Six Alberta Political Myths Debunked

August 1st, 2016 | R. Rados
jason kenney alberta

The past few years in Alberta have been unstable, to say the least. The political landscape has changed so much that most Albertans are confused and anxious. They're confused about where their own political affiliations will take them and they're anxious about the future of the province's economy. Everything Albertans thought they knew about Alberta has been upended. To make it worse, political myths have been swirling through communities across the province and deepening the divides. Most of those myths have been perpetuated by NDP supporters, but some of them come from various conservative factions across Alberta. To cut through the fog, it's important to separate fact from fiction as we get closer to 2019.


Here are a few inaccurate narratives and myths that Albertans have been sharing around campfires and on social media.


FALSE: “There Are No Conservatives Left In The PC Party”

This is one of the most factually incorrect statements you've probably heard, or will eventually hear if you haven't already. Most of those responsible for this myth are Wildrose supporters. Inside the claustrophobic Wildrose bubble there's an idea that every single true conservative fled the Progressive Conservative Party during the Redford era. If that were actually the case, there would be no right in Alberta to unite. If that were true, it would mean that the 400,000 Albertans who voted for Prentice's PCs in 2015 were all liberals and progressives. It would mean that Alberta has only 360,000 conservative voters.


There is another myth that tells of Prentice's epic collapse being the straw that broke the camel's back. Some of the Wildrose Party's most loyal supporters are under the assumption that the Wildrose would automatically win the next election. According to opinion polls from three separate firms, that's also untrue.


To win a majority, the Wildrose would need to scoop up at least one whole major city, or half of both Edmonton and Calgary. According to Mainstreet Research, ThinkHQ and Insights West, the Wildrose is in no position to do that. This is bad news for the Wildrose because their situation has failed to improve at all, even after a dramatic PC collapse and a NDP majority.


Common sense dictates that the Wildrose should be polling in the deep 40s following such a scenario, but they aren't. On average, the Wildrose has been polling at 35% since the last election. The party peaked in support immediately following the NDP majority, but then sunk into the mid 30s as the months passed. Despite the fact that Rachel Notley's approval ratings have plummeted and her party is averaging only 27% in polling, the Wildrose is stuck in neutral. To add some perspective: the Wildrose lost the 2012 election at 34%.


Support for the PCs remains strong in Calgary. According to the most recent polling data, the PCs also have the strongest chance against the NDP in Edmonton. Based on my experience at the Conservative national convention and at recent events in and around Calgary, there are hordes of Alberta conservatives who can't get behind Brian Jean or the Wildrose. Many former PC voters who can, seem reluctant. The Wildrose's most die-hard supporters love Brian Jean, but less partisan conservatives and libertarians are wary.


If any kind of mass exodus from the PCs happened under Jim Prentice in 2015, it was an exodus of progressives to the NDP. Despite the false Wildrose rhetoric, Jim Prentice was in fact a conservative and progressives despised him. Most Wildrose conservatives despised Prentice because they perceived him as a crony. Now, with 75% of the old caucus defeated and new leadership on the horizon, the PCs are looking at two full years of renewal.


FALSE: “Kenney And Prentice Have The Same Fate”

This is one of the favourite talking points among NDP supporters on social media. Immediately after his announcement to lead the Progressive Conservatives, leftists took to Twitter and Facebook to stage fake celebrations of Jason Kenney's leadership bid. Most progressives have been fearing Jason Kenney's moment for months, so their pretend glee on social media was nothing more than an attempt to downplay Kenney's effective entrance into Alberta politics. They want nothing more than to believe that Kenney's efforts to unite the right will fail, when deep down inside they know it's just wishful thinking on their part.

Jason Kenney is not Jim Prentice and their situations couldn't be more different. Before and during Jim Prentice, an NDP majority was almost inconceivable. Today, NDP Alberta is a much different place than it was just a year ago. Albertans are determined to cure the socialist disease they accidentally acquired after a night of drunken, angry sex. A part of the healing process also involves making amends with an ex. Albertans have never been more ready to let bygones be bygones, now that the NDP has poured salt into all of their wounds.


FALSE: “Kenney's Social Conservativism Is A Problem”

Jason Kenney may very well be a social conservative in his personal life, but so is Stephen Harper. Under Stephen Harper's majority, same-sex marriage was strengthened by closing a Liberal loophole that failed to recognize same-sex marriages from outside Canada, and the abortion debate was never re-opened.


After Conservative Party delegates voted overwhelmingly to erase the traditional definition of marriage from the party's policy, Jason Kenney lauded the party's move into the 21st Century and called the old policy outdated. Long before that, Kenney was an annual attendee at the party's Fabulous Big Blue Tent event, which is hosted by openly gay Conservative Party members.


Days after Kenney announced his bid, NDP surrogates went ballistic on social media and began pulling up every instance of social conservatism they could find from his past. Unfortunately, for them, none of it resonated with normal Albertans. As with most leftist conniptions, their tweets and posts bounced around inside their own echo chambers for a while before fading into oblivion.


During the high tide after Kenney's announcement, Rachel Notley went as far as publicly reassuring her progressive votaries that the “abortion debate is settled in Alberta” – like it was ever opened in the first place. All of the frenzied attacks lobbed at Kenney have been nothing more than a reflection of the fear and frenzy within every leftist who knows their time is up.


