They say a week is a long time in politics, but last week must have felt like eternity to the United Conservative Party brain trust.
Its efforts to make the revelations of that leaked phone call between Premier Danielle Smith and anti-vaxx, pro-Convoy street preacher Artur Pawlowski go away fell flat.
Trying to get ahead of the issue with heavily spun press release before the CBC published its scoop last Wednesday only increased the attention the story got.
Threatening to sue the CBC for accurately quoting the premier’s own words produced derision. The broadcaster was steadfast.
It didn’t help that even normally sympathetic media commentators felt the need to point out the criminal charges the premier told Mr. Pawlowski in their friendly chat were political in nature had been laid under the UCP government.
Sending out Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu to make the weak argument that since Ms. Smith (as far as we know) didn’t actually talk to a prosecutor, the other weekly efforts she made to interfere with the criminal charges against the very political street preacher don’t matter flopped as well.
Meanwhile, there was the embarrassing departure of the UCP’s candidate in the Lethbridge-West riding the same day as the CBC scoop for her offensive and ridiculous claim in a campaign video that teachers are showing porno videos to kindergartners.
This weekend, another UCP candidate, Tunde Obasan, the party’s standard-bearer in Edmonton-South, dropped out without explaining his reasons beyond saying they were personal.
In a comment on Mr. Obasan’s sudden departure, Rhiannon Hoyle, NDP candidate for Edmonton-South, managed to get in a bonus dig at Trade Minister Rajan Sawhney, the former UCP leadership candidate who announced on Feb. 17 she would not be seeking renomination in her Calgary-North East riding.
Turns out Ms. Sawhney was facing a strong challenge when she made the decision not to seek the nomination in her own riding.
It probably wasn’t auspicious timing, but the UCP chose the morning of April 1 to announce it was using it’s leader’s prerogative to drop Ms. Sawhney into Calgary-North West, the riding currently held by Environment Minister Sonya Savage, who has decided to quit politics rather than serve in a government run by Premier Smith.
“The abrupt resignation of my opponent in Edmonton-South is yet more chaos from the UCP,” said the NDP’s Ms. Hoyle. “It follows another UCP resignation in Lethbridge-West, and the parachuting of Rajan Sawhney into Calgary-North West after she bailed out of a competitive nomination race in the riding she already represents.”
This week started with CTV promoting a story that so far has only been covered by political scientists, bloggers and the Twitterati – the influence of the shadowy Take Back Alberta group that helped skid former premier Jason Kenney and put Ms. Smith in power.
Torry Tanner, the now-departed and disgraced Lethbridge-West UCP candidate, is said to have had ties with TBA.
The group – known for its opposition to COVID-19 mitigation measures, vaccines, public health care and public schools, and its support for Convoy blockaders and Alberta separatism – is making an effort to take over many UCP constituency associations.
CTV interviewed Crowsnest Pass Municipal Councillor and newspaper publisher Lisa Sygutek, whose views on TBA were reported here on March 16, describing the takeover of her UCP constituency association by the group’s cadres.
The UCP, the lifelong Conservative wrote in the Crowsnest Pass Herald, “is fractured by an extreme right conservative group and people like me who are moderate are left bereft.”
“It actually felt like a coup,” she told CTV.
At this rate, the UCP is going to be praying that the heavy snow forecast throughout Southern Alberta today keeps falling until June!
No one should be surprised by Jason Kenney’s board appointment
There was plenty of critical commentary over the weekend that former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been nominated to a board position by Calgary-based energy conglomerate ATCO.
The ATCO Board’s vote on his nomination on May 10, needless to say, is a mere formality.
Mr. Kenney was put out to pasture last year despite his success creating the United Conservative Frankenparty by stitching together the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives after the NDP election victory in 2015.
No one should be surprised by this. Mr. Kenney is bound to be welcomed on as many corporate boards as he wishes, if not as a reward for his past work in the service of the corporate state, then for what future insights he can offer into how his former political colleagues think.
Readers will recall that at the end of January Mr. Kenney was welcomed aboard Bennett Jones, the large Calgary law firm, as a “senior advisor.”
One suspects there will be many more of these announcements about Mr. Kenney. But that while his exertions may be financially rewarding, they are not likely to be particularly fulfilling for a veteran politician who by all accounts was utterly focused on his work.
Perhaps worthy of more raised eyebrows was the appointment announced April 1 (but not in an attempt at humour) of former B.C. NDP premier John Horgan as a director of Elk Valley Resources, a coal mining outfit being spun off by Vancouver-based Teck Resources.
Reaction to that appointment was not exactly positive either.