UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean addresses the media at his campaign launch last night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Dave Hanson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That sure sounded like what former Wildrose Party leader and UCP co-founder Brian Jean was promising Albertans last night as he launched the formal part of his campaign to take back leadership of the United Conservative Party from Premier Jason Kenney, whom he’s entitled to feel snatched the job from his hands in 2017.

There was some cautious rewording by his speechwriter, presumably, just in case some of the 150 or so folks who showed up at a modest west-side Edmonton Hotel to cheer on or check out his effort to at last become UCP leader recognized the familiar sentiments of the Declaration of Independence – the one signed south of the Medicine Line on July 4, 1776, that is.

So, life, autonomy, and the happiest place on earth, period, then – Disneyland not excluded and never mind having to pursue the darned dream!

“In the next several weeks, I’m going to champion ideas that ensure Albertans are the happiest, the healthiest, the most free and prosperous people in Canada and the world,” Mr. Jean ambitiously vowed. 

“Autonomy for Albertans is the central theme of this campaign,” he also intoned. “Personal autonomy, personal financial autonomy, professional autonomy, community autonomy, and Alberta’s greater autonomy within Canada.”

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo’s Tany Yao (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, at least he didn’t go overboard like that other former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith, who is promising a blatantly unconstitutional “Alberta Sovereignty Act” that would try to seize federal powers outright. 

Aside from its American undertones – all pretty normal in conservative Alberta circles nowadays – Mr. Jean’s long-awaited campaign-launch speech was about what you’d expect: polished, but no surprises; with pro forma shots at Ottawa, the Sky Palacial arrogance and needless belligerence of the UCP’s current leadership, and Rachel Notley’s NDP.

As he usually does, Mr. Jean warned that another NDP government would be “disastrous.” But other than accusing the former government of “shrill anger,” he didn’t really explain why.

The event was well organized. The crowd was well-behaved – I’d say about two-thirds enthusiastic Brian Jean disciples and one third there to suss him out. A majority had grey hair. 

If MLAs showing up to demonstrate their support is a measure of success, I noticed only two: Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul’s Dave Hanson and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo’s Tany Yao, both former Wildrosers.  

Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner (Photo: Wikipedia).

Regardless of Mr. Jean’s prospects of victory, up to now his campaign has to be called a success.

He was the first and boldest potential candidate to call out Mr. Kenney’s lousy leadership.

He overcame the party establishment’s opposition to his candidacy in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, which he handily won on March 15 after campaigning explicitly to depose and replace the premier. 

And it was his supporters who created the momentum to effectively defeat Mr. Kenney in his leadership ratification vote – which resulted in a technical victory of 51.4 per cent, which turned out to be the political equivalent of a technical knock-out. 

If it was Mr. Kenney’s plan after the result was announced in mid-May to somehow find a way to hang onto power, that seems increasingly unlikely – about the only role left for him is to try to tilt the playing field in favour of a candidate more palatable to his segment of the fragmented party, presumably former finance minister Travis Toews.

In addition to Mr. Jean, Mr. Toews and Ms. Smith, there are now four others registered as candidates with Elections Alberta: former deputy leader Leela Aheer, exiled Independent Todd Loewen, village mayor Bill Rock, and former children’s services minister Rebecca Schulz. In addition, former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney has launched her campaign, but is not yet found on Elections Alberta’s site. 

Last night, federal Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner took to Twitter to say “I can confirm that I am giving a provincial leadership bid serious consideration.” If you want to see what else she had to say, though, you can look her up yourself since, like a significant portion of Alberta’s population, your blogger has been blocked by the MP for Calgary Nose Hill. 

Rachel Notley promises to outline steps NDP will take to address volunteers’ complaints

Opposition NDP Leader and former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In a statement emailed to members and supporters yesterday, Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the Alberta NDP is addressing the controversy within the party and online about the treatment of volunteers by party staff. 

In the email, she promised this weekend to share and discuss the steps the party is taking to ensure “a safe, respectful, and welcoming environment for volunteers, for employees, and for all Albertans.” 

“It’s clear that in some cases we have fallen short of that commitment,” Ms. Notley said in the email.

“These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they are essential,” she said. “I am confident they will make our party stronger.”

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20 Comments

  1. It seems to me, autonomy is just another word for freedom. In one way, perhaps a more cautious one because it does not make one immediately think of lunatics and truck protesters. In another way bolder, as it probably appeals to the Alberta first anti Ottawa crowd.

    I’m not sure autonomy, despite likely being carefully chosen, will quite catch on like freedom has for some Federal Conservatives, but I suppose Jean could have chosen worse slogans. If he is in the lead perhaps he also wants to convey a more moderate tone, or at least not scare the UCP members or voters too much.

