I’m voting for Jason Kenney

While always leaning towards supporting Jason Kenney for leader of the United Conservative Party race, I honestly came into this whole thing as undecided. I was open to seeing who else was going to enter the race and what they were going to offer. There has been a vigorous race with a good selection of views among the candidates.

I watched multiple debates and attended the Red Deer one in person. I have read the releases from the candidates (seems like one hits my inbox every 20 minutes or so) and have  watched how they campaign on social media and on the road. I have concluded that Jason Kenney is indeed the best person to lead the United Conservative Party into the next general election in Alberta.

The most important thing to me in choosing a leader is their general ideology. One can’t select a leader based on policy specifics or they will find that eventually they can’t support anybody. There are countless issues and political responses out there. One has to choose the person who appears to best represent them when responding to issues. Kenney has consistently held conservative values and represented them while in office. While I am not totally with him socially, his respect for grassroots policy generation and action makes me comfortable in supporting him.

Some have tried to be critical of Kenney in that he won’t put out a specific policy platform. How could Kenney support grassroots policies while dictating them in the leadership? Were Kenney to document a specific set of policies right now and some policies later conflicted with what the members selected at an AGM, we would see confusion and division being sown by the usual suspects. When asked directly whether through his constant live Facebook appearances, many townhall meetings or in interviews, Kenney has never hesitated to give his own view on specific issues. He wisely won’t bind the party to those views as he respects the membership. The only way somebody could claim that they don’t know where Kenney stands on issues is if they never made an effort to listen to him.

Ralph Klein was the right man at the right time in Alberta. Unfortunately his work was eventually undone as political complacency replaced responsibility during good economic times. One of the wisest things Klein put out there was how he would find out which way the parade was going and would get in front of it. That is what Kenney is doing now.

A trait of Klein’s that Kenney demonstrates in spades is the refusal to cower, back down and apologize whenever the hysterical left has demanded so. People were literally kicking the doors of the legislature while Klein did his great cuts. Pundits and unions went off the deep end in demanding that he back down. They said Klein was committing political suicide. Klein ignored them and won an even bigger majority in his second election. The left has fabricated a scandal a week involving Kenney and are constantly making demands that he apologize on social media. Kenney is brilliantly ignoring them and not letting himself get dragged down into their mire. That takes strength as so many counsel capitulation to the frenzied left. There is little point in addressing them and none in apologizing to them.

Kenney has been bluntly up front when questioned. In a radio interview a little while ago, a prospective supporter called in and asked Kenney how homeowners could be subsidized for home upgrades. Kenney bluntly said that they won’t because we are broke. This seems like a minor incident but when one considers that 99% of political aspirants would have given a long-winded, mealy mouthed reply in hopes of being everything to everybody, the lack of hesitation shown by Kenney in saying no was refreshing and significant. I want straight answers, not ass kissing.

Some knock Kenney as being a career politician. Yes, it is nice to see people from all sorts of career backgrounds contributing in politics. In a large caucus we get get all those voices. We are looking for a political leader, should we not want somebody with a solid base of political experience? To claim that Kenney shouldn’t lead because he is a career politician is akin to disqualifying a surgeon from head surgical position because they had spent too many years in the operating room on the way up. Political leadership is one of the most complicated trades on the planet and there is no degree program for it. Experience is an asset and Kenney has decades of it.

Kenney’s experience is an asset in that the left can’t play their usual “hidden agenda” card. With decades in Ottawa and in holding multiple senior cabinet positions in government, it is rather difficult to claim that Kenney has been holding on to some hidden insane political agenda all this time and has been waiting to release it once he is finally on the Premier’s chair. Kenney has an excellent knack for planning ahead politically but I don’t think he held back while in Ottawa in anticipation of a provincial role. If Kenney had some loony, extreme agenda it would have come out while he was in Ottawa and he would have lost his seat over a decade ago.

Kenney’s experience will aid in governing as well. The painful intricacies of a large bureaucracy need careful management. While we need to cut and to cut deeply, we need to do it with precision rather than with a chainsaw. Kenney has a solid grounding in experience to know where things can be cut and where they can’t without doing more damage than good.

With so much time in office and in so many positions of responsibility, we can be confident that Kenney can handle the pressures of the job. Albertans dodged a hell of a bullet when Danielle Smith cracked and took what she thought to be an easy out from a tough job offered by Jim Prentice. If Smith couldn’t withstand the pressures of leading the opposition, imagine how she would have done as Premier.

Aside from political ideology, a person has to ask themselves who is best placed to win the next election. Since announcing his intent to lead the PC Party and negotiate a merger Kenney has proven himself and incredibly effective leader. With relentless work and in ignoring detractors, Kenney won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in a landslide. Kenney then led us to a merger with 95% member support. Kenney is now very well placed to win the UCP leadership and upon gaining that will be our best person to win the role of Premier.