FALSE: “The Wildrose Can Win”

If the Wildrose could win, they would have won already. The party had ample opportunity in 2015 to bury both the PCs and the NDP. The PCs under Jim Prentice were destined to collapse due to his poor leadership decisions (including calling an early election), but the Wildrose blew it and let the NDP capitalize on Prentice's faults. To be more precise, it was Brian Jean who blew it. Just like Jim Prentice, Brian Jean parachuted into Alberta politics and failed.


The highest point for the Wildrose was at 35% on April 20, according to Mainstreet Research. Six days after the leaders debate that aired on April 23, the same polling firm pegged the Wildrose at 26%. Between April 20 and 29, something went seriously wrong for the Wildrose. That something was Brian Jean's performance in the debate. In the days that followed the debate, the Wildrose lost 9% in less than one week. The debate left conservatives and ordinary Albertans under the impression that the Wildrose had no real plan, other than promising to not raise taxes.


By simply appearing tough and witty, Rachel Notley was able to do what Brian Jean couldn't. Even though Prentice performed well and kept most of his cool, Rachel Notley kept her attacks sharp and pointed with aggressive comebacks, while Jean stuttered and repeated the same scripted talking points.


Don Braid noted Jean's performance more kindly in the Calgary Herald the following night after declaring Notley the winner, as most Albertans already had:


Then there was new Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, the sharpest contrast to Notley imaginable. He was blunt and highly scripted, repeating the same point again and again – 'Wildrose will not raise your taxes.' He called all the other parties 'a coalition of tax-raisers.'”


That same Mainstreet poll showed a jump in NDP support from 31% on April 20 to 44% on April 29. In under a week, the NDP was able to gain 13% and win the election. The saddest thing is that the Wildrose hasn't been able to recover, even under the NDP's current regime of high taxes.


Dating back to the days before Brian Jean, the Wildrose failed to win so much as one of four by-elections held in October of 2014 under Danielle Smith. This was at a time when anger toward the PCs was starting to reach its highest point, following the coronation of Jim Prentice. Even then, the Wildrose failed to gain any traction.


FALSE: “Kenney's Job Will Be Extremely Difficult”

Under no circumstances should conservatives or Progressive Conservatives get cocky. There will still be a lot of work required to unite Alberta's warring conservative factions, but it won't be as steep of a climb as pundits suggest.


Some naive pundits have even tried to suggest that Kenney faces an uphill battle to win the Progressive Conservative leadership. If you read my first point, you'll know that's not true either. Ralph Klein was a conservative with a strong base of support in the PC party and Jim Prentice was able to win the leadership after Alison Redford flooded the party ranks with progressives. Ric McIver is the furthest thing from a progressive and he was elected to be the interim leader after the party's historic collapse.


Conservatism is alive and well within the PC party. People like Sandra Jansen will leave when Kenney is put into the leadership by new members and old school Klein era conservatives who have renewed their memberships because of Jason Kenney. By this time next year, Jason Kenney will be the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, polls will show his party in a clear lead, and talks will be underway with the Wildrose.


The toughest part will be convincing Albertans that the NDP are still a detriment in 2019. Progressives will continue to unite and coalesce under the NDP banner, giving Notley's government an advantage. As the NDP passes its 18th month in office, their policies and platform will start to appear less radical. As I suggested in “Alberta Could Stay Orange”, the NDP will pass their most contentious and radical reforms within their first 18 months, then allow amnesia to set in for two years leading up to the next election. Although Albertan's don't buy the NDP platform, if the economy improves slightly and job numbers start rising due to increased oil prices, Albertans might lose some of that valuable anger they've been feeling for almost two years.


By 2019, Alberta's economy might be doing a bit better than it is now. The eventual rise in oil prices will spawn some enthusiasm in the province's oil industry, despite the higher taxes and royalty rates. Job figures will start to improve, revenue will increase, consumer confidence will rise and the NDP will take every bit of the credit. If all goes well, they might even cut one of their new taxes to impress some forgetful voters. Voter apathy and amnesia will make the 2019 provincial election the one thing that puts Kenney to the test.


FALSE: “Alberta Has Become Progressive”

Ever since Notley won her majority, fringe progressives and leftists in Edmonton have been declaring that Alberta has “evolved” or changed into a non-conservative, progressive province. As most conservatives know, the word progressive is an inaccurate label that was hijacked by socialists to falsely brand their regressive policies. Alberta is still as conservative and free-market oriented as it was last year and false progressivism is still on the fringes of what Albertans view as normal. It was only due to the divisions on the right that the NDP was able to win a majority government. Recent polls confirm how conservative Albertans really are. Not only were the NDP accidentally elected with less than 50%, if an election were held today, they'd barely win 27% of the popular vote.


In hindsight we can see how excited Alberta's progressives were to see the rise of the Wildrose in 2011. When the Wildrose came too close for comfort in 2012, they voted in droves for Alison Redford's progressives. In so doing, they divided conservatives even further and created an unprecedented, toxic political environment in Alberta.


In 2019, Alberta conservatives will be united again and the progressive left will return to the fringes – outside of government – where it belongs.