In landlocked Alberta, the UCP ship is foundering and it’s captain is about to set sail.
In the Jason Kenney playbook on how to get stuff done, the old maxim rings true: it ain’t over until it’s over. But what if the premier fails to survive his leadership review later this month and sinks to rise no more?
And what if you’ve got a ‘special relationship’ with the premier? You know, the kind of thing where you make a call, invite him to a private dinner to talk stuff over that’s, well… that’s your business. What do you do if your guy is no longer the guy? It’s a question that’s going through the minds of more than a few prominent folks in the petroleum paradise.
SINK OR SWIM?
Try this life preserver on for size: UCP Minister Ric McIver’s constituency association president is openly complaining about Kenney.
Big bosses in provincial government and quasi-government institutions are suddenly moving troublesome people around (for example, senior execs at ATB were given the boot recently because they said what needed to be said).
And let’s just say for a moment more that your fill-in-the-blank idea, business, whatever, is dependent upon said premier being the premier. And all fall down go boom if he’s not.
WHAT TO DO?
For people who have been Kenney loyalists (or played the part convincingly), now is the time to reposition and hedge bets for a different future. Two weeks from now won’t do.
For people who have Kenney’s trust, some even managing to parlay those relationships into patronage appointments and benefits, this may be the last hurrah; hence, now is the time to seize the opportunities.
There are several pathways ahead:
1. Kenney gets re-anointed as leader, his remaining loyalists (and cronies) are promoted and everyone who bailed on Kenney moves along to rally behind another leader or disappear; or
2. Kenney loses the leadership spot and his loyalists (and cronies) find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having their entitlements and appointments at risk.
3. World War 3 breaks out and the feds take over just about everything that moves.
Leadership reviews of sitting premiers are not unusual in Alberta. But this time, it’s different. This time, the UCP party cannot contain the different perspectives within the party; it’s not just “inside baseball.” The public is watching very closely. And many people we hear from are disgusted (and other words not normally said in polite company) by the provincial state of affairs in Alberta.
Recent case in point: Dr. Verna Yiu was fired as Alberta Health Services’ CEO less than one month ago, and already, most Albertans have defaulted to cynicism (such as: the problem is too big for me to fix, so I accept these kinds of politicized decisions to be inevitable even if I disagree).
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN?
When Premier Alison Redford faced a review in 2013, and surprise, surprise, won 77% support (920 of 1197 delegates voted to support Redford’s continued leadership), everyone on the inside knew it was a carefully managed process that would yield a positive outcome, for the sake of the party. Certainly, there was a lot of grumbling within the PC caucus and constituency associations, but it was largely contained. Only when Redford pushed the ethical envelope too far—including an attempt at a $3 billion heist from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to top up sagging provincial coffers when oil prices plummeted—did a few MLAs (including Donna) break ranks to sit as independents. And then the whole house of cards came tumbling down. Redford loyalists repositioned or retreated, and the rest is history.
Every political party is accused of pandering to its base and offering benefits to insiders. It goes with the territory and keeps partisans on their toes. But the present situation in Alberta is over-amplified, the UCP tone deaf—oblivious in its arrogance, toxic in places where the sun should be shining.
Voters aren’t stupid. They may be weary, but they aren’t fools. The public isn’t the dinosaur here; they are aware of the conflicts of interest and special interests. And over the past two election cycles have unelected governments. The UCP leadership still hasn’t learned much since then, especially this truism: Just because you’ve shut somebody up, doesn’t mean you’ve changed their mind.
The next scheduled provincial election is Monday, May 29th, 2023. Circle that date in your calendar. In the meantime, we could all just keep our mouths shut and hope for the best. But a year is a long time. A lot could happen inside Alberta’s institutions and agencies. A lot of shit probably will happen—write that down too.
We’re not asking you to be irrational. But we are inviting you to be vigilant, and especially over the next few weeks. It’s a tricky time for political actors. Let them know you are watching.
This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.
One thought on “MAY DAY! MAY DAY!!”
This series of columns is titled “Beyond Polarity” which to me means that we, the commentators, should be respectful of opposite views but, especially, should try to understand those opposite views even if our own views are unchanged.
Next, a self-description so any reader will better understand what follows. I am now retired after running my own (micro sized) business for around forty years. I am, by nature, fairly conservative (note, that is a small “c”, although I mention the capital “C” below), particularly on financial matters and somewhat – only somewhat! – on social matters.
