ED­MON­TON

For­mer fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ter Ja­son Ken­ney has made head­way in his bat­tle to unite Al­berta’s right

Investment Executive - - CONTENTS - BY GE­ORGE KOCH More of Koch’s ar­ti­cles can be read at www.dr­jandmrk.com.

Ja­son Ken­ney’s bid to unite the right in Al­berta is mak­ing progress.

first, they said he couldn’t do it; then, they tried to pre­vent him from try­ing; fi­nally, they said it didn’t mean much.

That’s the con­densed ver­sion of the me­dia and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive As­so­ci­a­tion of Al­berta (PC) party nar­ra­tive con­cern­ing Ja­son Ken­ney’s im­prob­a­ble bid for the party’s lead­er­ship. This past spring, Ken­ney won a thump­ing vic­tory with sup­port from more than 75% of the del­e­gates. He is in the midst of a (so far) suc­cess­ful ef­fort to unite the PC’s rem­nants with the Wil­drose Party. Fol­low­ing a de­ci­sive July vote on the is­sue, the two par­ties have been merged un­der a new ban­ner, the United Con­ser­va­tive Party. This will be fol­lowed by a lead­er­ship cam­paign in Oc­to­ber, then tak­ing on Premier Rachel Not­ley of the New Demo­cratic Party (NDP).

The re­main­ing half of Not­ley’s fouryear term may seem like an eter­nity to the more than 100,000 — some say it is closer to 200,000 — who lost their jobs since she came to power, to busi­ness­peo­ple, to en­ergy in­dus­try work­ers, to in­vestors and to the rest of the 75% of Al­ber­tans whom the polls say don’t sup­port the NDP. But for Ken­ney, who held se­nior port­fo­lios un­der for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, there’s a heck of a lot to get done in the two years un­til the next pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

Ken­ney’s lead­er­ship cam­paign was es­sen­tially a pitch di­rectly to the PC grass­roots for a man­date to pur­sue a merger with the Wil­drose Party via a two-party mem­ber­ship ref­er­en­dum. His rea­son­ing was sim­ple: the Wil­drose and PCs col­lec­tively com­mand 65% of Al­ber­tans’ sup­port, but nei­ther party is strong enough to guar­an­tee un­seat­ing Not­ley. Unite and we can write that guar­an­tee, Ken­ney told PC mem­bers.

Sheer en­nui within the PC or­ga­ni­za­tion was another fac­tor. The ma­chine that ran Al­berta for 44 years proved to be a burnt-out shell: its of­fi­cials mostly wor­ried about their own jobs; its ac­tivists ex­hausted or gone; its fundrais­ing had dried to a trickle; and ri­val lead­er­ship can­di­dates barely went through the mo­tions. While PC party bosses, mostly holdovers from the left-lean­ing “Red Tory” fac­tion, threw up suc­ces­sive ob­sta­cles — even try­ing to dis­qual­ify Ken­ney from the cam­paign — his mo­men­tum only grew.

At the con­ven­tion, Ken­ney talked about lead­ing an Al­berta that’s “a com­pas­sion­ate so­ci­ety that un­der­stands wealth can­not be re­dis­tributed to the least for­tu­nate un­less that wealth is cre­ated through hard work in the first place.” But first, he also said, vot­ers have to un­seat a “gov­ern­ment that takes its in­spi­ra­tion from the failed the­o­ries of so­cial­ism: by a re­sent­ment of suc­cess, a dis­trust of en­ter­prise, a mis­taken be­lief that a pow­er­ful state is a greater force for good than strong fam­i­lies and free women and men.”

Ken­ney aims to fol­low the path mapped by Harper, whose first task as fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive leader also was to bring to­gether two war­ring par­ties. With a Lib­eral prime min­is­ter who re­cently de­clared that Al­berta’s eco­nomic lifeblood, the oil­sands, should be “phased out” and a premier who might well se­cretly agree (the NDP hav­ing levied a car­bon tax — the largest tax in­crease in Al­berta’s his­tory), the prov­ince’s next elec­tion can’t come a mo­ment too soon.

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