Alberta United Conservative leader Kenney looks to build on big wins from 2017

Alberta United Conservative leader Kenney looks to build on big wins from 2017

EDMONTON — Fresh off uniting Alberta’s feuding, floundering centre-right to forge a unified opposition, Jason Kenney begins work in 2018 to build on those gains ahead of a provincial election.

Regardless of the outcome, says Calgary pollster Janet Brown, Kenney’s audacious unity plan galvanized Alberta politics in 2017 and reordered its landscape.

“He hit four home runs and there were lots of naysayers that said he couldn’t do it,” Brown says. “He laid out a five-point plan and he has just effortlessly been ticking off (the boxes) one at a time.”

Kenney, a former Conservative Calgary MP and Stephen Harper lieutenant, won the Progressive Conservative leadership in early 2017, arranged a merger with the Wildrose Opposition and its leader Brian Jean, and got that merger ratified by both parties.

He then beat Jean to become leader of the new United Conservative Party and, on Dec. 14, won a seat in a Calgary byelection.

Kenney has made it clear he will campaign on fixing an economy that has been decimated by low oil prices.

Premier Rachel Notley has responded by saying she won’t make things worse by slamming spending into reverse. Her government has continued to borrow billions of dollars for day-to-day operations and capital projects, while increasing the minimum wage and imposing a carbon tax.

The economy is rebounding, but Notley faces criticism that it isn’t going fast enough, or that her efforts have saved the present at the cost of a future debilitated by debt payments.

Kenney, in his UCP victory speech, laid down the gauntlet on the core issue, saying his party seeks, “people who understand the creative power of a free economy, that we cannot mortgage the future of the next generation through fiscal irresponsibility.”

Brown, along with Calgary political scientist Duane Bratt, says jobs and the economy are uppermost in Albertans’ minds and the unifying force for Kenney’s party.

“The unifying theme is anger at the NDP and the desire to throw the NDP out,” says Bratt of Mount Royal University.

Adds Brown: “The economy is the thing. He’s had some missteps on social issues, but as uncomfortable as Albertans may be on individual social policies, their concern about the economy and their desire to get the economy on track is outweighing all of those things.”

Social issues are what Notley’s NDP believes could ultimately be Kenney’s Achilles heel.

He has taken a laissez-faire approach to social issues, tying institutional compassion to the economy while broadly urging tolerance for all.

“We are one step closer to a government focused on prosperity so that we have the means to be a compassionate and generous society,” he told supporters after he won the leadership. “We don’t care in this party what god you worship or who you love.”

Kenney, however, has been criticized over the issue of gay-straight alliances in schools.

The clubs are designed as safe havens for kids who may not turn to anyone else, or can’t look for help at home. Nevertheless, Kenney has said that teachers need to have the authority to tell parents when their children join an alliance — unless that could bring a child to harm.

Advocates and the NDP say that threatens to out children to their parents and could lead to kids avoiding the groups altogether. Kenney says teachers have the tools to handle it.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association says it doesn’t want the responsibility and instead endorses a bill passed this fall by the NDP that makes it illegal for anyone to tell parents when a child joins a ga-straight-alliance.

The bill was opposed by the UCP.

Brown says Kenney is taking a pragmatic approach.

“He’s smart enough to know that he’s never going to be the choice among people who are highly preoccupied with social issues,” she says.

“But if he can just assure those people who are only moderately concerned about social issues that they don’t need to fear him, then that’s just really what he’s got to do.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Heather Buelow, owner of Aerial Edge Studio in Blackfalds, says she has spent ‘all of my saving keeping the studio going’ through government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Either open in-person or close permanently: Central Alberta yoga studio defying rules

A central Alberta woman is allowing clients back into her yoga and… Continue reading

Sandra Schmirler Foundation donates $10,000 to Red Deer hospital

Donation will go towards electronic fetal heart monitoring project

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

As Westerner Park refocuses the organization, they are reigniting their emphasis on… Continue reading

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

Most Read