Conservative unity has Rachel Notley terrified, & it should.

For the first time since the late 1990s conservative minded Albertans are unified under one political banner. Jason Kenney was the prime orchestrator of the unity movement from its inception to its conclusion with 95% merger support from the memberships of both the Progressive Conservative Party & the Wildrose Party.  Kenney demonstrated the same drive and organizational strength as he solidly took the leadership of the nascent United Conservative Party. With such a solid and proven record as a formidable campaigner and strategist, the prospect of facing off against Jason Kenney in a general election is a discomforting one for any NDP strategist who maintains any basis in political reality.

All the above being said, it is not simply Jason Kenney’s leadership alone that has the NDP and their supporters in abject terror for their political lives today. Those who follow political movements recognize that a massive, well organized movement has developed that will be difficult to stop whether Jason Kenney leads it or not. Conservatives have truly united and will now be able to focus on forming the next government with pragmatic common sense goals and policies.

The leadership race for the UCP was hard fought and with no holds barred. While it is painful to endure such races, they are indeed prequels for what the general election will look like. Whoever was going to lead us against the Notley Regime in the next election had to prove themselves to be tough and exceedingly well organized in what will be a terribly rough campaign.

Due to the nature of these races they can be very dangerous for parties. Leadership races can turn into civil wars that create rifts that never heal within the party. Opponents and detractors of united conservatives poked as hard as they could from the sidelines in hopes of fostering division within the party.

To the disappointment of Notley and her supporters, the UCP came out of the race more unified than ever.

In this picture we see three very dedicated supporters for three different leadership candidates. Dean Leask on the left passionately supported Brian Jean’s leadership bid. In the middle and wearing my best wrinkled shirt, I supported Jason Kenney. On the right and looking much more presentable is my wife Jane Morgan who stepped down from the UCP leadership committee as she strongly felt she wanted to get involved and help Doug Schweitzer on his campaign. All of us serious and committed conservative supporters and all firmly in different camps.

Now that the race is over, we are unified in our support of the UCP under Jason Kenney. Dean will still drop by my pub, Jane still lets me come to bed with her (except after times when I have indulged in taco Tuesday) and we all will be working hard together to replace the NDP government with a UCP one.

The picture is indicative of the rest of the room that night. There are some sour grapes out there. There are some folks who need a little time to embrace the party under the new leadership. All in all though, the vast majority of the membership is united and looking ahead today. Hopes for an internal implosion by some have been dashed.

The picture above is even more striking and indicative of how and why the UCP is striking fear into the left.

Along with my wife and I we see Piotr and Christina Pilarski. Both very politically active and driven couples who have worked on a number of campaigns. Until recently though, we were always on different teams. As Wildrosers and PCs we all fought tooth and nail with each other for years. That was the kind of division that led to our accidental NDP government and that division is utterly gone today. We all will be working together to defeat the NDP now.

I have attended countless Wildrose gatherings over the last ten years. Last summer I attended my very first Progressive Conservative function when I went to the PC leadership gathering. Last Sunday I went to the UCP leadership race and was thrilled to see all the political movers and shakers from both parties all in one spot. It was not a tense gathering. It was not a forced marriage. We are all pumped and excited about being on the same team. The NDP has given us cause to unite in a way that no conservative leader ever could.

Think of the resources duplicated and wasted in the last few general elections as the Wildrose and PC parties battled with all they had. Strategists, campaign managers, donors and thousands of volunteers at every level all divided and working against each other. While a tiny minority of those have chosen not to join the UCP, clearly the vast majority have stayed on.

Now imagine the campaign machine that is in the works here. All of these people, the experience and the funds united with a common cause and under the leadership of a masterful campaigner.

That is what has the NDP in a true panic. Its not just Jason Kenney’s leadership. Its the huge and dedicated organization of people now focused together on ridding Alberta of its accidental, socialist government.

Rachel Notley usually shows composure. In a tweet this morning though, she clearly lost control and her petty and belligerent tweet this morning showed the abject terror that has infected her.

Yes, the tired old fear and smear drum is being beaten and it will be in an ever more shrill way until the NDP are finally tossed soundly from the legislature of Alberta in a general election.

I guess we can’t exactly expect the NDP to campaign on their sound fiscal management or on the “social license” that they never managed to buy us with the wretched carbon tax. Fear & smear is all they have.

Thank’s to Dave Rodney stepping aside, we will get to see a micro-preview of the next campaign as a by-election will be held in Calgary Lougheed. I sort of feel sorry for the residents of that constituency as they are about to be barraged by what will be one of the largest single constituency campaign teams that the province has ever seen. Volunteers from the new UCP are chomping at the bit to work on a campaign together against the NDP and they will be coming out in the hundreds if not the thousands as the by-election is fought. No door will go without being knocked multiple times nor phones without multiple calls. Hopefully Notley calls the election before Christmas so voters can get an assured non-political break right after the campaign.

As I said in a posting yesterday, David Khan finds himself rather hooped here. He is a brand new party leader as well and he needs a seat. His hopes are slim to none in Lougheed but he will look terribly weak if he doesn’t contest it.

One possible out for Khan would be in Calgary Mountainview if David Swann steps aside. Swann has no plans to run again and leaving a year or so early won’t harm his ambitions much This would be a terrible gamble for the Alberta Liberals though as they very possibly could find themselves going from one seat in the legislature down to none if Khan can’t win in Mountainview.

If David Khan can’t win in Calgary Mountainview in a by-election though, I think it is safe to say that he can’t win anywhere. Mountainview is the closest thing that the Liberal Party has to a provincial stronghold in Alberta.

Personally, I think that Doug Schweitzer would be an ideal UCP candidate to run in Mountainview as well. What better place to send out a dynamic, young and moderate urban Calgarian UCP candidate? I am just spitballing here of course but I think it would be a great race and if he won he would be a great addition to caucus.

We are in for some exciting political times in the next few months no matter how you look at it. As a conservative I have never felt so optimistic as I am now with this new united movement. There is a mountain of work to be done before the next general election but with this giant and experienced group, I am confident that it will be well polished by the spring of 2019. Yes, Rachel has good reason to fear for her job.

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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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