    It is interesting he did not have a few more MLA’s to support him, but I suppose a leadership race is based on selling memberships not getting MLA endorsements.

    I suppose it is possible a well known Federal MP will find the prospect of being Premier of Alberta irresistible, although frankly the job doesn’t seem to have turned out to be that great for any other recent Conservative victors from Ottawa.

    For Mr. Jean it might feel like deja vu all over again, with a big name Federal MP potentially jumping in just when it seemed he was making some progress.

    Oh well, that is the brutal reality of Conservative leadership politics. They really want perceived winners to try keep them in power, but sometimes the ones they pick with the apparent golden glow can soon turn out to be real duds.

  2. You can trust these pretend conservatives and Reformers as far as you can throw them. Anyone that is foolish enough to fall for the lies of these people, will get exactly what they deserve. Alberta won’t be better off. It’s a shame that there are people who still don’t know any better. All they can do is hurl insults at those of us who expose the lies of these pretend conservatives and Reformers, because they can’t offer much else. These pretend conservatives and Reformers only care about their rich corporate friends, while doing the most priciest shenanigans, that cost us billions of dollars, and make cuts to our essential services, such as with healthcare and education, so they can privatize it. Where is the sense in this? These are the politicians that Peter Lougheed warned us about.

  3. “…the most free and prosperous people in Canada…” given the UCP destructive policies we has seen implemented for the past ~3 yrs by J. Kenney, it seems Mr. Jean will, like his predecessor, have a bit of a problem with the truth and reality.

  4. We get new weather every year now, it seems, here in the easily mistaken rain shadow of the Big Island of Vancouver—this year shaded BY the rain, not FROM it. I used to miss the intense electrical storms on those insufferably hot and muggy nights of my youth in Southern Ontario, but we’ve been getting that out here lately, too. These waves of brooding cloud roiling over the Beaufort Range seem apropos to all kinds of crazy goings-on these days. First a flash, then a rifling crack followed by a gathering rumble of near-deafening vibration. It’s getting hard to hear yourself think—which is maybe why a lot of people seem to absolve themselves of the trouble. Who’s to know when outlandish is hardly outstanding anymore?

    Hot hominy? What the—? Oh, blast! “Autonomy!” I didn’t quite hear that right over the sound of Brain Jean and Danielle Smith trying to steal each other’s thunder. And, forgive me, but this catchy twaddle is also kinda corny and soaked in lies, too, so it was easy to mistake it for the real hominy. “I will stand up to Ottawa for Alberta’s hot hominy!” Gosh: shut the winda, it’s pouring outside.

    I expect this clash of the autonomatons to be more entertainment than education. Seriously, shouldn’t aspirants to lead the great province of Alberta have something more substantive or relevant to talk about? It’s not like these late party crashers have to atone for Kenney’s disastrous maiden term, but I suppose their peek-a-boo sojourns in and out of the swamp of neo-right politics would raise suspicion without some big-talk distraction. Right: hominy —I mean, autonomy —it is, then. Onward to slay some grits!

    People don’t need to know what they’re talking about anymore, long’s there’s plenty of thunder and lightning to storm the ramparts of Big Foot. As an acquaintance agreed the other day, between raindrops, it ain’t just the far-right and religious wackos indulging in this of uninformed charlatanism and esoteric chauvinism. It’s true: the high prairie has its redneck anti-vaxxers, but even out here in tie-dye territory we have state-of-hysteria anti-vaxxers otherwise prefixed as “granola.” How these two otherwise mutual enemies concurred on this point is beyond all reason, but it appears meta-mindfulness has caught a wave that rocks all boats.

    Sometimes it seems harmless: back when the BC Liberals were in power, they convinced a lot of citizens that their ferry system had been privatized, probably as part of premier Campbell’s stealth transfer of public enterprises to crony insiders for pennies on the dollar (like the sale of BC Rail); we have a better party in power now, but many people still mistakenly think the ferries and its supposed service contractor aren’t 100% publicly owned. But that was back then when, in retrospect, the world was green and relatively innocent, and it doesn’t much matter anyhow, so long’s the ferries run on time. We don’t blame Ottawa if they don’t (but Albertans do cause lengthy line-ups in the summer).

