By Ryan Dahlman
The clinking of “(Puck) Kenney” coffee mugs across many coffee tables happened May 19 with the early evening May 18 news one of the most divisive Alberta premiers in recent memory stated he was resigning as premier.
Current United Conservative party leader and premier Jason Kenney got the 51.4 per cent of the 34,000-plus mail-in ballots cast on a leadership review for the party, Kenney indicated his plans for resignation.
With the now infamous statement to a small gathering of supporters in Calgary’s Spruce Meadows, Premier Jason Kenney quipped. “The result is not what I hoped for, or frankly expected.”
With the 51 per cent being legally enough to hold onto leadership, Kenney decided that extra .4 per cent wasn’t enough of a mandate and perhaps looked for a reason to gracefully (?) bow out.
Other than his old boys club’s bros on cabinet, the seemingly contrite announcement was met with the same enthusiasm with his many detractors pro and non-UCP supporters alike. Think of a high school-aged student learning the parents were going away for the weekend, it’s party-time.
There was literally instant jubilation from many on social media who were thrilled. Everyone has their reasons: the fact he waged war with medical unions, the argument he pushed for private health care, the criticism on how the pandemic situation was handled medically, socially or economically.
Some saw Kenney as too lax with his inner government discipline, cabinet ministers and inner circle. Who could forget the rooftop meeting with the UCP bros during the pandemic, reports and complaints of certain cabinet ministers conduct in the legislature or the members of Caucus who went on out-of-country vacations.
Of course the public outcry on the contradiction of what the government was telling the public about travelling and vacationing out of province/country at the time was enormous. Of course Kenney pleaded innocence about the greedy self-indulgence in not knowing which in itself was alarming.
There are others that saw him cater to his friends in the oil patch (hello Energy Centre, payouts to petroleum companies, Keystone pipeline fiasco), his pushing of coal mining in southwest Alberta and cater to those who disliked unions and anyone who disagreed with him. Public relations people and Kenney’s staff openly getting into vigorous disagreements with those in social media or just plainly being toxic on social media with no repercussions.
There are those who lost who lost trust even from when he was first elected through a voting process riddled with controversy.
However, the problem with Kenney is that he is a walking contradiction. Super lax with his friends, but extremely controlling with everyone else, even with his resigning.
Controlling the message was important so unless he or one of his trusted people i.e. Shandro was addressing publicly a policy, it seemed like there was no communication unless it was strictly filtered. It could be part of the Conservative way (i.e. Stephen Harper initiated this new one-sided relationship in public and news relations).
Hence while has resigned, he will stay on until the actual leadership race is done.
Kenney will resign the leadership so there is a race but the fact that he won’t actually step away until he is good darn ready tells you a lot about his lack of willingness to give up control on anything.
One Calgary provincial politics pundit even suggested Kenney may even run again if he thinks he can rebuild his standing within caucus and/or the province.
Well some have suggested that Kenney’s resignation is actually a bad thing for the NDP because of the entire province’s personal dislike, they should be reminded of the last leadership campaign.
It was a disaster, it was anything but united. This will be the same.
The mere presence of Kenney lingering around generating bad blood, not to mention the usual Alberta right’s usual practice for acting like a school of hungry piranhas when it comes to those with their own party.
Kenney was a lousy leader undoubtedly, the worst in the sense of his arrogance, smugness, and the discombobulated approach to leading the province by causing turmoil and division by throwing smoke bombs and then running during what was one of the more challenging times in Alberta’s history. Mind games, gaslighting, whatever you want to call it, this is the biggest pile of divisiveness he has created yet.
However, those who believe that the UCP’s troubles are over are sadly mistaken. Kenney isn’t going anywhere yet. Leadership vultures such as Danielle Smith and Brian Jean along with possibilities such as Doug Schweitzer, Travis Toews and Rebecca Schulz will have that Kenney cloud cast over them….lightning bolts on stand by.
Kenney isn’t done yet. The Battle for Alberta has just begun as the province watches hockey’s Battle of Alberta.