One Man Can Save Alberta

June 1st, 2021 | JH

Jason Kenney looks to be finished as the leader of the UCP. I won’t bother going into the details as I assume if you read Poletical  you’re probably well informed of his deficits, mistakes and ongoing struggles inside the caucus and party. Political leaders simply don’t recover from this level of degradation and his leadership has been branded a failure for too long, and by too many to launch some sort of 7th inning comeback strategy. Jason Kenney should be planning an exit strategy before the electorate do it for him.

This leads many to ask, “If Kenney doesn’t lead the UCP, then who will?”

Drew Barnes has been a name tossed around. Perhaps Brian Jean? Maybe Brad Wall would like to leave Swift Current and become a Premier for a second time?

There are many people who could step up, but all of them would face a lot of obstacles and challenges trying to wrangle the baggage of Alberta’s provincial politics. As of this writing, it looks like Rachael Notley is going to be given a second chance to govern, despite having a united “right”. This alone should cause Alberta conservatives to shudder and hold their noses and vote for the status quo, but the status quo is broken beyond partisan or ideological repair. Either Kenney goes before the election and is replaced by someone competent, or he goes after the election and the NDP resume power for another four years.

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Alberta can’t take another four years of NDP rule right now. We’re too beaten down. Possibly permanently. We’ll never achieve what we could have been had things been done properly since Ralph Klein stepped down. As a result, we’re facing continued decline until at least 2027 should the NDP get back into power once more and that is a level of decline that could prove catastrophic.

The silver lining in this forecast is that perhaps Paul Hinman of the Wildrose Independence Party gains traction and Alberta Independence finally gets some vitality. The problem is that Hinman’s party is brand new and the Alberta appetite for independence never seems to seriously grow. If the stagnation of the economy and the hostility of Canada towards us hasn’t budged the dial on independence so far, then I suspect that route is closed to us no matter what.

So, what’s the compromise?

We need a strong, stable, and competent leader to seize the UCP infrastructure and lead us into the 2023 election with a solid, practical approach that will fix the province and stave off a NDP victory. We need someone who knows how to lead and manage and delegate and succeed. Someone who has experience in government and has learned first-hand, what works and what doesn’t. Someone who knows how to deal with the federal government and protect Alberta’s interests.

We need Stephen Harper to become Premier of Alberta.

Imagine Stephen Harper getting back into the political game today. After a six year lay-off he’d come back refreshed and reinvigorated. Having learned a decade’s worth of lessons in Ottawa, he would know exactly what needs to be done regarding relations with Ottawa. Harper could lead a firewalled Alberta without worrying about his future prospects on the national stage. He could fully implement an agenda that is less incumbered by the Cathedral of progressive opponents that he experienced in Ottawa. I for one would love to see Harper 2.0 applying his skills and talents and experience to the Albertan stage.

But would Harper want to do it?

First of all, he is unlikely to stab Kenney in the back in order to get the job. Peter MacKay and his dead albatross disgusted a lot of CPC supporters. If MacKay hadn’t flagrantly made those comments, he may be leading the CPC right now. Harper wouldn’t play that game. Harper isn’t desperate for the job…in fact, he likely hasn’t even considered it. A behind-the-scenes cabal of party people would need to lobby to remove Kenney first and foremost, knowing full well that they had Harper in mind for his replacement.

It would be worth making a play to remove Kenney even if Harper were non-committal or discouraging or even unaware of the move. Kenney is not going to recover from his tailspin and if he is pushed out it will create a vacancy that Harper can later fill without being connected to the push itself. Worst case scenario is Harper still declines and a runner-up must be found. A reasonable non-Harper runner-up is still better than certain defeat.

Secondly, Harper would need total control. Being begged to run a party is a much better position for someone to be in than running as a candidate and then marginally winning the nomination leaving hostile caucus and party members standing in the wake. This is basically how Harper was selected to run the Canadian Alliance when that leadership race commenced. He was courted by a team. We won’t get into see-through envelopes and all that, but if the party command selects a leader… they can make that happenand offering Harper control upon his crowning might entice him to come back and command the way he would need to in order to attain results.

Thirdly, the landscape for former Canadian politicians is bleak. It’s not like in the U.S. in which former Presidents design their legacy libraries and go on six-figure speaking circuits and have best-seller memoirs ghost written for them. In Canada, people don’t care that much about politics to begin with, and being a former politician is just that much worse. Harper is toiling away in obscurity right now, attending lame conferences and running around in Davos-type networks. He is far too smart and talented to waste his final working years doing this type of stuff.

If called, Harper would answer.

Lastly, Harper is the only leader that has the gravitas and respect necessary to get all brands of conservatives to fall in line and work toward a brighter future. He was able to take a national collection of Red Tories, Social Conservatives, Blue Liberals, and Libertarians and form a federal government for ten years. If he brought the same savvy and skill to Alberta, he could easily give us the same.

"Imagine Stephen Harper getting back into the political game today."

Rural Alberta would surely vote for him in a landslide and the vast majority of Calgarians would do the same. It would simply be too intriguing for voters not to give him at least one election win in order to see what he could do, much better than falling back into the arms of a proven failure like Rachael Notley.

Alberta needs yet another hard reset. I suspect an older, wiser version of Harper is exactly the sort of strong, stable, and sane direction that we need to go in a post-Covid provincial recovery. Honest, conservative managerialism with some backbone shown to Ottawa and a few simple goals for the future is what will give Alberta the pride, direction and security that has been so thoroughly lacking over the course of the past decade.

Stephen Harper can deliver.


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