Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner has declared herself out of the race to lead the United Conservative Party in a scathing, 2,800-plus Substack article that dissects the in-fights and extremism bedevilling Alberta’s governing party and casts considerable shade on the federal Conservatives as well for many of the same sins. 

Doomed federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole (Photo: Erin O’Toole/Flickr).

It’s a remarkable document, a searing indictment of Canada’s and Alberta’s Conservative political parties that seems quite credible to those of us who do not support them but pay attention to their activities with interest.

Ms. Rempel Garner portrays the UCP as a disunited mess, rife with “heated exchanges to get basic concerns addressed, unjustified insularity in decision making, shunnings, exclusionary cliques and more.”

Like the federal party, she admits frankly, “there have also been squabbles that have erupted in the pages of national media, public meltdowns, nearly missed physical fights, coups, smear jobs, leaked recordings and confidential emails, lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign roles, and hours long meetings where members have been subjected to hours of public castigation.”

Like it or not, she warns her fellow Conservatives, his kind of bad behaviour matters to voters.

Long rumoured to be a top UCP leadership candidate preparing a serious bid for the job, Ms. Rempel Garner is not the only Alberta Conservative to hold such views, but she may be the most prominent one to say anything publicly. 

The previous doomed federal Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer (Photo: Andre Forget, Andrew Scheer/Flickr).

Given the state of affairs in the Conservative movement, it seems quite remarkable she had the courage to speak up so clearly – especially since she is someone well known for blocking anyone who might criticize her on social media. Perhaps full Trumpism hasn’t taken full possession of the Canadian Conservative movement – just yet, anyway. 

That said, she didn’t comment on the current federal leadership race. 

Ms. Rempel Garner starts with a list of six points she argues, in effect, would make her the best leader for the UCP were she to deign to run. 

Under the circumstances, she can be forgiven for a little self-promotion of the sort that would have been necessary and inevitable had she decided to toss her hat in the ring. Among her arguments: She’s on the right side of a lot of social issues on which social conservatives dominate to the federal and provincial parties’ disadvantage, she has no skeletons in her closet (unless you count spending too much time in Oklahoma, which her fellow Conservatives obviously don’t) and she likes the work and is good at it.

She’d probably scratched them all down on the back of an envelope in anticipation of a campaign, anyway, so why not throw them into the mix? 

“It’s natural for passions to run hot, for egos to swell and for intrigue to happen in politics,” she went on. “Anyone entering politics needs to be prepared to handle that. Trust me, I’m capable of taking a lot of heat. But the stuff I listed above that happens in both the provincial and federal parties crosses a line. It should never happen in a functional place of business, political or otherwise.” (Emphasis added.)

Citing the electoral failures of federal Conservative leaders Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole when the Trudeau Government had given Conservatives plenty of reasons for optimism, and arguing that the new leader must be able to restore trust to her team and the team must be prepared to reciprocate, she reaches the conclusion it’s just not possible.

Look at what happened to Messrs. Scheer and O’Toole, she commented. “Knives were openly out for both of them from Day One.”

“I have to wonder how I would fare as a leader, and as an outsider, in this dynamic given that I would need to almost immediately blend the two camps together,” she continued.

She realized might face unique problems, too, she said, after she learned that influential UCP caucus members and cabinet ministers she thought were friends and allies had lobbied against her being allowed to run because she had let her membership in the provincial party lapse during the pandemic. 

“I’m concerned about what would happen if I stepped in as leader under the present internal UCP caucus dynamic, especially considering we would need to govern while preparing for a rapidly approaching general election,” she explained. 

She also still enjoys her work as as Calgary-Nose Hill MP and will likely re-up for the next federal election, she added. 

“So for those two reasons I’m not going to offer in this UCP leadership race.”

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  1. Thanks for carrying this DJC. Nice reminder that people I disagree with about just about everything still sometimes positively surprise me. I hope her followers and peers will give her words careful consideration, partly because she’s going to pay a price for trying to clue them in, and partly because a strong Conservative party is historically the “best” check against Liberal arrogance and waste.

    Have I mentioned I hate the first past the post system today? Cause I do.

  2. A realistic, sober analysis of conservative politics, from a conservative. Good times.

    Another way of stating it – Conservatives have to suck less than their opponents, and that ain’t happening right now. Why would anyone vote for such a divided, screwed up, dysfunctional party federally, or provincially? That their big brains have not figured this out leads me to believe they perhaps aren’t that bright. Politics is the art of compromise, and sticking fanatically to your guns, never negotiating, always attacking, never apologizing, always spinning, probably means you are an ineffective politician who cannot get stuff done. Voters can live with drama if things are being accomplished, but otherwise, it’s just noise and fury.
    Like it or not, Liberals and NDP get stuff done without too much fuss.
    Can the Cons change, to become more competent, and less petty?


    Yesterday I spoke of the “Appeal to hypocrisy” fallacy, today it’s in the news, using nearly the exact formula I used as an example!

