A spectre is haunting Alberta … and it’s still Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

So what is this, already? The spring of hope or the winter of despair?

Former premier and NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Two months ago, tout le monde progressive Alberta was high on the certainty that the next provincial election would be the NDP’s with a snap of the fingers.

A few good polls will do that to people.

But as awful as Jason Kenney was – is, actually, in case you missed it he’s still the premier – the next Alberta election in 2023 or whenever it gets called was always going to be a tough fight.

A slam dunk for the NDP was never going to happen. Conservatives have ruled Alberta for almost 47 of the past 51 years, 87 if you count Social Credit as conservative – which it wasn’t really, but close enough for government work.

Do you think that after all that they lacked deep roots in Alberta communities? Do you think they’d forgotten the lay of the land just because they imported Mr. Kenney as their latest saviour from down east, Calgary MP though he may have been, a practice that has a recent history of not working all that well for Alberta Conservatives?

Travis Toews, former finance minister and preferred leadership candidate of the UCP establishment (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Well, bless our souls, Mr. Kenney has gone and said he’s about to resign, there’s been a poll that puts the UCP back into the lead, and Doug Ford’s Conservatives have been re-elected in Ontario.

So suddenly we’re all channeling Charles Dickens and it’s the winter of despair? 

Do you think Alberta hasn’t changed in the 51 years since the pretty moderate and progressive Conservative Peter Lougheed was elected back in the fall of 1971? 

Why do you think Alberta’s self-declared proudly redneck class is fuming so hysterically, trying to foment a separatist movement, and disappearing down a Q-adjacent rabbit hole faster than you can say Donald J. Trump?

They sense that the NDP election in 2015 wasn’t just a fluke, that it had deeper roots in the way Alberta has changed. They’re afraid they’re losing control – and, a bit at a time, they are. 

Former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, chief rival of the Kenney-Toews bloc in the UCP (Photo: Facebook/Brian Jean).

So if the NDP can keep their wits about them – and I suspect they will, their leader Rachel Notley is a former premier who is reasonably cool under fire and capable of learning from her past mistakes – they too have a real chance to return to power next year, or whenever the election is called. 

Remember, as noted above, Mr. Kenney is still the boss, and he’s known as Mr. Bumbles for a reason. If there’s a way he can mess things up, he’ll certainly try. 

Plus, there’s a UCP leadership race to be run, and because the UCP could win, the stakes are high. So it’s likely to get ugly. 

The party establishment that’s chosen Travis Toews as the best man to paper over the UCP’s differences and keep the Frankenparty looking respectable with duct tape and spirit gum for one more election cycle aren’t necessarily going to get their way. 

Mr. Toews, an accountant with soft hands and a couple of nice city suits in his closet, isn’t going to satisfy all the rural right-wingers who gathered around Fort Mac’s Brian Jean to help the former Wildrose leader bring down Premier Kenney. 

Mr. Jean is not going to go easy into that dark political night. 

And then there’s Danielle Smith, the other former Wildrose leader, sometime radio talk show host and chloroquine promoter, not to mention whoever else lines up for the race, just to keep things hysterical. 

And by the time it’s settled, the new leader will have revealed his or her feet of clay. 

That’s one problem the NDP doesn’t have with Rachel Notley – a proven leader and no dummy – firmly in command and a well-disciplined caucus. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney’s army of social media trolls – many of them political staffers paid from the public purse – have started reverting to form after a few weeks of behaving themselves. It’s getting ugly out there because they’re feeling a bit like it’s the winter of despair too. 

And the province’s health care system? In case you stopped paying attention to feel sorry for yourself, it’s still falling apart. There are documented cases of people who have died because of delayed ambulances. Surgeries are still being cancelled. Nurses and doctors are still in short supply.

The school curriculum that’s universally despised? It’s still on track to be implemented too. 

Yeah, the UCP has money to throw at problems again – but even their own supporters must be starting to wonder how long that will last. 

You can say what you like, but I wouldn’t put my own money right now on an election victory by either the UCP or the NDP, although I’m pretty confident none of the other parties will play much of a role this time. 

This was always going to be a hard race with a close finish. 

There are going to be many more polls.

I don’t yet see anything to suggest all that much has changed.

