Where does Alberta’s United Conservative Party go from here?
Premier Jason Kenney announced May 18 he was stepping down after receiving a paltry 51.4 per cent of party faithful’s votes during a review. Technically, if you believe in the 50 per cent plus one rule, Kenney did not lose. In reality, it is a crushing defeat for his political career, which is all but over.
Many in Alberta are celebrating Kenney’s defeat. A combination of terrible policies and bad luck, especially the COVID pandemic, brought about his demise. Could Kenney have done better? Sure! Whether anyone else would have done better can be debated until the cows come home.
Besides Kenney, there is one other loser in the vote. It is the NDP.
If Kenney stuck around to lead the UCP into battle in the next election, they would have surely lost. The NDP had a Mount Everest of negative material to campaign on, especially the fiasco where MLAs bolted from Alberta to holiday [including Lesser Slave MLA Pat Rehn] during Christmas despite pleas to stay home. The look was beyond horrific. Many voters will not forget.
Coupled with in-party fighting, Kenney must have felt he was wearing Milk Bone underwear and had a pack of dogs chasing him.
All that aside, and perhaps why many Conservatives chose to send Kenney packing, was the realization they could not win the next election with him leading the ship. Until recently, polls and fundraising were lacking well behind the NDP, but a recent surge was not enough to toss Kenney a lifejacket in the stormy Sea of Alberta.
The fact is, an election is about one year away. There is still time for the UCPs to regroup. The decision on choosing its next leader is critical. Given their history, Brian Jean or Danielle Smith may not be the answer. The NDP is digging up dirt at the time of this writing.
The question arises: who? Given the fiasco the current government has been the UCPs would be wise to choose someone from the outside. Not a sitting MLA, and certainly not another old, tired recycled politician like Jean. “Turncoat” Smith? You have got to be kidding!
The UCP needs a new leader. Alberta needs a new leader. One who can capture the imagination of the voters. Kenney couldn’t do it. NDP Leader Rachel Notley couldn’t do it, proven by her defeat in the last election.
The UCP would be wise not to recycle another politician. So much damage has been done under Kenney’s leadership it will be difficult to overcome. Any connection to Kenney is political poison. Alberta is demanding change. It is the perfect time for a new face to capture the imagination of the voters.
Things are bad for the UCP in Alberta. It was unthinkable in 2015 when the NDP rode the “Orange Crush” wave to a provincial election win. In true Tory blue Alberta, the impossible happened.
Make no mistake, it could very well happen again.
But at least the UCP now has a fighting chance. With Kenney given the boot, a new leader at least gives them hope but it has to be the right leader.
Today, at least they are back in the game.