    That’s mild, but the nonsense that a US Vice President could overturn an election inspired hundreds of dough-heads full of hot hominy to smash the Capitol and kill people—an awful commitment to something they obviously didn’t understand or care if they did. It’s happening all over the place. Just the other day, protesters attempted to block the morning commute over bridges to Vancouver, fomenting bad blood, mild violence and some injuries during their arrests by (lucky for them) city police. They’re certainly motivated, but their protest that old-growth forests be protected so’s to absorb critical amounts of atmospheric CO2 else climate-change destroys civilization is completely wrong: old forests are effectively at full capacity and, moreover, typical fungal decay renders many old-growth stands net emitters of CO2. There are plenty of good reasons to preserve more old-growth, but carbon sequestration simply isn’t one. But does that matter to radical protesters? Not much, or at least not yet.

    How’s about them “freedom convoys,” eh! I was solicited by an old friend to support these radical ignoramuses who think they’ve found a constitutional glitch that permits them unconstitutional acts—many of which are potentially dangerous. Reason had plainly failed to sink in, so reasonable measures had to be taken. Same way Coutts, same way Windsor. The perps had no idea what they were talking about, but bet way too heavy on it anyhow. It doesn’t need to make sense, they just want to rumble on any pretence. In contrast, I do have a reason to block my old buddy’s posts.

    This list is long because of tRump, of course, but where große Lüge could propagate a big lie by eventually convincing repetition, today’s cavalier thinking is much more scattershot, probably because of social media (I read it somewheres). Hitler might have wrapped himself in absurdist mysticism, but order, technical proficiency, administrative efficiency, and trains running on time were his frontispiece. Today it’s simply throw a wrench in the system for whatever “reasons” are acceptable to Q-Anon. This stuff has dangerous consequences that percolate through courts of law, houses of parliament, and international borders. As my more-rational friend remarked, there’s radicalization on the left and right, tree-huggers are now as reactionary as Proud Boys, misinformation is their creed, and violence always their subtext.

    So is a little can of hominy in the same league? It has its große Lüge elements, alright, its clearly scoped enemies—although Jean’s are plural whereas Smith’s is more classically singular—and, we may be assured, it will have its repetition. Do either of them have to explain what exactly “autonomy” means? I assume they will, but also that the veracity and truth of whatever they say is probably not as important as just the saying of it. “Alberta First” is painfully tRumpesque to me, but it’s classically simple. What provincial government doesn’t put its own jurisdiction first? I just get a precautionary-principle prickle when I hear these kinds of loaded, inexplicable slogans.

    I’ll be fascinated to hear Jean’s rationale, but Smith’s is too cagey by half. I take any province as sovereign within our federation—that is, a province relinquishes the minimum of its innate sovereignty in order a federation can function for the benefit of all federates. Like Quebec’s “sovereignty association.” Nobody really knew what it meant—or, at least, most couldn’t agree about it (we got the Clarity Act for this reason—which I’m sure Smith will have to parry with at some point). It seems to me Quebec is already sovereign and in association with the federation, and, for no particular reason we can agree on, it remains so today.

    I’ll bolster provincial sovereignty—with its federal qualifier— with the fact that, unlike the USA, provinces do have a mechanism by which they may secede from the federation—and Alberta happens to be the maverick this time. IMHO, that defines a sovereign capability. But whether Smith is full of moot bluster for psephological reasons or not, I can’t really tell. Will somebody please ask her?

    One thing’s for sure, though: no federation admits a confederacy, not in part or in whole. How Alberta could feel more equal outside of Canada is a question we appear destined to discuss again.

    But, really, I suspect there’s more substantive and relevant stuff that perhaps some UCP candidates don’t want to talk about—so this old rubber-ducky canard will squeak again, I’m sure.

  5. Once again we see a crowd of mainly seniors letting themselves be treated like morons. You would think they would have been listening to what Albertans have been saying about these phoney conservatives but they aren’t that smart. Maybe the fact that only 150 out of a population of some 1 million showed up would wake them up but I doubt it. I was a card carrying conservative under Ralph Klein and got invited to all sorts of gatherings along with others that I knew. The plan was to see who was being treated like morons and what lies were being spread. We all agreed that the results were that 80 to 85 percent of the crowds were seniors and they were believing every lie they were fed. It brought truth to what our retired RCMP officer friends had been saying Seniors have a horrible reputation for being really stupid and easy to fool con artists and politicians had been using it for years. As a banker I already knew it. We still meet seniors who are believing the Brian Jean and Jason Kenney lie that Trudeau and Notley created the Carbon Tax to steal all our money, when in fact it has been in place in Sweden since 1991 and in B.C. Since 2008 and everywhere it’s been tried it has worked. Add in the fact that Jean and Kenney were able to convince these fools that Notley and Trudeau caused an international oil industry crash a year before either one of them was elected that’s how stupid they are. It was Brian Jean who also brought back the Ralph Klein lie that Alberta was broke because we have had to send billions of dollars to Ottawa and Quebec in the form of equalization payments, when we haven’t paid a penny into it. He also suggested that if we don’t get a fair deal from Ottawa and in his speech last night he is still whining about that, we should separate from Canada . Of course he doesn’t say what these fair deals are, while his party helps the rich screw Albertans out of our oil and tax wealth. Just too stupid to realize what it would do to these ignorant senior supporters. Being a lawyer I bet he knows and doesn’t care, all he wants is to get elected. I wonder how many seniors could survive without their Old Age Security payments, Canada Pension Plan payments, and Public Health Care benefits? Not many I bet. The seniors in my world aren’t this stupid and I know the majority on this site aren’t either.

