RED DEER, Alta. Oct. 18, 2016/Troy Media/ – Jason Kenney has a vision for the future of politics in Alberta. But his unite-the-right push flies in the face of what the Progressive Conservative party wants to be and what Albertans need.
Kenney is campaigning be the next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, once the province’s perpetual governing party. Now, it’s a small, forlorn group in the legislature.
He also wants to be the leader of the Wildrose, which distanced itself from the PCs enough in the spring 2015 election to become the province’s official Opposition party.
To Kenney, it’s simple: Bring the urban (PC) and rural (Wildrose) right together to re-establish the kind of party that Ralph Klein once mastered. In time, the former Reform/Conservative member of Parliament from Calgary will be premier of Alberta.
“Every Wildrose voter and activist and MLA were supporters of the PC party for decades – virtually everybody who’s now supporting Wildrose was part of that coalition,” Kenney told Maclean’s magazine. “So it just seems to me it’s natural and inevitable that coalition will come together, especially given the gravity of the common threat faced by the NDP.”
What’s natural to Kenney seems profoundly foreign to the four other declared candidates for the PC leadership – (former Troy Media contributor) [popup url=”http://www.troymedia.com/author/donnakennedyglans/” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Donna Kennedy-Glans[/popup], Byron Nelson, Richard Starke and Sandra Jansen.
As a choir, they have rejected any gathering on the right. In fact, they seem uniform in their belief that the path of the Progressive Conservatives must be down the middle of the road.
Party members seem to agree, having voted in the spring to reject any merger with the Wildrose and concentrate on rebuilding their once-dynastic party.
Albertans, based on last year’s provincial election, also seem to agree that the PCs shouldn’t harbour members of the Wildrose. Jim Prentice welcomed Wildrose MLAs into his caucus before the election. At the voting booth, Albertans rejected the cross-over candidates – and Prentice’s PCs in general.
So Kenney’s four opponents – and many other Albertans – would seem to be more in tune with the social/fiscal centrist vision of Peter Lougheed and Don Getty than the right-is-might view espoused by Kenney and people like Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
“The 2015 election saw the result of both PC and Wildrose supporters essentially abandoning their parties, staying home or voting elsewhere because they were basically mad at a top-down attempt to merge the parties. I was there. I saw it happen,” says Starke. The Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA is one of only two PCs outside Calgary to retain his seat in the last election.
Why has Kenney returned from Ottawa to pursue an agenda so at odds with the mainstream? Is it just hubris that has him thinking he knows better than Albertans what it is they want and need?
Starke and the others believe that the PCs have an important legacy of values. Kenney seems to be more interested in the legacy of election success. Engulfing the Wildrose avoids vote-splitting in the next election.
When Jansen announced her candidacy, she noted that party members want the party rebuilt.
“They wanted us to work on regaining the trust of Albertans so that we can deliver the pragmatic, centrist government that they deserve,” she said of the May convention.
“They don’t want us fixated on the fastest ways back to power, and they don’t want us to ignore our principles simply to defeat the NDP.”
Kennedy-Glans walked away from the PC caucus in 2014 because she had concerns about the party under Alison Redford. It was the beginning of the end of Redford and, many would argue, started the party on its long slide to the humbling 2015 election.
She too wants to rebuild the party, not hold hands with the Wildrose.
“Step one, elect a PC leader who is a Progressive Conservative,” Kennedy-Glans said in announcing her intention to run. “We need a permanent leader committed to this party who will continue building on that foundation.”
Nelson calls a merger the “low-effort method” for those aspiring to power. But he also notes that there is no obvious constituency for such a merger, so it’s destined to fail. He’s looking for “a specific vision and a plan” from a rebuilt party rather than “just a suggestion that we can duct-tape two parties together and win.”
He is asking PC delegates to the leadership convention on March 18, 2017, to have some perspective on the future. Kenney asks for blind trust in path that has already failed.
John Stewart is editorial vice president of Troy Media Digital Solutions Ltd. and Editor-in- Chief of Troy Media. John is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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