Lets make no bones about it. Last weekend’s municipal election in Calgary was a battle of the right vs. left and the left won. While it is clear that there is a huge appetite among the electorate to get rid of left wing leaders such as Naheed Nenshi, it is also clear that they electorate won’t elect just anybody to get rid of them. Voters want to vote against Notley, but they also want to ensure that they are voting for somebody as well. We can’t take anything for granted and polls have yet again proven themselves to be about as effective as a magic 8 ball. A strong and careful campaign has to be run or we can be assured of another 4 years of devastating socialist government in Alberta.

Brian Jean seems to be a decent enough fellow. He indeed stepped up to the plate when the party was in need and took on an unenviable role despite his having some terribly challenging family events. He has for the most part done an adequate job in leading. There are three things that together make me rule him out for the leadership of the UCP.

In the next election we will be running on a campaign of austerity. That is always a tough thing to sell to people and the only way to do so is to lead by example. I am invoking Klein again here. One of the first things Klein did as Premier was to cut the salaries of all MLAs including himself. While that is a drop in the budgetary bucket, it gave him credibility when he asked others to cut their own budgets. It made people believe that Klein could indeed get things done in Edmonton. Under Brian Jean’s leadership, the relatively small caucus budget was grossly mismanaged leading to what will be a terribly underfunded opposition party going into the next legislative session. By most accounts it appears that the money was pissed away on staffers whose role was not so much to work for the party but to aid in Jean’s leadership bid. Jean has never managed to give a credible explanation otherwise. How could we trust that management if and when he gets into the Premier’s chair?

Another issue I have has been Jean’s lackluster support of unity. Jean was opposed to unity until it became clear that it was unavoidable. He then became supportive. Pragmatism is a good thing and politicians are allowed to change their mind. Jean however has been claiming that he had always been a proponent of unity and I don’t care for being fed bullshit. Just admit that the political winds changed and you changed along with it. That I can respect. Don’t try to spin me though.

Brian Jean has already had a kick at the cat in a general election and we saw how he performed. Jean was in a tough spot and did an OK job but not nearly good enough. I just don’t want to take the chance again on letting him represent conservatives in what will be such an important election. I just don’t see how he will manage to galvanize the electorate in the way we will need to.

In the last general election, I managed the campaign of one of the Wildrose candidates. It was a tough go and we were having a terrible time trying to get a feel where things were going. There was a huge appetite for change at the doors that led to a giant undecided factor in the early part of the campaign. Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice’s gross political manipulations had revolted the electorate and they desperately wanted a new option. People held on for the debate in order to make up their minds and let’s be blunt, Brian Jean was nothing less than a catastrophe on the stage.

In hopes of reinvigorating our volunteers, I had rented a projection TV, bought beer and pizza and invited everybody to take a break and watch the debate live at campaign headquarters. My horror grew as Brian Jean blandly repeated his promise not to repeat taxes over and over again with a vapid facial expression that really did make one imagine that a string was being pulled in and out of his back in order to make him speak. Ian Robinson with the Sun called Jean’s performance in the debate “ghastly” and I can’t think of a better word to describe it. You don’t hear that word too often but in this case it was perfect.

Our volunteers left the debate night more dejected than ever. In the next week at the doors it became clear that our worst nightmare was coming to pass. In being repulsed by Prentice’s arrogance and weirded out by Jean’s robotic performance the undecided voters went with Notley who at least had shown some positive energy. The rest is history.

Jean has become somewhat more animated since that debate but his style still hardly sets the world on fire. I do not want to take the chance and give this man another chance in a debate against Notley. There is simply too much to lose.

Jason Kenney isn’t perfect but he is far and away the best candidate to lead the United Conservative Party into the next general election. He has the experience, the self-control, the work ethic and the common sense that we need in order to take Alberta back. I look forward to seeing Jason winning the UCP leadership at the end of the month.

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Do party policies matter? Yes and no.

We are in a pretty unusual political time in Alberta as the leadership race for the United Conservative Party leadership race develops. We have a brand new spanking entity that is well poised to form the next government of Alberta, yet they do not yet have a single official policy or principle.

A large poll has indicated the vast majority of Albertans would still choose this new party that has no leader and no policies over the Notley NDP if an election were held today. This of course has sent the NDP into abject terror and desperation as they try their hardest to attack the character of the interim leader of the party and even their nascent board of directors in trying to paint them as extreme on the most slim of evidence.

An odd outcome of having no policies has meant that the NDP has no simple target to fire at with the new party that has surpassed them in provincial popularity. The party can’t use a lack of policies to their advantage forever of course. Eventually an AGM will be held where members can choose their official policy and principle set. Until then though, it appears that Albertans are already pretty happy with where they sit politically.