NOTE: I have a busy schedule later this week. I may not be able to file quite as many stories as usual. Things should return to normal next week. DJC

Hot summer in the west? Rabble panel will ponder the auguries this evening.

Rabble Off-the-Hill panel will try to sort out our hot Western summer tonight

With the Alberta political scene in upheaval with the departure of the Premier Kenney in the offing, plus an increasingly vitriolic federal conservative leadership race, what can we expect to see unfold in Alberta, Ottawa, and the impact on the political scene overall?

A Rabble.ca “Off the Hill” panel, including your blogger, will try to answer some of those questions this evening. 

Join guests Rachel Snow, Chuka Ejeckam, Karl Nerenberg and me, and co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies, at 5:30 p.m. Mountain time (7:30 in Central Canada and 4:30 in B.C.) 

Click here to register for the Webinar.

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25 Comments

  1. Yes, I expect the upcoming Alberta election could be fairly competitive. All of the UCP candidates have some strengths. Smith can be fairly articulate and polished, if she avoids the kooky and perhaps her own past. Jean takes the grassroots more seriously than others, though he seems to be made of straw. Toews calmer style could appeal to those who want a break from the over the top rhetoric of the recent past, although I am not sure it will much motivate those used to being riled up regularly. Of course, there could still be a candidate or two more to come out of the woodwork with other strengths and weaknesses.

    So who knows for sure at this point who the next UCP leader will be. Of course that decision is up to the UCP members so those of us who are not, don’t have any say or control over it.

    However, the UCP does not seem to me a party looking for a fundamental change now, as much as a change in tone and temperament. Each of the potential leaders have their own personalities and style somewhat different than Kenney.

    So, this is probably not the time for those not in the UCP to dwell too much on that leadership race, but to get ready for the upcoming election. However it probably wouldn’t hurt to get some understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the more likely winners of that race and how they tie into some of the weaknesses of the UCP.

    There will first be general relief that Kenney is gone, when he finally goes, but after that there will be scrutiny and whoever takes over will be evaluated by the voters. In Canada we do elect parties, but who the leader is , or appears to be, often seems to be as important, if not more so.

  2. I clicked the link to that poll and it shows an article from The National Post. What’s on there is both insignificant, and also infuriating. The insignificant part is that the poll results show the UCP has a mere 2 point lead over the NDP, at 42 percent, in comparison to the NDP’s 40 percent. Most polls taken in the last year and a half show the NDP in a substantial lead over the UCP. This is because the UCP have been an abysmal government in many ways. The infuriating part of this is the comments that are on the particular article. Most people who responded have severe memory loss, as to why Alberta’s finances were dwindled down to very little, our core programs and services were gutted, and privatized, making them less effective, are good at hurling cheap insults at Rachel Notley, and the NDP, with childish name calling, and also make a false claim that Rachel Notley, and Justin Trudeau are out to destroy Alberta. They are oblivious to the facts that pretend conservatives, and Reformers in Alberta made a horrific mess of things, when they changed what Peter Lougheed was doing for the betterment of the province. They’ll never mention how Alberta is out $575 billion, because Peter Lougheed’s oil royalty rates were reduced to a pittance. Nor will they talk about the $260 billion Albertans have to come up with to deal with fixing the extensive damage caused by the oil companies in Alberta. You won’t see them talk about the $150 billion Alberta is out of, because of the foolish tax regimes by these pretend conservatives, and Reformers. Also, they’ll never mention how many billions of dollars were squandered on numerous very pricey shenanigans, over a very long duration of time. All of a sudden, when oil prices come on the downward trajectory, rapidly in 2014, before Rachel Notley’s NDP party, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party swept to power with majority governments, Alberta has limited finances, and in 2015 the NDP is left trying to get Alberta back on track, after decades of malfeasance by these pretend conservatives ,and Reformers, and does anyone think this will be easy to achieve? Oil prices were never in a recovery mode for the entire tenure of the NDP being in power, and these fools somehow think that Rachel Notley, and the NDP created the bad financial state Alberta is in, along with the help of Justin Trudeau, and the Liberals. Oil prices only made any real recovery at some point last year, and are still good, which helped Alberta’s financial situation somewhat, and there are people who think this is the UCP’s doing. These oil prices can still go back on a downward trajectory. Due to the UCP’s knack for being involved with very pricey shenanigans, which cost billions of dollars, when oil prices do plummet down again, the blame game will continue. Rachel Notley and the NDP, as well as Justin Trudeau, and the Liberals will be at fault. Alberta also had a bad record with the UCP at the helm, pertaining to Covid-19 cases. We led the entire country in per capita case numbers. The UCP botched that up, big time. Furthermore, we have also seen how the UCP has dealt with various groups in Alberta. Those under our public health care system, such as nurses and doctors, were treated like garbage. Same goes to anyone in the public education system in Alberta, including the teachers, and their pupils. Anyone on any type of government assistance was also not looked after very well either, because their income was cut back. Nor were the elderly. On top of all of this, the UCP wants to finish off Ralph Klein’s privatization agenda for healthcare in Alberta. Yet, people still want to support these pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP? These people also call anyone names who takes these pretend conservatives, and Reformers to task. Where is the sense in that?