    1. I often think extremely unkind things about seniors, especially white ones, but I would point out in their defense: If I was 70 years old, the establishment would have 69 years of practice manipulating me. I grew up in the shadow of the Boomers though, I wasn’t worth manipulating until fairly recently – the establishment didn’t try to manipulate my generation, it tried to suppress it. The establishment doesn’t really know how to pull my strings or push my buttons, and that is partly an accident of history.

      1. I feel like I should clarify – this is very new for me. Until a couple years ago I would have been *horrified* to catch myself making sweeping generalizations about entire races… but between Trump, BLM, covid, climate change, and reconciliation, I can’t help but notice that any time I see a group of people trying to make the world a worse place for their own gain, 80% of them look just like me, except older. I don’t make statements like this about white people because I am a racist or a race baiter, but because I feel a responsibility – as a white person, I can call out the misdeeds of other white people without making myself as much of a target of violence as would be the case if I wasn’t white.

    2. Alan K. Spiller: What you said is correct. These seniors brainwash the younger generations to vote for these pretend conservatives and Reformers, and we sure aren’t any better off.

  6. It’s 2022 and troglodytes still think they can keep wimmin-folks in their place with the magic word “shrill”. Maybe he hasn’t noticed how many females are vying for the job he thinks is rightfully his?

  7. Haha normally I would say it’s a super bad look for the NDP to be having to apologize and create a feeling of safety for their volunteers. This time though, the election isn’t going to be decided by events, scandals or policies, it’s going to be decided by whether enough voters still care enough to bother trying to engage with true facts.

    What do climate change, systemic racism, covid and unjust economic inequality have in common? They would all be difficult and expensive to address, but pretending they don’t exist is easy and free, as long as you don’t care what happens to the less fortunate. Alberta is here, and has been for more than a decade.

  8. It looks like the ramped up rhetoric of Skippy Pollivere may have seeped into the Alberta mindset. Oh, heck. It was always there.

    Ginger Kenney steps up to the mic and announces that he will be the kind of premier that Jason Kenney should have been. Stomping all over the Captain Canada cape, Jean goes on that he’s all about the FreeDUMB and ‘Murica Alberta-style. Of course, all this means is that there will be even more SCC challenges in Alberta’s future, as each one will be struck down as being full of the usual b.s. and w.t.f. that the UCP is known for. Alberta will become such a problem with their crazy firewall notions that Ottawa may just carve out the center of the province and leave the rest to the Bible-thumping rubes that the UCP covets. Alberta Uber Alles, indeed.

    I mean Buffalo enthusiast and part-time Oklahoman Michelle Rempel starts to sound like the voice of moderation and reason, you know everything is about to go clear off the rails. Which may explain why so many candidates who have come forward in the past week (All being women, who are the enemy of Berta’s alpha guy, big flag waving, jacked-up pickup truck culture.) are trying to sound moderate and sane. It’s them urbanites who are scared of the psychos in the woods, who are trying to make Alberta more like Alabama. (I see you, Drew Barnes.)

    If it’s Jean’s plan to race Mr. Toes into the right-side ditch, there maybe no one in the center. This is where Rachel Notley, as well as everyone else, may have a chance of building a strong block of support.