The lack of policies has put the leadership contenders into awkward positions as well. True grassroots conservative principles generally tend to support having member driven policy rather than a top down method where policy is imposed by the leadership. Leadership contenders have the tricky balancing act of trying to define themselves with policy while not crossing the line and stepping on member’s jurisdiction. It is members, not hysteric, indignant NDP supporters on social media who will be choosing the next leader and candidates would be well served to remember that.

Jason Kenney has taken an odd strategy in refusing to take specific policy stances and insisting that he will wait until members define those policies. Doug Schweitzer has taken some very specific economic policy stands and Brian Jean is sort of sitting between the two. Time will tell which approach may be the most successful.

Getting back to the subject at hand, just how important are member driven policies? As a person who served on the provincial executive as VP of Policy with the Wildrose Party for multiple terms I have to admit that they are not nearly as important as we like to think they are.

It is critical that members drive the policy engine in general. Members need not only to feel that their input matters in party direction, they need to see it. In having members build, debate upon and select policies the party can ensure that its actions reflect the majority of the membership.

All the above being said, the leadership of the party and the caucus are not bound by the party membership in any way nor should they be.

There is an ironic contradiction in the principle of conservative member driven policy. Grassroots style ideology always stands in strong support of free voting by MLAs in the legislature. At the same time, many feel that MLAs must act in accordance with the member driven policies. What happens if an MLAs constituents want the member to vote in the legislature in a way that contradicts the policies of the membership? The leader can’t or shouldn’t whip the member to vote one way or the other. That contradicts the principle of free votes as well.

What happens if a piece of legislation hits the floor of the legislature where there is no party policy to guide the reaction of the MLAs and leadership? What happens if issues hit the news that demand that the party take a stance but again there is no specific policy on the books to deal with it?

The party and it’s caucus can’t sit handcuffed on issues while awaiting member input on every issue. This is where leadership takes place and a stance is taken. This may happen with membership consultation, or with caucus consultation or perhaps with none if time does not present itself.

Here is something that members don’t want to hear but its true. Sometimes the membership despite their best intentions simply comes up with some really shitty policies that simply will never be broadly accepted by the electorate. This is a risk with member driven policy as people with specific agendas can at times be very well spoken and very well organized in getting a policy through. Remember, one doesn’t need to sway the entire membership in order to get a policy through. A person needs only to convince the majority of the members attending an AGM and if it is getting near coffee break time, the members will often vote to accept damn near anything in order to get a break from what can be tedious policy discussions.

So what is the point of member driven policies if the party won’t always act upon them?

Policies need to be viewed from something of a higher level. The policies and principles as a whole reflect the direction and flavor of the party and while they will never cover every possible event or instance, they will give a good indication of where the party will move on those issues when they arise. The members truly are the boss and the policy set will draw people to seek nominations who share those sorts of principles. The policy set will always be there to remind the leadership just where the members want to go even if they cant follow it to the letter.

Policy development can be a minefield. It is very unlikely that any specific policy that comes from members will win an election but it is very damned possible that a stinker of a policy could lose an election. Members have to balance ideals with realism when choosing policies and that is a difficult task for any of us.

Hopefully the maiden set of UCP policies is concise yet broad. Prescriptive little policies that try to address every issue on the planet serve little purpose and only add to policy bloat. It is usually easier to add policies than it is to get rid of them and having an encyclopedia of policies only gives opponents ammunition to shoot at you with while leaving you crippled in your potential responses.

The Wildrose Party always kept their policies front and center while it was a long running joke about whether a policy book for the Progressive Conservative Party even existed as they always kept it so well hidden. With the marriage of these two groups lets hope we find a happy medium.

Policies are important but we cant let the specifics become a hill to die on. Albertans are already ready to accept the UCP even without specific policies. We need to fill that void but to remember that broad principles will do the trick. We cant ignore policies nor can we put too much emphasis on them. We will only get one kick at the cat with our founding meeting.

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First conservative unity, next conservative policy.

This weekend, I hope and expect that the majority of conservative minded people in Alberta will find themselves united under one banner.

One thing that has fallen by the wayside in these singular times of unity battles has been any real specific policy directions. This had to happen as we really need to unite under general principles of conservatism such as small government and low taxes. If we get ourselves mired into specific policy items we could reignite internal divisions at a time when we really can’t afford to. Conservatives can unite under general principles, but we can nitpick ourselves to death over the individual policies.

Assuming that the forces of unity are successful this weekend, we will then enter a formal leadership race (it has already been clearly informally running for some time now).

There is no better time to hammer out policy specifics and commitments than during a leadership race and we dearly need to start spelling out what the plan is.

Yes, the vast majority of Albertans think that the NDP is harming our province. We do not have a specific plan laid out for how we will mitigate the damage caused by the NDP once we finally toss them to the electoral curb however.

Most candidates and supporters agree that the NDP carbon tax has to go. Notley has proven that legislative flagellation through tax hikes will never buy us that mythical “social license” required to get our products out of the province. The impact of the carbon tax on our environment is negligible at best and the impact on the economy is terrible.