  3. Ford’s reelection in Ontario would not have been possible two years ago. What changed?

    Two years ago, the Ford Government was embattled everywhere: the health ministry was under constant attack, and even the Minister of Education was receiving death threats over the rollback in special education resources for autistic children. And then, Ford did a wild about face, largely fired his entire cabinet, demoted many ministers, demanded that his finance minister not seek reelection, and sacked his chief-of-staff. But it was the pandemic that really turned things. Ford was no longer promoting his Ford Nation ethos; rather, he moved far away from his brand of populism and returned Ontario to the Bill Davis brand of conservatism. And to make things even worse for the Resistance to PMJT, Ford aligned himself with Trudeau and secured his favour.

    Ford decided to shut his yap, act like an adult, and defend peace, order, and good government.

    As for the UCP in Alberta, they never really strayed from their populist brand, which is keep the crazy coming. The interesting thing is that Kenney became, whether intentionally or not, a lightning rod for discontent on the right and the left. With his base all but vanished, Kenney couldn’t do anything right, and even when he made a half hearted effort to do the right thing (Even if it killed him) the torrent of venom from his base spewed that much harder.

    Kenney didn’t take the pandemic seriously, but then took it seriously if only to apply even more policies that would break any semblance of civilization in Alberta. He praised health care workers and doctors, while vilifying them at the same time. He encouraged bad behaviour within and outside his government, while claiming he wouldn’t tolerate it. And while the UCP politicos got caught up in all the skirt-chasing and day-drinking that would make for a great season of Mad Men, Kenney holed himself up inside the Sky Palace, downed glasses of Jameson’s, and fiddled while everything burned down. And just to troll everyone, Kenney openly lied, mislead, and gaslighted to his heart’s content, as though all this was some kind of means to amuse himself. If there wasn’t this sudden oil price boom c/o Vlad Putin, Kenney and the UCP would not have seen their fortunes turn.

    The 2023 election is a long way off and anything can happen. Oil prices can collapse (again) the tide of inflationary pressure ebbs away, and someone in the cabinet will do something unbelievably stupid. Nothing is secure for the UCP.

    Kenney has made no secret that he has no intention of not being premier, even if there is another premier. Mr. Toes will gladly sit and do Kenney’s bidding. As for Ginger Kenney’s bid to oust Kenney, it’s still on, provided that he can keep reminding Alberta that Kenney will never, ever go away.

    So suspect over the next several months there will be plenty of talk about vote rigging in the UCP leadership contest, kamikaze candidates, dark money, dirty tricks, and more stupid that most normal people would ever tolerate. But so long as that oil boom keeps rolling, it’s amazing what Alberta will ignore, because they are the stupidest people alive.

  4. Alberta voter mentality hasn’t changed in 51 years, but the Conservative Party under Lougheed that once has changed drastically. I think Kenney got in by such a large margin because the voters thought they were getting a reincarnation of Lougheed and longed for the days gone by. What I would like to see is true Conservatives break away from the Reformers and Wildrose, then battle it out. It seems the united part of this is like a really bad marriage that is only being held together by the greed of the parties involved.

    1. Old Albertan: The UCP got into power by cheating, and deceit. There was no honesty involved. What’s taking so long for the R.C.M.P to investigate how the head honcho of the UCP got to the political position he is still currently in? The UCP are in no way comparable to Peter Lougheed. Rachel Notley is very comparable to Peter Lougheed.

