Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Jason Kenney Machine vs. Rachel Notley is not so clear-cut

 #abpoli #ucp #abndp

UCP MLA David Rodney grimaces in feeling the Kenney steamroll-effect in having to step down to make way for new UCP leader Jason Kenney to run in a by-election.    Image courtesy of
Now that longtime Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative MP and cabinet minister Jason Kenney is leader of the Alberta UCP and the leadership hangover has subsided, within a few days later we have already seen:

  • Leadership candidate Brian Jean is left out of UCP caucus roles and unsure of his future
  • Jason Dixon named Official Opposition Leader
  • On day uno of the new legislature session, not even an hour into the session and Premier Rachel Notley was tweeting from her seat passively up to the gallery where Kenney was seated: "We'll stand against UCP’s job-killing, gay-outing, school-cutting, health privatizing, backward-looking, hope-destroying, divisive agenda."
  • Kenney and his supporters were then aggressively counter-tweeting
  • Dave Rodney, MLA for Calgary-Lougheed steps down to make way for Kenney

When Kenney ran for the PC Alberta leadership, "The KennyMachine" used forceful political tactics to steamroll through onto easy wins.  Detractors simply leave the party and get the hell out of the way, leaving no internal dissension and in the end only the true opponent remains in the cross-hairs.  To do that, Kenney did not require much of a platform, touting that the members will decide what that platform will be.  So supposedly, no matter what Kenney's views and statements in the past are on gay marriage, Kenney supporters will back him, because varying opinions are welcome. 

Not including Brian Jean in the caucus, certainly doesn't make the party seem "United" as its namesake, but it sends one of those steamroll messages that its Kenney's party now, and Brian can't do anything to undermine him.

And with Brian aside, that "debate", that political war, will now ramp up like we have never seen before in Alberta and its relatively low-key debate between similar parties opposed to the now polarizing differences in ideology.

Politics and campaigns are about feeling.  Everyone knows that.  How does a candidate make you feel?  We've all seen very capable, intelligent people run with the better and proven policies only to lose to an opponent that made the electorate "feel" better.  (See Harper vs. Trudeau).

That feeling approach is how the federal style of using issues in certain regions to divide and conquer voters on boutique policies like targeted tax policies or social stances is a science unto its own.  Will that same approach work for Kenney and Notley?  I don't believe it will work as well in Alberta, and may backfire.  There just isn't that East vs. West feel between Calgary vs. Edmonton, or urban vs. rural.  After the floods, wildfires, and economic strife, Albertans seem to have pulled together on their own, tearing down the small walls of differences there may have been before.

So Geography aside, there are still lines that can be drawn.  Notley's and Eggan's stance against Catholic schools wanting to form their own policy has the Catholic community reeling.  Perhaps she realized they didn't have their support anyway, so no loss, or it was a mistake and she has alienated them, we will see.

Against Kenney, Notley quickly began the first salvo, not just on Kenney, but on the whole UCP regarding stances on social policies like outing kids in student gay-straight alliances, being anti or pro gay marriage, and supposed health-care privatizing.

If Schweitzer had one, that type of attack would likely not have happened, leaving Notley to go after his clear-cut lower tax policies for businesses and individuals, turning the line into a class war.

However, that would defy her populist campaign that got her in the Premier's chair in the first place, as thousands of longtime PC support folks tired of the 44 years and PC lavish expenses and revolving premier door, bought in to her charisma and "hey we're not socialists" because we don't think "math is hard". 

But now, with a carbon tax she didn't campaign on, and pipelines not happening despite her guarantee of a "social license", Kenney will use his machine to communicate that Notley is out of touch with middle class families, the economy's lagging, carbon tax hurts the poor, she kills jobs and investment, and will likely ignore getting into the social policy debate--defaulting it to the party members to decide because "I listen to the members".   This, despite the UCP's first policy was to support LGBTQ folks--but for that community, there needs to be actions and not words.  He will need to be really careful not to also getting dragged into being anti-government for a government he wants to lead--despite how bloatedly large the government has become in the last two years in "creating jobs".

For the libertarian voter, which is a plurality of the province, the decision will come down to whether how important it is they believe Kenney will make his past social policy stances into law and if they are more damaging to our society than NDP economic policies already in place.

With that, social policy tends to bring out stronger feelings in voters than boring economic ones, and so, whichever party and leader is able to fire up those feelings against the other the most will win.  Trump won because he simply stirred up people's anger against "the elite"--so much so, that it didn't matter what he said, they were angry, and no matter how illogical or hypocritical he was, "this is how I feel" trumped anything else (pun totally intended).

And so for the KenneyMachine to actually beat Notley in 2019, despite the terribly inaccurate polls, with Kenney as leader and his long list of baggage, that outcome is not so clear-cut.


Miles Lunn said...

Fully agree here. The UCP may be the favourites to win in 2019, but I think the arrogance of saying the NDP was an accidental government is quite risky and comes across as arrogant. Alberta is a lot less conservative than it was 20 years ago and millennials who are larger than in most provinces (Alberta has the lowest median age) tend to be much less regionalistic than older voters so what worked well in the past may not here. I think Kenney is still the favourite to be the next premier, but his biggest enemy is complacency in assuming since Alberta has always voted conservative in the past when united, it therefore will in 2019. This may sound counter-intuitive but I actually believe Notley has a better chance of re-election than Wynne does in Ontario. Brown unlike Kenney I think understands Ontario is not naturally a conservative province so he is putting in the effort and doing everything possible to win. By contrast Wynne is wrongly assuming since the Liberals have won the last three elections they were widely expected to lose, she can pull a hat trick and win the fourth forgetting the Liberals won more do to mistakes of their opponents than support of them and Brown seems to be doing everything possible to avoid those mistakes.

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