Colby Cosh: Jason Kenney’s Demise As Alberta Premier Was Inevitable


He was unhappy with the United Conservative Party he built

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Jason Kenney, who resigned as leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta on Wednesday night which he helped create, has governed Alberta exactly as if someone had handed him a relatively simple playbook at the start of his second political career. “Put aside the culture war crap if you can help yourself,” it might have read. (And he did!) “You’re back in Alberta: spend your time racing against Ottawa. It still works. The Lord gave you a Trudeau at 24 Sussex. Be the happy warrior. Keep the kooks at the fringes. Obey the Peter Lougheed principle and try to refer as little as possible to the existence of political opposition. The rest will take care of itself.”

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Turns out not. In my opinion, no one has really cracked the mystery of how Jason Kenney managed to split his party in half like a jeweler – a fact revealed by his 51.4% “victory” in the official review of the direction he had made as much as possible to lead under favorable conditions. The political hand Kenney received was far from perfect. The very creation of the UCP, cobbled together from the bones of two dying parties, was to create a core of resentment among those who lost power or face in the matter. His great rival for the leadership of the party, Brian Jean, continued to review his defeat with the intensity of a neutron star.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has created two roughly equal groups of devoted, wide-awake, Kenney-hating keyboard warriors. There were those who were sure that Alberta’s disease control policies (indistinguishable over time from those of NDP-led British Columbia) were a communist plot to steal children, and there were the COVID-phobic self-mommifiers who thought the same policies were fascist. conspiracy to kill children.

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History will note this puzzle when Kenney’s premiership story is written, but COVID is not the cause of death. Just about every other political incumbent on the planet seems to have gotten a bonus from COVID: Kenney’s dwindling approval numbers are already an acknowledged paradox. The man lost an appalling chunk of his caucus in a very short time: my fellow Postmedia columnist, Rick Bell, recorded about 10 MPs opposing their leader, and the real number was probably closer to 20. His support among party colonels and majors, riding association bosses and regional bigwigs, was obviously much worse.

  1. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney responds to the results of the United Conservative Party leadership review in Calgary on May 18, 2022.

    Carson Jerema: Jason Kenney quits as Alberta Conservative movement eats

  2. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney responds to the results of the United Conservative Party leadership review in Calgary on May 18, 2022.

    Alberta Premier Jason Kenney resigns as UCP leader after winning 51.4% support in leadership review

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Few of these people have come to the notice of being COVID geeks, and many have not cited COVID regulations as a reason to dislike the Prime Minister. They just expected a different style of leadership. Kenney, faced with the task of building a conservative labor party, attempted to muster a tight, fierce circle like the one Stephen Harper had as prime minister. This can work if the group you form has a very high level of professionalism and dedication, but some of Kenney’s choices backfired.

Others outside the innermost group, like Kaycee Madu, added unforced errors. Combine that with the unresolved legal issues over Kenney’s initial victory in the leadership race, and perhaps even the over-engineering of the final showdown at the leadership review, and you have an Alberta Conservative government with a decidedly reek of liberal.

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All the while, Kenney practiced retail politics deftly, but in retrospect, there’s something lonely and bizarre about his personal truck campaign. Kenney, perhaps influenced by the experience of the late Prime Minister Jim Prentice, seems to have felt he needed work to restore his good faith in the West after years in Ottawa. Cosplay wasn’t the answer, although it works for Justin Trudeau. You are not going to win a province of four million people by the exercise of common contact, and Kenney’s personal charm, which is not insignificant, conflicted with the strategic wickedness he employed to s ensure and then maintain the leadership of the PCU. His political medicine hasn’t always been so hot either: de-indexing tax brackets and welfare payments, and thereby subjecting everyone in Alberta to a “bracket creep” phenomenon that Kenney decried his reputation. , was a low point.

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People who voted to throw the United Conservatives into the void will say that Kenney was not very unifying. He will probably think privately that his enemies in the caucus would not recognize the unit if they lived there. He certainly tolerated the chimpanzee behavior of UCP dissidents that any of our last four prime ministers would have punished with crucifixion. Alberta conservatives sometimes seem to expect an Arthurian return from Ralph Klein, and Kenney, a failed priest and career politician who had been a top tormentor of Ralph Klein, was a poor fit for the role.

In any case, it is difficult to see a question of legitimate ideology in all this. Whoever succeeds Kenney in the leadership will not have a political platform two percent different from Kenney’s. There’s no reason a Conservative party can’t continue to win elections in Alberta with Kenney’s policies: bring public sector wages closer to the national norm, allow a dash of private health care, fight for the legitimacy of resource development and opening up the still lucrative trades of Alberta to women and underrepresented groups.

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But no one in the Kenney camp has the bloodlines of an obvious successor, and the people believed to have positive intentions to succeed him, Danielle Smith and Brian Jean, are best known for having already lost Alberta elections. Are any of these people still the first choice of the Wildrosers they once led? John, having practiced blood feud very expertly from his northern refuge, is he likely to have an easier time preaching loyalty and unity than his predecessor? Conservatives may wonder “My God, what did we do?” Thursday morning, and even New Democrats in Alberta can’t decide whether they’ve just had a wonderful day or whether they’ve been dealt a bad tactical blow.



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