      1. The same reason that the CRA’s tax evasion case against Rob Anders was suddenly stayed and dismissed.

        There are always powerful forces at work, wielding great powers that can subvert the effect of any law and any court.

        For Kenney, Anders, and the rest of their ilk, there will be no comeuppance…yet.

  5. Good luck with your new endeavour, David.

    Your point about not that much has changed is certainly valid. The polls that gave progressives so much hope are also available to the conservatives to read, and react to.

    The smart response would be to ease up on the conservativism a bit and develop slightly more moderate policies to entice more centralist voters back into the fold. This tactic would also apply to the CPC, who have failed miserably at it; it will be interesting to see if the UPC is any better at it.

  6. The fatal dog attack in Capitol Hill on an 86-year-old community member is just the sort of tragedy that sticks in the minds of voters.

    We know that paramedics don’t respond to certain types of calls without a police presence to secure the scene. How long did that take? Bylaw officers appeared within two minutes, according to a witness.

    https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/neighbours-shocked-after-elderly-woman-killed-in-dog-attack

    We do know that long waits for ambulance service are common now.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-health-ems-new-details-1.6380846

    Let us not forget get that the term “first responders” in this case refers to Betty’s neighbors, who found her and stayed with her as she bled to death. They are ordinary, compassionate citizens.

    On the heels of the mass school murders in Texas, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn with how first responders there stood by for an hour while children bled out.

    We also know that two years ago, our premier callously referred to people in Betty’s demographic as being past their best-before date. “The average age of death from COVID in Alberta is 83 and I remind the house that the average life expectancy in the province is age 82,” he said.

    That remark was not acceptable then, as large numbers of elderly people succumbed to Covid. Betty’s death makes it personal. How can we accept the needless death of one elderly woman, a popular neighbor, who bled to death in an alley as the ambulance inexplicably took 30 minutes to arrive? The Interventional Trauma Operating Room (ITOR) at Foothills Medical Centre was only seven minutes away. If Betty could have been saved, this is the place that could have saved her.

    https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/advanced-trauma-centre-saving-lives-at-foothills-hospital-1.4652419

    Is this what Alberta has become under the UCP? Is this the kind of province we want to be in the future under the UCP? Are people of a certain age disposable? Was Betty’s age ever mentioned in the 911 call? So many questions, so many repulsive possibilities. It seems that the only way to transport trauma victims to help in a hospital is for ordinary citizens to use their personal vehicles, possibly putting these victims at risk of further harm in the process. This is where we are. This is what we have already become, not in a war zone, but in a province at war with its own citizens. This is our ugly reality under the UCP.

    1. It gets uglier. Officials appear to blame Betty’s neighbor for their decision to code the 911 call as non-urgent. Betty’s neighbor looked to the media to share her side of the story. Not only is she traumatized by the horrific incident, she is doubly traumatized by being blamed for the failure of the ambulance service. Anyone with an ounce of sense in emergency services should know how fragile elderly people can be, and that being mauled by three dogs is urgent in any person of any age. Also, many elderly people are taking blood thinners. I know this, and I’m not an ambulance dispatcher.

      How low can we go? This is it. This is what we are now: a province of blame-shifters who attack good people who step in to help their fellow human beings in need, while we sit back and do nothing. We blame them for our failure to be decent, for our failure to give a damn as we stand by and do nothing. We are despicable, Alberta.

      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/ahs-city-ems-dog-attack-1.6482275

  7. For me, this election will be decided by the character of Albertans. If they regain their willingness to try to engage with fact-based arguments, the UCP are hopelessly boned. If they continue to revel in proudly and publicly believing easily falsifiable absurdities the UCP are sitting pretty.

    1. Yes, the next election is a choice between the UCP coalition of neo-liberals, religious fanatics, and oil-fueled fascists, or decent people standing for community and the public interest. When a UCP MLA poses with a rifle only useful for mass murder, Albertans are being sent a clear message about what happens if the UCP win the next election.

  8. After the voting results in Ontario, I’m resigned to the possibility stupid Albertans will re-elect the most incompetent, cruel and corrupt government we’ve ever had.

