Editorial – In need of Houdini

Chris Clegg

If anyone ever needed some magic to make his troubles disappear, it’s Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
Barring a miracle the next few weeks, his days are numbered.
Kenney’s popularity is dropping faster than flies at the North Pole in January. A combination of bad policies and the COVID pandemic have contributed to a near-revolt within the United Conservative Party.
Years ago, former premier Ralph Klein stepped aside after receiving an approval rating of 55 per cent at a leadership review. There was a time King Ralph was so popular one thought he would never be defeated. It is difficult to imagine Kenny getting 55 per cent. Ballots have been mailed, the vote now occurring, and result to be announced May 18.
There are many jumping for joy at the current situation. Two contenders, Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, lead the revolt in the fractured party. Despite its problems, the thought of leading resource-rich Alberta makes their eyes gleam like gold. Alberta black gold!
The question is no matter who wins, what percentage will he/she need to lead the UCP with confidence and a strong majority heading into next year’s expected election. With all the chirping behind the UCP curtains, it is hard to image any of the three hopefuls will win a strong majority to lead the party. The result is even more chaos.
Meanwhile, NDP and Leader Rachel Notley must be salivating. The UCP’s liked to chime years ago about Notley’s “one and done” government and it now appears Kenney is headed the same way.
At least the UCP has one thing going for it. Their hatred of the NDP. It is about the only common ground UCP members can agree to these days.
It is interesting to note despite the political cesspool Alberta finds itself in, the economy is gaining steam. Usually, it’s good news for the government in power, but not currently. Polls do fluctuate but in many polls the last few weeks, Notley leads. It is against the general trend. Is Kenney hated that much?
What happens if the UCP does not clearly elect a leader? How much of a majority does the winner need to lead the parry? Klein decided 55 per cent was not enough. Is it 60, 65, 70 per cent? You would think 75 per cent is a strong enough majority.
But not likely. A fractured vote leads to the UCP ship sinking further. Even worse, what happens if the vote is spilt one-third each way, or someone wins with 40-50 per cent of the vote? It would cause more confusion than a mouse at a burlesque show, as Foghorn Leghorn used to say.
These are troubling times for the UCP. Can they pull a rabbit out of the hat? Can they find a Houdini when needed?
Peering in the future, just who will lead this party into the future? It’s anyone’s guess.

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