In cutting taxes though, how do we balance the budget?

There is no getting around it. We need to cut spending and we need to cut it deeply. The longer the NDP is in power, the more painful the recovery will be but we simply can’t avoid it. Alberta spends $2,700 more annually per-capita than our neighbors in BC. We have plenty of room to cut.

One of the most effective ways that the left has undercut those calling for spending cuts so far has been for them simply to ask “where will you cut?”.  That is a perfectly valid question and it absolutely has to be answered.

Health care and education make up the vast majority of our spending. No matter how people feel that these areas are sacred, we simply must reduce how much we spend in those areas. We can’t afford a hospital on every street corner or a nurse’s visit to every household. While it will never feel like we spend enough in these core services, we have very real limits on what we can afford. We need to examine these areas and cut spending to a reasonable level.

Just proposing such cuts will take political courage. Following through on these cuts will take leadership and strength.

Klein was at his most popular while he cut Alberta’s spending by 20% across the board. Despite the howls of the unions and the left still harping about it today, it really wasn’t that bad when the cuts were happening. There clearly was a great deal of bloat within the civil service and we were all better for the trimming of it. “Infrastructure deficit” is a bullshit term that some use to try and knock the austerity of those times. Again it is trash and most Albertans see through it. There will never be enough schools, interchanges, fire stations etc. We can always use more. Tax dollars are finite though and we have to draw a line somewhere. Klein’s support began dropping significantly as soon as he began falling into the tired old PC pattern of spending our way out of problems. Albertans appreciate fiscal restraint when it is presented with good leadership.

Image ht to Roy Doonanco

Brian Jean has chosen to avoid taking any strong stance on cuts and is pursuing the mushy middle. This is not my idea of strong leadership but I guess it is a strategy. I can’t help but remember Jean’s abysmal debate performance where he almost mindlessly answered every question by stating that he wont raise taxes. He literally sounded like some sort of broken record. I remember all too clearly sitting in a room full of volunteers on one of the campaigns. We had put up a projector screen and bought some beer and pizza to give our volunteers a night off. We hoped that they would be invigorated in watching the debates. We found ourselves dejected. That was the night that I truly began to realize that we were not going to win that election. Notley showed energy and vision, Prentice showed classic arrogance and Jean was inanimate. We are paying so dearly for the lack of principled leadership in that debate today.

Maybe Jean will show some more strength after the unity vote is finished with. Perhaps other candidates will spur some vigor out of him. Maybe Jean’s strategy of avoiding strong stands will actually pay off and he will win the leadership. I personally don’t think so.

Assuming a successful unity vote, the leadership race will very likely be determining who our next premier will be.

It will take vision, leadership and a true plan with policy specifics in order to win that leadership.

I do look forward to seeing who emerges from the pack with the above qualities as the race unfolds. We need some real policy discussion and we need it soon.

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I finally joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta

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Yes, for the first time in my life I have purchased a membership with the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. While this is hardly earthshaking news to the world, it is indeed a big deal to me. I have been a member of one political party or another since getting my first membership with the Reform Party in 1991 and I never take my membership in a party lightly.

While many keep dismissing Wildrose members as being nothing more than disenchanted former PC members, I was never a member of that party until this morning. I viewed the PC party that had held power in Alberta since the year of my birth as being an entrenched group dedicated to cronyism and maintaining power by any and all means possible. While there were some shining individuals within and actions taken by the party over the years, my general assessment of the party was rarely proven wrong.

 Due to being the most likely route to government benches, the Progressive Conservative Party attracted unprincipled opportunists in droves. Why battle to win a seat under your own left-wing principles when you can simply swallow your principles, talk the talk and win a seat with the PC Party?

 Sandra Jansen is a prime and recent example of this sort of thing. While Jansen’s personal views align her more with the NDP than the PC Party, she knew upon entering politics that she would never (or so it would appear at that time) win a seat under the NDP banner. Jansen played the part of a PC supporter and got a seat due to her prior media profile and the efforts of party volunteers. Jansen even tabled and promoted the odious anti-gay Bill 10 under orders from Jim Prentice. While such a bill was in total contradiction to Jansen’s principles, she viewed her political career as being more important than the gay rights she purports now to support. This is exactly the callow and weak willed crap from opportunists that has soured me and many like me from the PC party for decades.  

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Another recent example of Progressive Conservative style opportunism was of course Danielle Smith and her band of fools trying to take a shortcut to government benches after being sold a bill of goods by Prentice. Prentice was of the old stock PC mindset where support is best bought rather than earned at the constituency level. Smith had discovered that trying to manage a grassroots party is thankless, exhausting and simply damn tough. Under her poor management, the party was ripping itself up with internal turmoil despite doing well in the polls. Smith did what so many PC MLAs did before her and took what she thought was an easy route to a cabinet seat. As we all know, Smith’s self serving idiocy only led her and her followers into a well earned political oblivion.  