    GUY WHO DRIVES CAR FASTLY: We shouldn’t be exploiting oil sands because it pollutes too much.
    GUY WHO GOVERNS PROVINCE POORLY: You drove here in an F1 racing car!

    I’m reasonably sure this would be considered “owning the Libs” on the right wing right now and expect the UCPs base will like this a lot. I have observed that climate change deniers rely on this fallacy slightly less than deep sea divers rely on oxygen tanks.

    Also… direct quote from Mr. Kenney: “[…] some of them simply need to know that we are serious about reducing emissions and we respect the environment.”

    Come. The absolute. F. On. Sorry for Shatnerizing, but let’s keep our lies halfway plausible, Jason!

  4. That’s a shame. Speaking as one of her constituents, it would have made my heart glad to see her go down in flames.

  5. I am not certain if the MP for Oklahoma can be regarded with any degree of seriousness. Considering she was also a signatory of that comical piece of weirdness called the Buffalo Declaration, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Rempel likes the self-promotion part of her gig more than actually being a constructive legislator.

    Rempel is typical of many who want a political career easily: to go Alberta, paint yourself blue, and yell freeDUMB a lot. Duck soup. If Rempel lived, say, in Vancouver, she would seek a Liberal nomination. Like Rosa (Rona) Ambrose before her, she fits her partisan skin to suit the region she’s running in. Btw, if Ambrose lived in Toronto, she’d be a Liberal. Since she got that sweet gig in Washington DC (Thanks to Freeland) you could say she’s very much a Liberal already. Actually, I’d like to see Ambrose run as a Liberal in T.O. That should put to rest those rumours that she’s an Alberta premier in waiting…apart from being unmarried and childless. Oh,wait…

  6. I’m at a table with Pogo. He gave me his device. I can only say that this over ripe Michelle seems to be begging for a union to represent the interests of powerless back bench political parasites. If I’m right? ………… ???????

  7. The real reason. She discovered that she did not have the support and she could not raise the money required to run.

    Why she did not figure this out before walking from the Brown campaign is a mystery.

    Bottom line….the CPC and the UCP are both in a complete mess. Why anyone want to lead either is a mystery to me.

  8. Allowing reformers to unit with conservatives was the dumbest thing the conservatives have ever done. Thinking they would get along and work together was just plan stupid. It’s a well known fact that they destroy jobs not create them and are only interested in destroying everything Peter Lougheed created for us. Helping their rich friends steal our oil and tax wealth while trying to buy votes and force the public into a lot more privatization is their mandate, and we can thank Preston Manning and Stephen Harper for creating this mess. Never will they suggest the obvious. Collect proper royalties and taxes and run the province properly like Lougheed did and Alaska and Norway are doing. You would never see the Lougheed or Getty governments being this stupid.

  9. I sort of felt Ms Rempel Garner was a bit smarter than some of her colleagues, although given the company she keeps, it is not as much of a compliment as it might seem.

    She has a good gig going as a Federal MP, so why give it up for a job that could be more frustrating than herding cats and might not even last that long?

    This is unfortunate for the UCP, as not only did she so publicly expose their dysfunction, but she was probably a more solid candidate than any of the others currently running. Sure, they have some strengths, but each one also has significant weaknesses. Of course she doesn’t have provincial political experience and given what happened to past Conservative MP’s who jumped in to be Alberta Premier, the learning curve seems steeper than one might think.

    It is not a good sign that a Federal Conservative MP, whose own party has gotten rid of a couple of disappointing leaders recently, is commenting on the UCP’s dysfunction. However, she does actually have a very good point. The Federal Conservative party dispatched their last leader fairly quickly, after just a week or so of turmoil. The UCP has been trying to get rid of Kenney for over a year and somehow he is still there.

    I don’t know if Ms Rempel Garner will ever be a leader of anything, but she seems to have some instinct to be a political survivor and so to at least avoid the temptation of jumping on to a badly listing ship for what could be short term power.

  10. She saw Jim Prentice leave his MP gig for a leadership role in Alberta politics and fail.
    She saw Brian Jean leave his MP gig for a leadership role in Alberta politics and fail.
    She saw Jason Kenney leave his MP gig for a leadership role in Alberta politics and fail.

    Then she remembered what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again.

  11. Oh, Michele block everyone on Twitter Rempel says what?
    At least her hypocrisy is doing well. If the present day Conservatives (aka Trumpists) are the way they are, it’s because of her and her ilk.

    Nothing about Rempel is reasonable, except perhaps her own survival instincts. God forbid she should lose her comp. life.

  12. I am confused. She just now noticed the disfunction of the UCP?
    Maybe Harper is using her as his mouthpiece to get the party to quit being so stupid and childish.

  13. She purports not to have been aware of how dysfunctional the UCP has become, especially during the pandemic p, and how chaotic Alberta politics have been as a result. This despite the fact that this whole gong show has been widely covered in Alberta and national media for the past 2 1/2 years.

    The only explanation I can come up with this for her apparent ignorance of all of this is that she spent too much time as the MP for Oklahoma, where coverage of Alberta politics is likely pretty sparse.

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