These Are Jason Kenney's Rules

February 1st, 2020 | JH

Jason Kenney probably used some questionable and shady tactics and strategies to ensure that he got to where he is today. I can’t imagine the behind-the-scenes intrigue and dirt-baggery that allowed him to freep the PC leadership race and then merge the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. To then use even more heavy-handed dirt-baggery to win the leadership of the UCP is pretty ballsy. Progressives in Alberta are disgusted and dismayed, but they shouldn’t be surprised. Alberta had this coming for a long time and the truth is, Kenney probably needs to go even further with his Nixonian approach if he intends to really correct the mess that Alberta is in. Kenney needs to crush democratic opposition and do whatever it takes to ensure long-term UCP hegemony for the good of the province.

Why did we get to a point where Jason Kenney is requiring these tactics? Why don’t conservative supporters care that democracy is being so radically undermined? How did this all come about?

Well, let me tell you…

It all began 14 years ago, when the PC party was stagnant and bereft of ideas and energy. Once Ralph Klein paid off the provincial debt the purpose of governing anymore seemed lost on him. He was Premier because he was Premier. The party was infested with grifters and hacks that had no interest in anything other than “being in government” and reaping the personal rewards. It was a pitiful time.

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So, they kicked Klein out and held a leadership race. Jim Dinning was the chosen one to replace him. He was groomed to be the next Lougheed and party brass wanted him to maintain the status quo, but with more youth, professionalism and energy. The problem was that huge swaths of the party was more right-wing than the party brass expected. Ted Morton ran for leadership and he looked like he was a threat. This galvanized progressives who took out $5.00 memberships in the party which allowed them to vote for a leader. They flocked behind Jim Dinning in order to stop Ted Morton. This angered the right-wingers who now saw Dinning as a progressive Trojan horse.

The result?

Right-wingers and Progressives split the vote and allowed third place, not-ready-for-prime-time, candidate Ed Stelmach to run up the middle. His leadership was disastrous. The party tried to salvage him, but to no avail. His ascendency was an accident of democracy and it marked the beginning of Alberta’s long decline.

What should have happened?

The party brass should have fixed the election so Jim Dinning won. The money and power behind the PC Party all wanted Dinning. If Dinning had won, there would have been continuity and consistency. The royalty review of 2008 could have been avoided. Remember, this was the first time that Alberta’s commitment to being a safe place to invest was undermined. We could have had far better ministers appointed to positions of power instead of the gong show of Stelmach loyalists that farted up the scene for five years. The threat from Morton could have been acknowledged and absorbed. This would have undermined the growth of the Wildrose Party. Most importantly, the PC Party could have professionalized and reformed under Dinning, thus, avoiding the scandals and embarrassments that later occurred. It’s not unlikely that Dinning would be on his fourth and final term today if not for the accident of democracy dropping a bomb on the proceedings.

But let’s accept what happened and keep going.

After Stelmach stepped down, the Wildrose Party was going strong and it looked like they would form government in 2012. A new leadership race was held for the PCs. This time the front-runner was Gary Mar. He wasn’t as slick and polished as Dinning had been, but the sense was that he checked off a lot of boxes that made him a winning candidate in a post-Stelmach environment. He was kind of like what Scott Moe is now: rough enough to appeal to real people but groomed for the boardrooms and the television cameras. He was also Asian, so the diversity box was checked.

The problem was that the progressives got a taste of their power during the first leadership race and they liked it, so they did the two-minute Tory thing again and bought memberships for voting purposes, but this time threw their full progressive support over to Alison Redford. The Wildrose folks had by this time given up on the PC Party, so the dynamic was centre versus left and the left won. Again, it required a runoff balloting system which allowed Alison Redford to barely win. Nevertheless, democracy was freeped again and the result was another mistake. I won’t recount all the scandals and problems, but Alberta’s first “NDP Premier” (as she was cynically nicknamed) was Premier for even less time than Stelmach and was forced by the party to resign in disgrace. Alberta’s debt was ballooning, the government was flailing, and the PC Party was now getting rotten to the core.

What should have happened?