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There is an upside to the treacherous union of Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice that repelled the Alberta electorate so much that they accidentally lashed out by electing the NDP. The actions of Smith and Prentice stripped the PC party down to a shell of it’s former self. Most of the opportunists have fled as they saw little personal benefit in taking part in an indebted, disgraced and moribund party (aside from opportunists like Jansen who managed to keep her seat). Those remaining in the party are idealists whether right of center or left. These are people who know that there is a lot of tough and thankless slogging ahead of them yet they are going ahead anyway. These are the kind of people who build movements of principle.  

It is not only the sloughing off of the political parasites by the Progressive Conservative Party that has drawn me to it of course. I, like most people to the right of Che Guevara am very concerned about the catastrophe that we have in government right now. I am resigned to the fact that the Notley NDP will remain in power for a few more years and will continue to reap havoc on the Alberta economy in that time. I am terrified at the concept that somehow through constant right of center battles, that Notley will manage to gain a second term and put Alberta’s industries deeply into the economic graveyard for generations.  

I suspect that Notley will continue to crater in the polls as Albertans en-masse realize (as with every other NDP province) that having socialists in power is intolerable and will cost the grandchildren of our children as they try to dig themselves out of the massive debt built by a province that hamstrung it’s own industries. I think that even if there were four parties on the right that Notley would be wiped out by a coalition of these parties as she struggles to maintain double digit support.

Despite what I think, I DO NOT WANT TO LEAVE THINGS TO CHANCE! 

The only thing that may indeed give Notley’s ghastly administration another term will be constant splintering on the right leading to more mistrust and rejection by the electorate. Mass, dejected apathy on the part of the electorate on election day could put Notley in yet again.  

Jason Kenney has provided a plan. It is a tough plan with many possible pitfalls and variables, but it is a plan that could work. I am ready to work as hard as I can to help bring that plan into fruition.

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I am a socially liberal libertarian sort. Why can I get behind somebody as socially conservative as Jason Kenney? I can for a couple reasons.  

While Jason Kenney is personally and unapologetically socially conservative, he is not proposing implementing any socially conservative policies and I see no reason why he would. Do you really think he would try to make gay marriage illegal again? Do you really think he could overstep provincial jurisdiction and wade into the abortion debate again? I sincerely don’t see it. One fellow I see as a political mentor is Paul Hinman. Paul is personally socially conservative but he is also deeply dedicated to individual rights. It is in that balance that libertarians and social conservatives can work together.  

Another factor is that Jason Kenney will have to run in two leadership campaigns. If the first campaign is successful, Kenney will have to run again to lead the new party vehicle. If one doesn’t like Kenney, they can and should support another leader in the next race.

I see Kenney’s current campaign as being focussed on right of center unity. It is not a campaign to make Kenney Alberta’s Premier (this time anyway). This is a campaign that is using the leadership process as a means of referendum for right of center people to vote on a unified party. 

People are already trying to distract the campaign by miring it down with questions on policy specifics. I spent three terms on the executive of the Wildrose Party as Vice President of Policy. I understand the importance of policy as well as anybody. I also understand how easily and quickly it can become a divisive minefield.

Kenney’s current run so far has not delved into specific policies nor should it. Right now we need to focus on broad principles. There will be time to battle on policies at AGMs and during nominations for years to come. We cant let ourselves get dragged into that during a leadership run based on unity.  

While always being a supporter of one member one vote systems, I see some great advantages in this race being delegate based. This race will not be won by somebody who has sold their political soul to unions as Redford did (and Jansen would love to). This race will be won by the person who can manage to win broad support constituency by constituency across the entire province. It will take ground level organization and engagement. A person with deep federal connections and the endorsement of the former Prime Minister certainly has an edge in that regard.  

A great side effect of this kind of race is that it forces the organization of the constituency associations. I suspect that many if not most of the PC CAs are essentially in total hibernation. Instead of simply selling memberships in any location, candidates now need to court support in every constituency and ensure that those constituencies are well enough organized to send a full slate of delegates to the leadership convention.  

Assuming Kenney wins the leadership (I know that is still a big assumption), he will essentially have the framework for a new party already built for him. Constituency associations will be rejuvenated and active across the entire province as the race has motivated candidates to build them and activate them. That of course is also the organizational machinery which will obliterate the NDP in a general election.  

After a Kenney win and the formation of a new party, the remaining rump will fade away. Joe Clark and other federal PC holdouts never took part in the federal merger and it didn’t matter. They and their former party simply died of atrophy. Jansen and gang will do the same with the remnants of the PC organization too.  

After a Kenney win, the pressure on Jean will be tremendous. Jean has clearly already seen some caucus division and general party unrest. It will be tough to keep members whether on the ground or in caucus from getting in with the new party if Jean remains intransigent on the issue.