Okay, now to business.
Deja vu, all over again, say Donna and/or Don. I absolutely agree; that is so. The problem is that no one is sufficiently ideologically “pure,” I suppose.
I would put it another way. There are compromises that we all must make in life; after all, that is life. Now, having said that, compromises proposed by a leader are palatable if there is confidence that the leader is themselves ideologically sound. To use an overworked example of the past, Richard Nixon was able to open the US to China because he otherwise held the line on the things important to his party.
Jason Kenney has sold himself as a conservative (note, again, small “c”) but he has taken various steps / policies / etc. that are not really in the small “c” world. A very large example is the Alberta response to Covid. Personally, I detested the government response to Covid – who didn’t? – but I understood it. Until it came to vaccine passports. I was and remain fully vaccinated (four now, thank you very much) even though the efficacy is apparently suspect. I did it for me and for my family and it was entirely my choice. When it came to vaccine passports, while I was fully vaccinated I chose to not get one as that was, to me, entirely, entirely, entirely an assault on my rights; I could talk myself into all the other stuff but not that.
Okay, that is me. When all is said and done, that is not a reason that I dislike Jason Kenney. Those policies certainly don’t enamor me of him but I can put that water in my wine.
In my case, however, I feel that Mr. Kenney has not sufficiently stood up for Alberta and that is the reason that I recently chose to join the UCP with the express purpose of voting against him. I joined and, yes, I did vote against Mr. Kenney.
As I said above, I feel that he did not sufficiently stand up for Alberta. There are various ways he could have spoken up for Alberta over the last few years but to me he has been too silent. In particular, he talked a good game in the last election and then appointed the Fair Deal Panel and subsequently received that report. Since then? Nothing. Or, as a Calgary newspaper columnist puts it, we have heard crickets.
Yes, we have had two years of Covid but other government work got done. The Fair Deal Panel report has sunk below the waves and, as best I can tell, is getting no real attention now. To say that he has been too busy with Covid, etc. is to say he cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.
At the very least he could have spoken about various of the recommendations from time to time: say, January, 2021 announce that the government is working diligently to figure out how to best implement an Alberta Retirement Plan (“ARP”); June, 2021 announce that the work on the recommendation on an Alberta Provincial Police (“APP”) is continuing; November, 2021 announce that the recommendations on implementation of an ARP have been forwarded to cabinet for study and they will be released in February, 2022; December, 2021 announce that the recommendations on an APP have been forwarded to cabinet for study and release in Mar, 2022. And so forth for the various Fair Deal Panel recommendations. Jason COULD have done that but we have heard nothing so I can only conclude that he has shelved the recommendations.
Again, I do understand that Covid did take some time that would have been otherwise available but I refuse to believe that ALL business of government ground to a halt.
As a result, I voted against Jason Kenney on the basis that he did not stand up for Alberta as he had promised when he was running to unite the parties and running in the election.
So, who to replace him? I think that there are some reasonably capable folks in the legislature right now. Of course, given the “need” to put forth the current leader these folks are not terrifically well known but, given the opportunity, I expect that could easily change. There are also other candidates outside of the legislature. Who, you ask?
Well, I offer two names, both of whom have their own particular baggage (as do we all, really): Donna Kennedy-Glans needs no introduction to readers of this newsletter. Danielle Smith is also a potential candidate for leader.
I do not mean to say that I absolutely do or do not support either of those women [Huh! Two women – no men! Go figure; I guess the world has changed. Somewhat. A bit.]. In fact, I have no idea if Donna would be interested in returning to public life or in the UCP; Danielle has indicated that a) she is returning to electoral politics; and, b) if Jason is turfed, she will run for leader. The point is, there are viable candidates. The two that I mentioned are from different sections of the conservative (small “c” here) movement; I absolutely believe that there are other viable candidates outside of the UCP legislative caucus. Who? I don’t have the foggiest; I simply believe that there are good folks available who want to serve Alberta.
For those folks who argue that there isn’t enough time to change leaders before the next election, I offer as a counterpoint the name of Doug Ford. Say what you want about Ford [and I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say] but he was elected the leader of his party and then leader of Ontario all within the space of somewhat less than two months. Are you doubters saying that we in Alberta cannot manage to do the same when we have a year to work with? Humbug!