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Rachel Notley..your days are numbered...

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Who’s afraid of Jason Kenney?

“‘Folks laughed when Jason Kenney launched his unite-the right campaign in Alberta 15 months ago. He hopped out of a shiny pickup truck – painted Tory blue – and told reporters that he was going to visit every constituency in the province. "I figured my Dodge Ram would do a better job than a Prius," he joked.

A hundred thousand kilometres and 850 events later, no one is laughing anymore. He has achieved the near impossible: engineered a brand-new party from scratch, steamrollered his opponents and won the leadership by a decisive margin. Next stop: premier. Justin Trudeau isn't going to like it.

Nothing is certain in politics, of course. But it seems unlikely that Rachel Notley and the NDP can survive the Kenney juggernaut. Many Albertans are having buyer's remorse. Ms. Notley's efforts to win a social licence to build pipelines have fallen flat. If the Trans Mountain pipeline is still going nowhere by 2019, she'll be toast.


The NDP's best bet is to paint Mr. Kenney as a raving so-con who wants to hurt gay schoolchildren and generally drag Alberta back to its redneck past. As the legislature reconvenes this week, its first order of business is to make it illegal for schools to "out" students who join gay-straight alliances by telling their parents. (Mr. Kenney argues that teachers are in the best position to decide what and what not to tell parents about what their kids are up to in school.)

Mr. Kenney loves a fight. And the way he'll fight the NDP is by promising to take back Alberta for Albertans. That means waging war against Ottawa, Quebec, B.C. or anyone else who gets in the way. Albertans have a long history of bitter feelings – sometimes well-founded – against the eastern bastards, especially ones named Trudeau. (This resentment now extends to Prius-driving B.C.-ers.) Some people argue that Alberta is a more sophisticated place now, and that fanning regional resentments is an outdated strategy. Mr. Kenney is betting that they're wrong. He knows his best weapon is the economy, now plagued by deficits, higher taxes and a government that, in his view, has utterly failed the province.

If hard work makes a difference, he's a shoo-in. Mr. Kenney has the stamina of an ox and the tenacity of a bulldog. He is the hardest-working person anyone has ever met. As a cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper government, he was in the House four days a week, did 20 or 30 events on the weekend, then flew back on Sunday night and often went to the office. (His press aide once offered to arrange a coffee date with me – at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. I'm ashamed to say I turned it down.) Now all he has to do is make his new party a functional reality, complete with a vision, a platform, a well-oiled machine, and candidates who aren't wacko.

In the eyes of many, Mr. Kenney is a brilliant politician. Like Ralph Klein, he has a populist's ability to connect with ordinary people and articulate what they're thinking. He's far more comfortable with Main Street than with Bay Street. Unlike Mr. Klein, he is personally abstemious, disciplined and focused, with a track record of getting things done. As immigration minister, he pushed through sweeping reforms that other politicians thought were too hot to handle. He set up the first refugee program to bring gay Iranians to Canada. "It's laughable to say he's homophobic," says one friend. He famously attended nearly every ethnic function in the country. On his watch, the federal Conservatives made huge voting inroads with ethnic voters.

So why do so many people loathe him?

Mostly it's because he is a middle-aged, slightly pudgy white man who is also a devout (Catholic) Christian with deeply held personal beliefs. In other words, he belongs to the most reviled demographic in Canada. Many people simply don't accept that he can keep his personal beliefs out of politics. He's vilified on social media, where his quite reasonable position that parents should generally know what's going on with their kids at school gets boiled down to "Jason wants to out little kids."

Other people point to his parochial background and sketchy education. He was raised in rural Saskatchewan, attended a Jesuit college from which he didn't graduate, and never had a life outside politics. But friends describe him as extremely smart, knowledgeable and well-read, with an insatiable curiosity about the world. "He's not a bigoted person," says one. "He's a libertarian. He thinks people should be allowed to teach their kids what they want and that they should have the freedom to practise and teach their religion.

We don't care in this party, what god you worship or who you love," Mr. Kenney said a few minutes after he was elected leader of the new United Conservative Party. If he can persuade voters that he means it, in 18 months' time he will become the most powerful and influential Conservative voice in Canada. Personally, I wouldn't bet against him.” 


Edited by Jaydee

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54 minutes ago, Malcolm said:

Jaydee, the NDP will be hoping for vote splitting to save their asses and sadly that might be the case. 


Vote splitting with who?

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21 minutes ago, Jaydee said:

Malcolm...Give you 10/1 odds Jason Kenny by a landslide :D

I hope we will see that, but nothing is ever final until the votes are counted.  When he wins I will stand you a good single malt. 

