Monday, July 11, 2016

Does Stephen Harper's endorsement of Jason Kenney make a difference?

 #abpoli #cpc #pcaa

The timing was impeccable. Right in the middle of the Calgary Stampede, at a Conservative event, Stephen Harper endorsed Jason Kenney in his bid to lead the Alberta PCs to merge with the Wildrose Party.  Watch here.

There is no doubt now that the federal Conservatives are and have been actively involved in getting the two parties to merge, as was done federally 13 years ago.

Let's set something straight though--and it's in plain sight.  The Alberta PCs and their federal cousins in the Conservative Party are different.  The Alberta PCs have changed with more emphasis on the "Progressive" moniker in the last 10 years than compared to the more "Conservative" Klein-era.

Let's look at the history, otherwise, we are sure doomed to repeat it.

The PCs elected two leaders that were inside cabinet ministers of a more liberal-bent.  "Steady" Ed Stelmach, who then led the party to a huge victory, was internally dumped for Alison Redford, who also won a comeback victory, but was also internally dumped, but this time for former federal PC leadership candidate and federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice

Prentice, who insiders were hoping would successfully pull Wildrose supporters over, concocted a sneaky backroom deal involving Wildrose MLAs and even the leader Danielle Smith over to the PCs.  But Albertan conservatives didn't like it one bit.

The Wildrose under newbie Brian Jean made a surprising surge in a riding-focused campaign, and the PCs saw their first defeat in 42 years.  Methinks the dumpings weren't smart moves by the old party machine.  And it backfired.  The NDP, of all parties, won.

What's the lesson there?

We then learned that former Reform leader Preston Manning was involved in brokering this deal.  He then later apologized saying it should have been brought to the grassroots.  Of all people, he should know this.  That said, the creation of the Canadian Alliance was only to rid the tarnished Reform name to make it more palatable to Ontario PCs and then the federal PCs to successfully merge the parties.

But let's not forget that the federal Conservatives were successfully led by a former Reform Party MP and many of the Western MPs were from the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties.

They included one Jason Kenney.

Kenney was a Reform MP from back in the mid-90's and part of the "Snack Pack"--the young fresh group of Reform MPs from Alberta including Kenney, Rob Anders, and Rahim Jaffer.  One survived.

As one of my friends in the Alberta PCs keeps reminding me, "provincial politics is not federal politics" and the more I think of it, the more he's spot on.

The Wildrosers are the true cousins of the federal Conservatives, not the Progressive Conservatives. Wildrose leader Brian Jean is a former Conservative MP, where there are numerous Alberta PCs that voted for Trudeau's Liberals.  Why the federal Conservatives believe they can change and influence the Alberta PCs, can only be done through brute-force infiltration, otherwise, again, it will backfire.

It's also why the Reform Party was created in the first place. As the Mulroney PCs ignored the West and vamped up federal spending and taxes, after 12 some-odd years of Pierre Trudeau's disastrous economic policies, Mulroney offered a big change.  It didn't happen. Westerners were mad.

I've also read that provincial party mergers in Alberta law works much differently than federally in that the party with the most money envelopes the "smaller" one.  I've also read that the use of the name Conservative Party of Alberta is a tricky one too.   I'm sure someone will find a legal way around this though.  These may be just stumbling blocks placed there by folks in the PCs who don't want a merger to happen.

Anyway, with Harper's endorsement of Kenney, will it make any difference to the Alberta PCs?

In all honestly, I don't think it changes the minds of those who already have doubt--i.e. the Progressives and Red Tories in the PCs.  They see this as interference and hostile.

But what it does do, is possibly strengthen the Conservatives in the PCs and Wildrose to lay down their arms and join them together if they can see that it could work.

Whether Kenney can convince a majority of the 30 delegates from each riding to do so is another matter.

If this seemingly hostile takeover does happen, and progressives are unable to stop it, it is the best opportunity for the liberalesque Alberta Party and its leader Greg Clark to gain traction from PC defectors.

And it's likely exactly what Kenney and Co. want to happen.

In the immortal words of the first PC Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, "A liberal is a liberal is a liberal."

And it's going to take the progressive liberals to leave the PCs to make it conservative again.


Anonymous said...

Why am I reminded of Joe Clark right about now...

Definitely time for a rebuild, IMHO, and seems to me that Jean and Kenney are the right people to make it happen.

"Alberta Conservative Party" has a nice ring to it.

Al in Cranbrook (who once upon a time lived in Lloydminster)

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