If Kenney somehow loses the race, I assume that somebody like Sandra Jansen has managed to pull off a win somehow. That will unify the right as well as people flock to the one remaining right of center party in the province.

I still think highly of the Wildrose Party. I was a founding member and put in countless hours and resources over the years in hopes of bringing that party into government. There are some fantastic people in the party on all levels from simple members up to MLAs. Jean is a good and dedicated person as well. The bottom line though is that the Wildrose Party is spinning it’s wheels. While general support numbers are good and fundraising is strong, the growth is mostly flat lined. The party is remaining strong only because Notley is terrible rather than people being engaged and excited with the Wildrose. As many have said before, people want something to vote for rather than against. The Wildrose just cant seem to bring itself into that generally inspiring position.  

Kenney’s move is a gamble. Many things may happen that will derail the effort. Still, Kenney is offering the best long term plan that I have seen yet and I will do what I can to aid in it’s success. Notley is dependent on the right remaining in shambles and we just cant afford to keep letting her win this way.  

I need to get a Progressive Conservative t-shirt now.

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Conservatives don’t need a merger, they just need good leadership.

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If there is one thing that conservatives in Alberta have been lacking in the last 10 years it is good leadership. From bungling Stelmach, to corrupted Redford to the unholy alliance of Prentice/Smith that managed to put Notley on the Premier’s chair, conservatives have languished under a chain of piss poor partisan leaders.

With the events seen in the last week, it looks pretty clear that conservative Albertans are going to have to wait longer to see a good leader come out of the woodwork.

The “right” in Alberta is not so much split as it is floundering in trying to find a stable banner to gather underneath. If one of the right of center parties could manage to get an inspiring leader, merger dreams would end and the majority of right of center Albertans would migrate to that party. One would think that under the gross mismanagement of Notley that a strong opposition party would manage to get it together. Alas, so far there has been no luck.

Yes, Brian Jean stepped up to the plate and took the reigns of the Wildrose Party while it was still reeling under the effects of Danielle Smith’s self serving treachery. Yes, Brian has been stellar in handling the disastrous fire in Fort McMurray. Aside from that though, Jean really hasn’t gotten far in turning the Wildrose Party into a government in waiting.

As I ranted last week, the choice to insult a visiting Premier in the legislature was a terrible one that repelled many Albertans in its lack of tact and class. Those were the actions of a party that wants to oppose rather than build and that falls squarely on the leader’s lap. It should be noted that Brian Jean was one of the MLAs who petulantly refused to stand to respectfully greet the visiting Premier. He cant blame the fallout from those tasteless actions on rogue MLAs. They were acting under his leadership and direction.

Jean’s next foolish and reactive move was his bizarre late night suspension of Derek Fildebrandt over a social media faux-pas.

Derek Fildebrandt is no homophobe and anybody knowing him will say that confidently. Even the most left wing of opponents acknowledge that while Derek made a careless error in judgement, they know damn well that he would never support anti-gay views or rhetoric. Despite that fact and despite Derek’s near immediate apology for the mistake, Jean recklessly suspended Derek from caucus.

Brian Jean is still doggedly claiming that it was the social media error that was the cause of the suspension. That is clearly utter bullshit and Jean’s refusal to explain the real rational behind the suspension is yet another example of poor leadership.

Perhaps there is a good set of reasons for the suspension of Fildebrandt from caucus. Jean would be well placed to release and explain them then because right now his actions look petty and have infuriated the grassroots of the Wildrose Party. In light of the employment outcomes for all of the floor crossers from the Wildrose Party the other year, I think it goes without saying that antagonizing the grassroots of a conservative party is never a wise course of action.

Derek Fildebrandt is one of the rougher MLAs. He plays hardball and he can be prone to theatrics. That is actually a good thing when one considers that Brian Jean can be about as animated as a turnip (as anybody who watched the last election debate can attest to). A balanced caucus has people of a few different characters.

Was the reason for the suspension pure insecurity on the part of Jean? Does he feel that his position as leader is threatened? I don’t think Jean’s leadership was threatened before last week but it sure as hell is now as the grassroots party members become annoyed.

Was the reason for the suspension because Jean felt embarrassed at a gathering of his federal compatriots while statements such as the one below were written in the Globe and Mail?

Has Mr. Jean become so accustomed to being led around by the nose by Mr. Fildebrandt that he allowed this sorry spectacle to unfold? Why doesn’t Mr. Jean simply step aside now and allow Mr. Fildebrandt to ascend to the position he so clearly lusts after?

Pretty harsh words from an editorialist and I don’t think they were based on fact. I can see how it grated on Jean though and I can see how an insecure leader would lash out to try and prove himself in light of such critique.

I don’t know the full story here I suspect but I know what I see and that is a demonstration of terrible leadership when we need it so dearly on the conservative end of the spectrum in Alberta.

