MP Jason Kenney’s announcement on Wednesday that he is now in the race for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party drew opposing responses in Central Alberta.
Kenney, who sits as a Conservative MP for a Calgary riding, wants to see conservatives unite across Alberta to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP government in the 2019 provincial election.
“I welcome Jason Kenney to the race,” said Jim Foster, a retired Queen’s Bench justice. Foster served as Red Deer’s MLA under the Peter Loughheed government, as minister of Advanced Education minister and then Attorney General.
“I think it’s great because it’s bringing a new sense of urgency to the issue of who are the conservatives in Alberta, small c or big c.”
The PCs will elect a new leader on March 18, 2017. Rick McIver is serving as interim leader and may also seek the leadership.
Foster said he is expecting at least three other people in the race, including possibly someone from Red Deer. He also met with a young lawyer in Calgary recently, he said, and that person may also run.
Foster said he would be involved first with the leadership bid of the person from Red Deer if that person runs.
He doesn’t believe either the PCS or the Wildrose Party can form a government on their own.
“The conservative family is too split. They’ve got to find a way to work together.”
“(Kenney) may or may not be the guy to do it but he will certainly focus the agenda and that’s really good stuff. … I know there are hardliners on both sides that think they can paddle their own canoe. I’m not one of them.”
While he is glad to see Kenney in the race, “that doesn’t mean we’re going to rush out and vote for him. … He may well win, who knows, there’s a long way to go.”
“This would have been a quiet summer politically but for his entry. He has really upped the ante on other people getting in this race,” Foster said.
Don MacIntyre, Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, said the uniting of conservatives has been going on since the May 5, 2015 election.
That’s when the NDP defeated the governing PCs under new leader Jim Prentice, who resigned the night of the election.
“Having some sort of saviour come into the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta is what happened when they brought in Jim Prentice. So I really don’t seem Mr. Kenney as making any kind of a positive contribution to actually uniting conservative Albertans across this province.”
He said he is “absolutely” behind Jean.
The rumblings regarding Jean’s leadership are more from the media and based on “presumption, innuendo and rumours, and not fact,” MacIntyre said, adding there has been a groundswell of conservatives joining Wildrose.
“Brian Jean doesn’t have the authority and neither would Jason Kenney have the authority as head of the PC party to unite anything. It takes the membership of Wildrose to vote to do anything that would change the shape, even the name, of the Wildrose Party.
“The discussion regarding two heads of parties having any kind of authority to unite those two parties is ridiculous. It’s absolutely absurd.”
“Brian Jean is our leader. He is solidly our leader and the membership of Wildrose are behind him. But as much as we are in support of him, he doesn’t have the authority to unite anybody.”
“In my mind the conversation’s over,” MacIntyre said.