  9. If I’m a UCP leadership candidate, I’d pledge the following:

    We will be a calm, mature, and competent government. Less drama, more humility, less arrogance, more listening.
    We recognize that stuff gets done quicker, cheaper, and more effectively if we work collaboratively with other governments and organizations, and are seen to be partners rather than adversaries.
    We will listen closely to impartial experts in every ministry.
    We will shut down the War Room. All “issues managers” are terminated.
    We will ban Twitter from being used by any government employees save the Minister, and will not respond to any issue for a minimum of 24 hrs.
    We want to be seen as the champion of the little guy, of all Albertans, not just big business and our base.
    We will be thoughtful. No one under 30 can be a Ministry spokesperson.
    We want to encourage investment in this province – all tax breaks and subsidies must remain in Alberta.
    We recognize that rules and regulations are enacted because someone acted like a jerk – if less regulation is desired, individuals and business must act in a responsible manner. Red tape is created because Albertans complain when their lives being negatively affected. Red tape is government listening.
    We will spend more during down times, and save and reduce debt during good times.
    We will slowly, unobtrusively, and prudently begin to diversify our economy away from O & G.
    We will cut Albertans personal income tax, and introduce a modest sales tax, with a revenue neutral guarantee.
    We recognize that robust and sustained mental health and police funding are quality of life investments for all Albertans.
    We have no interest in the votes of anyone who has extreme views, or anyone who does not respect the rule of law.
    We disagree profoundly with the NDP and Liberals on most issues, but recognize that vigorous, respectful, and informed debate raises the bar for everyone, that we are all loyal Canadians and Albertans dedicated to making Canada the greatest country, and that democracy needs opposing parties to be effective.

    I would never be nominated, let alone elected.

    1. Keep your powder dry. Eventually, the cumulative consequences of their idiocy is going to force Albertans to care about facts again, and you have a solid platform there.

  10. Neo-Con neoliberal agendas and policy platforms may win over too many voters, but the future does not belong to this “movement”! Suffice it to say that what so many of the generations before the grey-haired hangers-on are looking at and looking forward to does not comply with individualism and “the market” mania of the recent past and present. The NDP needs to recognize this serious disconnect and sway further from the neoliberalism camps beyond the preservation of public entities like health and education. Think utilites, AISH, seniors’ benefits, special needs child care and education, public transit, taxation, rural crime abatement, farm gate subsidies, corporate union busting, heat pumps and other energy saving technologies at the household and small business levels, royalty rates and savings of this current windfall, and much more that many progressive Albertans can come up with – anybody listening or are all the plans already made?!!
    Expect nothing different in UCP policy from any of the candidates presented, and even more of the “Alberta is number One” claptrap.

  11. Judging by the photo credits, the blogger must have spent a joyous evening rubbing elbows with luminaries like the man who would be king and his pair of former Wildrosers. Was that jovial look on Mr. Jean’s face due to his surprise that DJC would want to get close enough to snap his picture?

  12. Boy, the down-trodden masses of Oilberduh must be rejoicing. All that extra “autonomy”! Yay! Bring out the flags and the beers! Bring out the trucks! “Personal financial autonomy!” Three cheers! Bring out the chequebooks and credit cards! Drinks and earplugs for all!!!

    For those who are still sober, consider for a moment what an enormous change “community autonomy” would make in Alberta. Does this mean Edmonton and Calgary can tell the UCP version 2.0 what to do with their privatization and austerity plans? Does “financial autonomy” mean oil companies can autonomously refuse to pay taxes to rural towns and municipalities? Oh wait, they did that already.

    Brian Jean and the other Republican-wannabes are welcome to emigrate to God’s Country, where they will fit in either with the so-cons or the fiscal hawks. “Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.”

  13. My wife and I belong to a seniors club with about 82 members. At the age of 79 for me and 73 for my wife we are the youngest couple in the club. A huge number are from 85 years old to 96 years old and we doubt there are more than 5 who support these phoney conservatives and don’t agree with me. Three of my best friends worked for the provincial government and were victims of Ralph Klein’s massive budget cuts that had a huge effect on their monthly retirement payments.

  14. Generalizations in general aren’t super helpful but in politics they’re disastrous. All that it does is create a mass of people that are unintelligible from one another, which makes it very difficult to a) understand how they got that way and b) communicate with them at all. In addition there is the danger of inflating ones ego, “I’m not like those people” to the point that no one can really talk to you either.

    As far as this autonomy nonsense really looks like freedom from taxation, freedom from the “burden” of the government providing any sort of social fabric, freedom from regulation. Oil millionaire Jean doesn’t want to pay his taxes. Knock me over with a feather, what else is new.

  15. Every piece of legislation passed by Kenney has been an attack on the freedom of some group. First it was the doctors, then the education review, unions, ability of those who protest, pensioners when they grabbed our pension funds. Next was the insult to nurses by suggesting a wage decrease after the hardest 2 + years of their careers. Rural Alberta is being attacked by eliminating living wage jobs in health care, privatizing them and moving them to the cities. Funding cuts to rural towns and Counties and MLS. Privatizing health care and trying to get around the Canadian Health Act is underway. And do we think freedom means being lied to about equalization, pipelines , the War Room. Now the teachers are on the receiving end as they been told uour not good enough to discipline your members. Doctors and lawyers are are we all know how far any complaints go in those professions. Need I go on.

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