals who are a lot smarter than them and don’t usually let them kick them around like the ignorant Albertans are willing to let them do.

  20. The UCP is a very balanced party: half love Jason Kenney for his social conservative policies, the other half hate him for implementing Covid pandemic protocols. Ethics is Jason Kenney’s top issue: he knows what’s good for Albertans and he knows how to play the federal government. He is so selfless that, while entitled to a lucrative federal MP’s pension (with the cabinet minister’s bonus), he wants to manage Albertans’ federal pensions, too, even though he doesn’t have to. He knows all the tricks in the book and he sticks with it like plandemic droplets to boilerplate. We’re lucky he’s decided to stay on while intending to resign sometime in the future, as we all must do. After all, he united the right and has won majority support of his party. Let’s get behind the greatest premier Alberta ever had!

    I’m Rachel Notley and I approve of this message.

  21. So little time, and so much more money to steal for me and my friends.

    They’ll be busy locking-in long term contracts for their friends, and orchestrating nice plush landings for themselves in anticipation of the next provincial election.

    Let’s see how many stupid Albertans will vote UCP once again.

  22. Danielle Smith needs to do more than say that she’s changed. Who’s believing that? A better strategy would be for her to change into a sackcloth, pour a large can of ashes over her head, stand outside the Legislature ringing a little bell while shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” as loudly and mournfully as she can. Maybe then someone will pay attention.

  23. Let’s look at political history for precedents.

    – in 1979, after losing the election to Joe Clark’s federal PC Party, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Pierre Elliott Trudeau announced his retirement as Liberal Party Leader. But the Clark minority government fell on the basis of its budget, the Liberal Party apparatus asked PET to rescind his retirement, as he had not yet been replaced with a new Leader, and they went on to win a majority in the 1980 election with PET at the helm … which is how we got the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

    – in 1983, federal PC Leader Joe Clark, who was Official Opposition leader at the time, asked the party to hold a leadership contest in which he would be a candidate to succeed himself. He lost, of course, and The Jaw That Walks Like a Man became leader (apologies to the late Dr Foth for stealing his line).

    – in 2006, then-Premier Ralph Klein announced his retirement after getting 55% in the Alberta PC leadership review, but stayed on until his replacement — Ed Stelmach — was chosen.

    – in 2010, Premier Ed Stelmach got a 77% approval rating in a PC leadership review, but decided that still wasn’t good enough and in January 2011 he announced his retirement as PC Leader, to take effect after his replacement was chosen in October. That was to be Alison Redford.

    – Alison Redford, in turn, quit in 2014 after her caucus gave her a “work plan”; she did not stay on, so Dave Hancock was appointed Interim Leader and became Premier. In the leadership contest that followed, former Calgary MP & federal Cabinet minister Jim Prentice emerged victorious and became Premier. The infamous Wildrose floor-crossing followed, then his government went down to defeat in the 2015 election that gave the Rachel Notley-led NDP a majority, ending 44 years of uninterrupted PC government.

    What can we conclude from these precedents? That there is nothing unusual about a Premier or Prime Minister who announces they are relinquishing their party leadership only after their replacement is chosen. There is also nothing unprecedented about that person becoming candidate to replace themself, although that might not work. In fact, appointment of an Interim Leader is less common.

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