I hope Jean either learns to get it together soon or steps aside because we really cant afford another term under Notley.

A good first step would be admitting error and bringing Derek Fildebrandt back into caucus.

Under good leadership, such suspensions shouldn’t be needed.

 

 

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Oh look, another tiny group wanting to ‘unite the right’.

suitor

They just don’t and won’t get it. It seems that every couple months we see an article written on a slow news day reporting on some person or another speaking on how they will “unite the right” in Alberta. Most often it is quotes from politically unemployed clowns such as Rob Anderson or Jonathan Denis who both have proven rather starkly to have terrible strategic instincts. I mean really, why should we seriously take political advice from people who so brilliantly destroyed their own political careers? These guys have always been self-interested and clearly they still can’t see outside of their little, myopic bubbles.

This week we had an article on some group that claims to be on the way to uniting the right and is claiming to be on the way to raising $2 million towards that end already. I will believe that when I see it.

What these stooges will have to understand is that if you want to unite the PC party and the Wildrose Party (if it is even possible) you will have to court the damned members rather than push from outside!!

The article linked above speaks to these apparent “unite the right” proponents in the first part but becomes even more telling in the second half of the article. Both the Wildrose and PC parties have utterly no interest in taking this path right now and no outside group is going to force them to do so.

It is exactly this sort of small group behind closed doors that blew both parties apart when they completely bypassed the memberships of both parties and orchestrated a mass floor crossing. The fallout from that led to Jim Prentice and Danielle Smith being politically disgraced and destabilized both parties to the point where we now find ourselves with an NDP government.

Let’s be clear, the public was utterly disgusted with the deal that Prentice and Smith cut between themselves and they demonstrated that at the polls as the NDP exploded in support. There was no right split. People were just so revolted with both options on the right that they clung to what seemed like the next best organized party. They didn’t vote for policy. They voted for principle and now we all pay the price.

Despite such a recent history of the pushback that comes from backroom style merger efforts, some of these guys still insist on beating on that wall.

Last weekend I attended the Wildrose AGM and I can assure you that merging with the moribund Progressive Conservative Party is not even a tiny consideration among the membership at large. The PC Party (or brass within it anyway) tried every trick in the book from organizing the mass floor crossing to breaking their own law and calling an early election in hopes of burying the Wildrose Party. The PCs are now deeply in debt with little electoral support and nearly no fiscal support. Why on earth would Wildrose members want to take that on in a merger?

To push for a merger one has to start with courting the members and perhaps begin with donors. Perhaps a mail out to Wildrose donors asking “would you like your donations to go towards paying the debt of the PC party as they spent millions trying to destroy the Wildrose Party in the general election?” I suspect that I know what donors would respond with but that is exactly what merger proponents are asking them to do.

Patience is something else that is required here. The NDP will be clinging to power until the bitter end. If polls are low enough (and I suspect that they will be), Notley will likely cling to power for the entire five years that the system allows her to. We have a few years before the next general election and need not rush into trying to mash two groups together.

The PC party will be holding a leadership race eventually. That will be the best opportunity for them to explore the consideration of a merger. That will be a poll of their membership and their concerns should be paramount. A pro-merger candidate could test some waters.

In the mean time we will carry on as we have been. I do like how Brian Jean has been approaching things and speaking about ensuring that we get the “right” people. I am not sure if that messaging is resonating perfectly with the public but what I interpret him saying is essentially that the Wildrose door is open for principled PC supporters to get on board. The word :”right” in this context is not so much speaking to a point on the political spectrum as it is speaking to avoiding taking on the self-serving and power seeking element that was within the PC party which ultimately led to their demise. We want the good people from that party (and there were many), but do not want to assume the party’s baggage or culture of “get elected by all means possible”.

We have an opportunity for a fresh start and if we do it right, there will only be one party to take what’s left of the province back from the NDP in 3.5-4.5 years. We can build a principled alternative that has plans and hope rather than baggage and blind ambition.

The effort to build that alternative will have to come from the ground as well. Just the other night I was poking a stick at the PCs on twitter for what was essentially petty entertainment (yes, I was admittedly trolling). I was taken to task for it by a couple PC supporters who I do respect even if we have been on opposite ends of the field at times. It was food for thought and I really do need to lay off on poking the stick. If we want those respectable sort of people to come on with us eventually we will have to approach and treat them with respect now. Constantly shooting at their pride won’t do anybody any favors and I really have to cut it out. We do have a lot in common and with some rational actions in the next few years may be able to pull things together.

The memberships of both parties need to be courted though, not dictated to. These current “unite the right” folks will never understand that as they keep trying to force things from either the outside in or the top down.

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There is no right wing split in Alberta.

Though the voices are in a tiny minority, they are already becoming annoying.

