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.