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Andrew Coyne: Jason Kenney reflects a mood of serious alienation in Alberta

‎Yesterday, ‎November ‎1, ‎2017, ‏‎6:13:37 PM | Andrew Coyne

Hardly had Jason Kenney won the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party before the commentariat had moved on. Yes, yes, yes, in order to achieve this feat he first had to win the leadership of the province’s Progressive Conservative party, then fight and win a referendum on merging the PCs and the Wildrose Party, then defeat Wildrose Leader Brian Jean for the UCP leadership, all in just over seven months and all by massive — and I mean massive — margins. But what has he done lately?

After such a remarkable run there were fewer of the traditional “yes, but can he win the general election” thumbsuckers than might have been expected. Still, there were a few tentative forays along those lines: Kenney is too divisive, too polarizing; his social conservatism is out of step with progressive modern Alberta; he was the opposition leader NDP Premier Rachel Notley most hoped to face. All of which is almost certainly bosh. Kenney might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has proved himself the most effective organizer and formidable campaigner in Canadian politics today.

And he is not stupid. The NDP government, always improbable, is deeply unpopular — one recent poll put the UCP ahead, 55 to 19 — and in all probability needs only a halfway presentable opposition to defeat it. Kenney offered little in the way of concrete policy proposals on the way to victory, beyond boilerplate fiscal conservatism. I suspect this will continue: he is unlikely to give any emphasis to social issues, in particular, however much the NDP will try to do so on his behalf. He does not need to — social conservatives, as much as fiscal conservatives, already know he’s their guy — and has all the latitude he needs to reach out to centrist voters.

What he will do, it seems clear, is continue the belligerent defence of Alberta’s interests — against radical environmental activists, against the federal government, and against certain other provinces — that was a feature of the leadership campaign. Kenney was not alone in striking this stance during the leadership race, and there is every reason to think he reflects the public mood in Alberta.


It isn’t just the oil price collapse, from which the province is still recovering (unemployment is down from its peak a year ago, but still well above the national average). It’s the acute sense that, at the very moment the province is most vulnerable, the rest of the country is conspiring to hold it back. Provincial grievance politics, of the kind practiced most places in this godforsaken country, is often little more than cheap grandstanding. In Alberta, at present, it is almost entirely valid.

Historically, Alberta is the only province that can legitimately complain of having been the victim of “domineering federalism”: the National Energy Program may be old news, and may be trotted out a little too often as an analogue to whatever federal policy happens to irk Albertans at the moment, but it was and remains astonishing: in its hubris and its carelessness, in its sheer blatancy.

In the early stages of his leadership, Justin Trudeau sensibly distanced himself from his father’s legacy. The straddle he has attempted until now, favouring both carbon pricing and pipeline construction — defending the former as a means to the latter, in as much as it would purchase the needed “social licence” — was plausible enough, and one in which he had the enthusiastic backing of Notley’s government. But of late there has been little evidence that the strategy is working. Whatever the separate rationales for the cancellation of Northern Gateway and Energy East, they suggest a federal government that is rather more committed to taxing oil than shipping it.

And whatever Albertans’ complaint with the feds, they look to their west and their east and find fellow provinces combining to prevent their oil from getting to market: British Columbia, under its new NDP government, threatening to block the Trans Mountain pipeline, and Quebec, site of some extraordinarily ill-judged end-zone dancing over Energy East’s demise. Throw in Alberta’s traditional bête noire, equalization — notwithstanding its current straits, it remains one of only four non-recipient provinces — and you have a recipe for some serious alienation.

This should not be happening in Canada. It is outrageous, in a supposed common market, that any province should claim the right to block another province’s exports from crossing its soil, or demand payment for allowing it. Equalization, likewise, has been crying out for reform for decades. Always complex, it has lately descended into incoherence. Indeed it is not even about equalization any more: the costs of the program are guaranteed to escalate, by legislation, even if provincial revenue bases were to miraculously converge.

So Albertans are entitled to feel ill-used at the moment. It is Kenney’s proposed responses that are open to question. Blocking or taxing Alberta oil exports to British Columbia, in retaliation for its Trans Mountain opposition, might be satisfying in a spite-your-face kind of way, but it seems more likely to escalate the conflict than resolve it. A provincial referendum demanding reform of equalization, citing the Supreme Court’s secession reference as precedent, makes for delightful satire — the court’s discovery of a “duty to negotiate” in response to such votes was entirely invented — but is again unlikely to yield the desired result.

What is needed, rather, is federal leadership. The federal government has all the power it needs under the constitution to force through Trans Mountain. Equalization, too, is a federal program, albeit one it is constitutionally obliged to provide: it is within federal authority to fix it as well. Both are thorny political issues, without doubt. But both are soluble, provided the political will is there.

It’s understandable that any federal government, especially one with a strong Quebec base, would prefer to avoid them: acting on either would be costly politically. Kenney seems intent on raising the cost of inaction.

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