Led by Danielle Smith and some other now homeless political types who found themselves politically homeless due to latching their careers to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, this small chorus is trying to convince people that the Wildrose Party must merge with the dying PC party to stop this perceived split in the right. I guess that laying your own political downfall at the feet of an imaginary ideological split among the province is easier on a person than accepting that one’s own political instinct was crap. It is weak rationalizing and it simply doesn’t add up.

I will lay it out in simple terms as math is hard for some!

Here are the vote gains/losses in this election compared to 2012:

Progressive Conservatives: loss of 154,357

Wildrose Party:   loss of 82,224

Liberal Party:  loss of 65,455

NDP:    gain of 476,387

In 2012 the two parties that some consider to be right wing made up 78% of the vote in Alberta when combined. In 2015 this fell to 52% of the vote.

Let those numbers sink in. There is no split of the perceived right here. This is a collapse in support of the two right of center parties.

The 2015 election was not about right and left. This election was about trust and principles and it was won by populism. The folks foolishly muttering about merging parties had better realize this or we will see an eight year term of the Notley led NDP in Alberta. People don’t want to see a merged party of one ideology or another. They simply want to see a party that they feel they can trust for a change.

I spent about 13 hours per day on one of the campaigns in Calgary for the entire election. Right from the beginning of the campaign, the feedback and feel we were getting was disconcerting to say the least. Folks would call and ask what we were seeing on the ground and the best answer I could give was “it’s really weird out there”.

The anger of the electorate at the doors was palpable. People were outraged with the Prentice PCs and disgusted with his self-serving actions whether from drawing in the Wildrose floor crossers, the wretched budget, the never ending internal scandals or I think most of all an early election call that was clearly only done to serve the party in power. People were making it more than clear that they wanted to punish the Progressive Conservatives and they wanted to do it badly.

This led us to think we should be the clear second choice for people but that wasn’t the case. While people at the doors made it clear that they didn’t want to vote for the PCs, they became quite reticent when we would ask them to support us instead. While they loathed the PC party under Prentice, they were not exactly endeared by the Wildrose Party either. Whether fair or not, we were still suffering under the hangover of the floor crossings and people simply didn’t know the new leader. At best most doors in the early part of the election appeared angry but undecided.

The debate was the turning point. People were waiting to get a clear look at who the alternatives for governing our province really were and they watched the debate closely. The contrast in the debate could not have been more clear between the leaders. Prentice came across as an arrogant weasel. Swann came off as the has been that he is. Jean came across as wooden and repetitive and Notley came across as dynamic, principled and energetic. In that 1.5 hours the minds of the electorate went NDP and it was folks from all sides of the spectrum. Not right or left.

When the election is about trust, it is a clear handicap having a brand new and unknown leader. While people do not dislike the new leader, they are not yet ready to embrace him either. Jean’s opportunity to get to know a large segment of Albertans was in that debate and to be blunt, he blew it catastrophically. Jean had been coached to stick to a simple script and to never deviate. He was coached to dodge specifics on questions by repeating a stock line and he was coached to avoid thinking on his feet. The Wildrose needs to fire that coach!

In watching that debate, even I as a hardcore, partisan Wildroser had to wonder if I could vote for a party led by this robot. One columnist best described Jean’s debate performance as “ghastly” and I think that hits it on the head. Nothing irks me faster than seeing a leader dodge questions. It makes them look untrustworthy and there was no worse time than during that debate to appear so. Even being wrong on a couple specific facts yet appearing sincere and energized would have been better for Jean in that debate.

Policy specifics meant nothing in that debate to voters. People were looking for energy and a sense of sincerity. Notley won it by all accounts.

A silver lining here is that Brian Jean’s debate performance was out of character for him. In following rallies and events Jean showed a fantastic and genuine energy and wit. When seeing Jean at other gatherings, it is tough to imagine that this is the same puppet like fellow that we observed just a few weeks ago at the debate.

Inexperience and a simply harrowing series of events in this last three months really do explain much of Jean’s appearance as a leader in the 2015 election. From a whirlwind leadership race, to the death of his son to the call of the general election Jean simply never got a moment to breath and adjust to these changes. With four years as leader of the opposition Jean now has the time and will have the resources to grow into the role that he has earned. I am confident he will do so and as Albertans get to know him, that trust will grow.

While time and genuine effort will help grow that trust that Jean and the Wildrose need, embracing the remnants of the corrupted and withering PC party through a merger would have the opposite effect. Alberta’s most despised party has now been packaged in a neat 9 seat rump and a growing and invigorated Wildrose Party would be insane to embrace the baggage and mistrust that comes with that party.

Navel gazing about a right wing split will do nothing to displace the NDP government. Notley won on trust and will only lose when a party that has gained trust shows up to challenge her.

Bear this in mind, almost every person who claims that the Wildrose and PC parties must merge now were of the same chorus of people who loudly and confidently declared the Wildrose Party as being dead last December.

Sort of says worlds about their political instincts doesn’t it?

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