There is a lot of action behind the scenes within the Alberta government.
Gone are the days when the biggest controversies were six old boys club buddies sitting on the roof of Sky Palace without masks, enjoying a gourmet meal during a pandemic. Not great optics. What’s worse now is even uglier optics which went from a steady trickle of numerous political faux pas to a tidal wave of facepalming, heart racing and anger-inducing blunders.
Jason Kenney is not only the least popular premier in all of Canada (down nine per cent to 22 per cent who like the job he is doing, according to a recent Angus Reid poll), he is not popular within his own party.
In his never-ending strategy of buying time (gave oil industry millions-bust; waited to the last minute on many pandemic-related restrictions until it was too late; not addressing the controversy with the reports of drinking and bullying with staff), just to name a few.
He was also in trouble when he stated he was in constant contact with Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw, though he took a vacation and was not around when COVID-19 cases were spiking. The NDP say “according to a Nov. 3 letter from Executive Council to the Opposition, there was no email correspondence whatsoever between the Premier’s Office and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health during that period.”
It was also released by Health Minister Jason Copping that 15,000 Albertans had their surgeries delayed or cancelled in August during the fourth wave of COVID-19. Naturally, Kenney threw Hinshaw under the bus suggesting she had more power to make decisions during that time, which was a different take in 2020 when he said everything had to be cleared through he and then health minister Tyler Shandro. Shandro has been all but invisible since he changed portfolios.
Ugly, real ugly. The legislature sounds like a dysfunctional frat house where the walls of the legislature are getting worn out as politicians and bureaucrats keep their backs tight against the wall so they aren’t stabbed in their backs with all the knives thrown.
Kenney was able to divert talk of a leadership review until January as he tries to buy some more time to figure all of this out, but it is giving time for those who don’t like him to overthrow him and thus get someone in place before the next election which is scheduled for no later than between March 1 and May 31, 2023.
However, in the shadows rises a challenger — Brian Jean. Word is he is trying to find a constituency to run in to have a seat in the legislature. Jean, you will remember lost to Kenney in the UCP leadership under suspicious circumstances. In the end, Kenney received 61.2 per cent of the leadership and Jean (31.5 per cent) and Doug Schweitzer (7.3 per cent).
Herein lies the problem from the UCP, there is a danger the old never-ending problem comes in. It is the Conservatives versus the Wildrose all over again and again and again… The infamous crossing over of the Wildrosers to the Conservatives (waving at former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith) and now a former Wildrose leader Brian Jean could take over. The thing to remember is that within its own party those who are Conservative (moderately right-wing) and the Wildrosers (who are extremely right-wing) begrudgingly work together, but deep down don’t like or trust each other. Hence, this is why you have so many issues with leadership and direction.
Jean has leadership experience, but will the likes of Schweitzer, or others who were considered, but ultimately declined like Leela Aheer (who has been recently critical of Kenney); Ric McIver (very silent); or even Rona Ambrose (does she miss politics) consider running if and when Kenney is shown the door.
Hard to know, this is why politics can be fascinating. The amount of emotion that has been created through some questionable, anger-inducing and sometimes tragic decisions made by the leadership has necessitated a review by the UCP hierarchy.
Watch the political manoeuvring, who says what and who stays silent… people may despise Kenney, but does this party have anyone who can take charge? They will have a few months to figure it out and a few years to see if it will work.