By Mary Medinsky.
Featured image via Jeff McIntosh, CP.

Jason Kenney took the stage yesterday at Calgary’s Clarion Hotel to break the worst kept secret in Canada: Jason Kenney, former Harper ‘lieutenant’, will be jumping from his life (and his seat) in federal politics back to Alberta to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives in a bid to merge the Wildroses and the PCs together under a united ticket.

Kenney, Alberta’s newest self-appointed white knight, made it clear to viewers for him this was a matter of a principle.

He went as far as to call the idea of a second NDP term, “catastrophic.”

“That is why I’ve decided to seek the leadership of the PC Party of Alberta,” said Kenney, “– to unite with the Wildrose Party and all like-minded Albertans so we can defeat the NDP and put this province back on the right track.”

The leadership run has nothing, we’re assured – absolutely nothing – to do with Kenney looking for a leadership opportunity outside of the confident Liberal majority in Ottawa.

Albertans can also be forgiven for thinking this story sounds eerily familiar…

An ambitious Calgary-based Conservative wants to be prime minister real bad. And, only after realizing he won’t be crowned anytime soon, settles for a new goal: a heroic “unite the right” effort – a glorious masterplan to sweep “the Ledge” with a punishing majority.

Ask Jim Prentice how well that turned out.

So, what’s been happening around these parts recently, you might ask then? What, with the “catastrophe” and all. Well, contrary to reports of its early demise, the world hasn’t ended under the NDP government. Some might even argue Premier Notley has done a pretty good job handling the Fort McMurray evacuation and its subsequent return. She passed a budget that kept teachers and nurses happy, she’s looking closely at government agencies, and she’s standing up for Alberta oil. Gee, if I didn’t know better I’d think a rational human being was running the province.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley meets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Edmonton, May 13, 2016, before a flight to Fort McMurray. (Photo: CP.)

Alberta’s right, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess. Although Wildrose leader Brian Jean earned a lot of political capital and goodwill with his leadership during the fires, constituency associations have started calling for Jean’s resignation. Their reasoning? Naturally, because he (rightly) suspended a popular MLA from caucus for making some outrageous comments on Facebook.

The PCs aren’t doing much better these days, especially given the turmoil Kenney’s run has stoked. A leadership convention to replace interim leader Ric McIver isn’t scheduled until next spring, but already some sitting PC MLAs – including Sandra Jansen – know what they don’t want: Jason Kenney. Maybe she knows something others don’t? There’s an old saying appropriate here: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yeah, that. George Santayana must have been a smart enough guy.

Certainly, Kenney’s predicament is understandable though. No one who expected to be prime minister within the next five years would be happy sitting on the opposite side of power for the next eight. Kenney also has experience uniting the right. But as a potential contender for 24 Sussex Drive, taking on this new mission carries obvious risks and consequences. Losing a bid for premier would all but torpedo any chance of a future run for prime minister. Some critics of Kenney might even see that as a win in and of itself.

Nothing about the road ahead for Jason Kenney is impossible. Kenney might be able to rid Alberta of the “obstinate” leadership in the PCs and the Wildroses that have – as he sees it – stood in the way of uniting the right. He might lead a “Conservative Party of Alberta” ticket when we go to the polls in 2019. He might become premier.

All possibilities, good possibilities even. But – and this is a big ‘but’ – Jason Kenney ought to proceed, whatever happens, with great caution.

Albertans, after all, have a long history of not taking to being “saved” by the brass in Ottawa. If he can’t shed that smug, opportunistic stench from his white stetson, he’ll guarantee Notley gets four more years. It goes without saying, Kenney is right about at least one thing in his speech yesterday: “we must put Alberta first.” But the more you look at this, the more you may be left wondering if this isn’t merely Jason Kenney putting Jason Kenney first. We need a hero – but I’m holding out for a different one.

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Mary Medinsky
is a librarian and political junkie. She received a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary and a MLIS from Western University.

She didn’t get swept up in Alberta’s ‘Orange Crush’.

You can follow her on Twitter at @mmedinsky.



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