The party brass should have recognized that after what happened with Stelmach they couldn’t risk democracy again. If Gary Mar was the chosen successor, they should have ensured that it happened. Gary Mar could have taken the reigns of the party and simply governed in a clean-cut fashion, reforming the system and avoiding all the in-fighting and entitlement scandals that led to Redford resigning. If he had governed even mildly conservatively, the Wildrose Party would have died in slow-motion. We could have avoided all the drama and public sector paybacks that Redford ensured and the party could have slowly refashioned itself for the future…a future that was soon to be bleak with oil prices crashing in 2014. More continuity and a longer run-up to the problem with an established team led by Mar would have made for a better outcome when the crunch came only two years after the 2012 election.

"Kenney probably needs to go even further with his Nixonian approach if he intends to really correct the mess that Alberta is in."

But let’s accept what happened and keep going.

Redford stepped down and Prentice was drafted. This time the party did what it should have done in 2006 and fixed the election. It was made loud and clear that challengers were not welcome. The former accidental winners were chewed up and spit out and there would be no room for error with the selection this time around. Prentice easily won and looked to be set for an easy win in a general election. Then for some reason he decided to call an early election…subjecting himself to the very democracy that had been messing up the party for the past 9 years. With a fumbling campaign, a rotten party filled with rotten people and a resurrected Wildrose Party splitting the vote, Prentice and the PCs were annihilated, by the NDP of all things!

What should have happened?

Prentice should not have merged with Wildrose. After the byelection losses in the fall of 2014, the Wildrose Party was eating itself alive. He should have governed and allowed them to die. The biggest mistake Prentice made, however, was submitting himself to democracy and calling an early election. Never give up real power when you have it. Prentice could have governed for another year. The party could have spent their resources preparing for that election… all year. Jeopardizing real power for a popularity contest under the auspices of “getting a mandate from the people” is asinine.

Prentice could have massaged his messages and spent some time cleaning up the party. He could have allowed people to adjust to the downturn and made a case for austerity. In October of 2015, Justin Trudeau would have been elected Prime Minister and Prentice could have presented himself as the guy to protect Alberta from the Liberals. He probably would have won in a landslide under those conditions. Tough choices could have been made and Alberta could have avoided the four-year tragedy of an NDP led Alberta. By now the effects of serious governance would likely be felt and Alberta could be on the road to recovery. Prentice would be looking at his second term early next year.

But let’s accept what happened and keep going.

Jason Kenney and the people behind the political scenes, decided to finally leave nothing to chance. They were playing to win. No more pretending that democracy is a real thing. He laid out his plan, got the cash and made it happen regardless of “the rules”. The list is long (and too boring to recount) regarding Kenney’s use of dirtbaggery and freeping and fixing during every step of the process. This darkness to victory is lamented by the progressives who hate him, and normal decent people should be suspicious of banana republic shenanigans, but that’s simply the reality of the world we live in.

These are the new rules.

The old rules in which Jimmy Stewart-style venerations to representative democracy and the decency and honesty that was assumed to go with them, belong in a romanticised past that never really existed. Democracy…real democracy, is a convoluted means to an end. If you can find a way around the convolutions, then all the better.

How corrupt is too corrupt? Well that’s a dangerous game to play, because the stakes get higher the deeper into it you go. For now, Kenney is displaying just the right amount of savvy and moral ambiguity to get done what needs to get done, without unleashing an avalanche of consequences. In order to prevent future disaster, he’s going to have to go much further than he already has. This includes gutting the public sector unions and diminishing, degrading and demoralizing the NDP permanently. It also means killing Wexit before it becomes the next Wildrose Party. This will be difficult because pantomiming action regarding Alberta getting a fair deal isn’t going to be enough. Trying to Kinsella the Wexit movement in the court of public opinion is also likely to backfire.

How far Kenney is willing to go in order to protect Alberta from democracy remains to be seen, but his willingness to go this far is a very good sign indeed. Kenney is a career politician and he knows how to keep his bread buttered. This will have the unfortunate result of making him cuck at the worst of times, but his ability to command despite morals or rules, will likely make him a fixture in the Premier’s office for a very long time. After the past 13 years of chaos, that’s something Albertans can be thankful for.

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