Jason Kenney Is Not Finished

June 6th, 2021 | RR

Despite it all, Jason Kenney will likely survive not only his first term as premier of Alberta, but a second term. It sounds far-fetched to a lot of people who have given Kenney a failing grade on his handling of the pandemic, but we have to remember what kind of province Alberta was under the NDP. Come the next election, when this pandemic is long over, Albertans will remember what poor shape their province was in before the pandemic was even a reality. When it comes down to it, timing and history are both on Jason Kenney's side.

Rachel Notley's NDP were notorious not only for their hypocrisy, but their history of attacks on Alberta's economy and energy industry. Pre-government, most of Notley's caucus were crazy Marxists and anti-pipeline crusaders. The party's biases against ordinary, rural Albertans and energy sector workers came through in their policies and in their failure to go to bat for Alberta's economy. The NDP's policies had an overall negative impact on Alberta's fortunes, while digging the province deeper into debt. When this pandemic ends and the economy opens up, Alberta's market will surge back and Kenney's pro-pipeline and pro-business policies will be a blessing for most voters.

Jason Kenney is one of the most competent and politically literate politicians in Canadian history. He knows how to win, how to manage an economy and how to beat the NDP. Underestimating him at any point between now and the next election would be a mistake.

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As any politically literate person knows, the first two years of a term are when the most unpopular policies are enacted and when a fairly new government can recover from a series of scandals. It gives the electorate time to forgive and forget. As of April, Kenney's government surpassed the two year mark of safety, but the pandemic is almost over and his government has a chance to own all of the successes that happen for the next two years.

The next election won't happen until spring of 2023, giving the Kenney government ample time to push through popular policies and to undo all of the negativity that was generated by the lockdowns and his handling of the pandemic.

Kenney may not win in another landslide, but he will win.

It's Kenney Or The NDP

Albertans voted in historic numbers to unseat Rachel Notley and her band of socialist dipshits. Alberta's drive to unseat the socialists brought the voter turnout up 10% from the previous election and gave Kenney's UCP an historic, landslide majority. Unless Albertan's forget the damage done by NDP policies during the global collapse in oil prices, chances are that their lack of passion for Kenney's UCP won't be enough to keep them at home on election day.

Voter turnout won't be near what it was in 2019, but 2023 will put Kenney back into office.

A healthy 30-35% of Albertans will always support the NDP, but a strong majority of Albertans will not. The 2019 election gave us a big enough sample size to indicate which way a majority of the province leans. More than 54% of Alberta voters rejected Notley's government after one term and a majority have soundly accepted a more pro-business, old fashioned Alberta approach.

Albertan's have experienced vote-splitting and the devastating results it can produce. The NDP was given a majority government directly because of vote-splitting among the right leaning, conservative parties. Combined, the Wildrose and PC vote in 2015 was just over 774,000, or 169,000 more than the NDP. Had it not been for that divide, the NDP would not have won a majority government. However, it's good that they did—that is, if Albertans have actually learned anything from it.

Some may argue that Kenney's UCP is nothing more than a re-branding of the old, corrupt Progressive Conservatives. If they truly believe that, they will still show up to vote for the UCP. There are still some old Wildrose crusaders inside the party and the UCP has, in fact, adopted some old Wildrose policies. In the end, Albertans will choose the lesser evil because the risks of revisiting the NDP era are too great.

Jason Kenney knows all of this.

Strong Policies And A Surging Economy

By this fall, if all goes well, Jason Kenney will begin his work to regain the trust of Albertans, particularly his conservative base. Yes, the same base he criticized in a leaked conference call. The pandemic was an unpredictable and frustrating quagmire for Kenney, given Alberta's unique political climate, but in a few short months, Albertans will be heading back to work and the recovery will begin.

Alberta has experienced the lowest of lows over the past two years. At this point, even a return to the pre-pandemic months of 2019 would feel better than where we are now. It is inevitable that the economy will surge back into business when the restrictions lift and that the unemployment rate will finally begin to fall back down to pre-pandemic levels—which, again, will look like a miracle and be a welcomed sight for most Albertans.

Any return to normalcy will improve the mood of most Albertans and, therefore, improve their hope for the future—and, therefore, also improve their trust in Jason Kenney's government.

"Albertan's have experienced vote-splitting and the devastating results it can produce."

If Kenney can stack some pro-business policies and tax cuts on top of that post-pandemic bump, he will be laughing his way right into a second term. If his policies are successful at bringing down the unemployment rate and revitalizing Alberta's economy, his poll numbers will shift back into majority territory by the winter of 2022 and the NDP's temporary pandemic bump will wither away quickly.

Make no mistake about it, Kenney is smart enough to do all of this and competent enough to do it well.

If Not Kenney, Then Who?

There are those who think Kenney should resign and that someone else should take the reins of the UCP. The only problem is, there are few options. Here at Poletical, it has been suggested that Stephen Harper would be a good fit, but that might be a grandiose pipe dream. Harper would first need to be willing to get back into the fray and willing to take a demotion from prime minister to premier. Unless he doesn't have a whole world of other opportunities, or retirement waiting in the wings, it's an unlikely scenario.

By the next election, there could be a third high profile opponent on the provincial scene, with Naheed Nenshi taking the reins of the Alberta Party. There has been no official word or speculation, but I wouldn't count him out. Regardless, having been premier once, Rachel Notley is a very high calibre opponent, so if Kenney were to resign, a big name would need to take his place to keep the UCP in government. Against Notley and her united socialists alone, the UCP needs a strong and competent leader. Having Nenshi in the mix could change the game and bleed moderate support from both the UCP and NDP. In such a case, Nenshi could squeeze out a slim victory for the Alberta Party and put the province into a whole new kind of nightmare.

With a weak, low profile leader, the UCP could give the next election to the NDP or to a Nenshi-led Alberta Party.

The next election has no room for experiments. Albertans will need to suck it up and support Jason Kenney again—which I have no doubt they will. All of this pandemic fuss will pass and when Alberta's economy hits new highs next spring, all of it will be forgotten and forgiven. If Kenney wants to right some more wrongs and double his chances of re-election, he should welcome Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen back into the caucus. As well, he should pass strong legislation that protects free speech, individual property rights and Alberta's autonomy.

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