It was just a couple of months ago that I wrote a piece here about Alberta UCP Premier Jason Kenney and his fall in his province. As I put it then, Kenney went from being invincible to vulnerable in an amazing short period of time. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a scene play out anywhere in Canada, going from Golden Child to the political outhouse just like that. Kenney went from the guy who many thought would be a contender for Prime Minister after Stephen Harper retired to where he current sits.
Many spoke of Kenney’s political brilliance and his organizational strengths, yet the past months have managed to strip that veneer and left Albertans with a clear view of how little was under it. Yet somehow since that time, things have managed to get even worse for Kenney and his party. That was typified by the big news from last week, and the evidence found in this picture:
This patio dinner might go down in Canadian political history as one of the worst own goals ever. To go out there and flaunt public health measures so blatantly would be a certain level of bad. Doing it in the Sky Palace of all places, the place that literally brought down a Premier and became the symbol of Conservative disconnection was next level bad. And to top it off, Kenney spent a week denying he did anything wrong. He called his nice whiskey “budget” whiskey. He did everything he could without apologizing, before finally apologizing a week later after members of his caucus started to go public against him.
Those were hardly the action of a political savant and more like the actions of a government that was long in the tooth and acting very arrogantly. The fact that Kenney’s government is only a couple of years old just adds to the stunning nature of this, as they’ve managed to achieve that level of arrogance in such a short period of time. It’s all something that’s kind of breathtaking to witness because one of Kenney’s masterstrokes was the creation of the United Conservative Party, through the merger of the old PC’s and Wildrose parties.
Kenney was trying to do in Alberta and Stephen Harper had done federal, bring together to parts into a new whole, a combination of voting power that would ensure conservative dominance in the party for generations to come. Watching Conservatives lose their first election in 44 years to the NDP made this all the more imperative in their minds. Similar to what happened federally, they decided to bury the hatchets and come together. Yet unlike Harper, Kenney has struggled to keep this all together. By all accounts he’s lost complete control of his caucus, during a once-in-a-century global pandemic to boot. While he doesn’t have control of them, most of them are still in the tent. The UCP seems to have held for now. But some interesting polling out today speaks to the precariousness of Kenney’s current situation and is frankly quite interesting:
Imagine having gone through all the work to merge two parties, all that came with that, just to basically end up right back where you started? Well welcome to Jason Kenney’s world right now. Not only is his UCP solidly behind the NDP, but he also has the Wildrose Independence Party nipping at his heals and stealing his thunder. It wouldn’t shock me if MLA’s that he tossed from his caucus like Drew Barnes end up in the new Wildrose formation sooner than later, which would just add another log to that tire fire that’s currently burning.
Now to be fair, this is the first poll where we’ve seen the WIP this high up, but given everything that’s happened so far, it’s not shocking. There are a lot of Alberta conservatives on the further right who were already mad at Kenney and likely looking for somewhere else to park their votes. So to see that 20% figure isn’t a shock. Yet it’s still very noteworthy because of the context that got us here. Jason Kenney managed to rope all these Conservatives into that blue UCP tent, but two years later he’s not just losing some, but a lot of them. Stories like the “Sky Palace Whiskey Dinner” remind those same voters why they turned away from the old PC’s towards the Wildrose back then. It motivates them to move and not come back.
Jason Kenney’s only saving grace right now is that he’s two years out from the next election and a lot can happen between now and then. Given that Rachel Notley’s NDP are out-fundraising Kenney’s UCP by a 2-to-1 margin right now, it might not be much of a saving grace, but it’s time that Kenney needs. In the meantime, of all the things that have changed in 2021, it makes me chuckle to see how Alberta’s political scene has basically gone back to where it was just a few years ago. After all of this, it seems that Jason Kenney’s masterwork has gone up in smoke and another layer of that veneer has been stripped away from a politician who was once seen as invincible.