    Since the pandemic, which is still with us by the way, I didn’t think my low opinion of people could possibly sink this low. I don’t put anything past Alberta voters. After all, they were stupid enough to vote out a competent, caring, ethical scandal-free NDP government for Kenney’s gang. What a monumental mistake.

    1. “which is still with us by the way”

      About a week ago I crunched some numbers. Alberta’s first Covid death was Mar 20, 2020. In the 807 days since then, we have had 4558 deaths, which gives us an average daily death rate of 5.6 deaths. The 51 deaths announced in last week’s update means our current average death rate is over 7 per day.

      Covid hasn’t gone anywhere, just people’s attention from it.

      1. Thanks Bob: two weeks ago the two new Omicron sub-variants went from under 20% of infections in Britain and Portugal to dominating there. Now they are spreading across the US. This speaks to the narcissistic mindlessness in much of western culture and an appalling negligence from our governments. The best of us are getting masked up while the worse of us are getting gunned up.

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/08/new-omicron-sub-variants-ba4-ba5-coronavirus

      2. The same logical fallacies underlie the “progressive” view of Covid, twenty-seven months into the freak-show. The Alberta Covid stats removed the table that detailed the prevalance of co-morbidities in severe Covid cases three or four months ago. It was the case in March, 2020, and remains so, that the people who die with a positive Covid test are overwhelmingly already very sick, with multiple co-morbidities, and frail, and elderly. The “appeal to emotion” logical fallacy that progessives have emitted in the face of this evidence consists of accusing anyone who points out these characteristics of not caring about the fate of the elderly, when in fact what this points to is the consistency of Covid with the outcomes of other respiratory viruses. Meanwhile, the actions of governments across the globe, allegedly intended to render succor to the vulnerable, have accelerated the pace of the destruction of the real economy and the transfer of wealth to the global speculator class as the overwhelming majority of the globe’s population moves further into a permanently precarious economic position. Meanwhile, 54% of Covid “deaths” in the province in the last four months are triple-vaxxed.

        Get ready for people to start walking away from their mortgages in Alberta in the next three years as the globalization of poverty amps up while progs and kons continue to fight over the Loch Ness plague, wicked Russians, and identitarian fantasies.
        Best of luck to all of you.

  9. Off-topic, but this happened: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/2-conservative-mps-switch-allegiance-from-patrick-brown-to-pierre-poilievre/ar-AAYbNu4?ocid=entnewsntp&cvid=b2f24be6b8654ff988ede553e66a5f53

    If 600,000 people can vote, and 310,000 off them signed up to vote for Skippy, we could be watching the CPC get radicalized in real time. The staid old curmudgeons who were the Conservatives of yesteryear are in the process of being switched out for shameless forked tongued know-nothings in short pants barking bad faith absurdities at the moon. Get ready for more freedumb Canada!

  10. To me it’s simply the bait and switch Cons pull on a regular basis. They don’t really have values other than gain power, and are shameless in their pursuit of it. Will Albertans revoke their licence to pillage? Likely not. People seem to like simple solutions (Or rhetoric in most cases) to complex problems, and Cons offer a lot of those. I think we’ll likely just have to be satisfied with a healthy opposition; frustrating as it is.

  11. I have never forgotten the American oilmen I was involved with who called Albertans the dumbest people on the planet for letting Ralph Klein give away our oil and tax wealth. “Don’t you people know it’s not renewable” was their cry. Of course when we tried to educate our fellow seniors to what was happening we got called all sorts of names by these fools who were just too dumb to understand it ,and even though articles prove it they still refuse to believe it. Nothing has changed they are now hurling sarcastic comments at anyone who isn’t as dumb as them, supporting Jason Kenney they don’t care what he has done to this province . He has them brainwashed into believing Notley and Trudeau are the scum of the earth. Just too damn dumb to understand it. As lawyer friends have taught us ask these fools to give you a list of all the horrible things Notley and Trudeau have done to us and watch the stupid stunned look on their faces, they have nothing intelligent to give you. Try it , it works the look is hilarious .

    1. Alan K. Spiller: You certainly have it right. These people are very stubborn, and they will believe anything these pretend conservatives and Reformers tell them. They hate it when it’s proven that they can’t back their claims up. My comment sums that up.

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