As election stakes rise, so does the dissent in Kenney’s UCP
Some Alberta fantasists thought provincial conservatives would truly unite after the mass floorcrossings of 2014, or the formation of the United Conservative Party in 2017.It was not to be. Maybe it will never be.Our homegrown conservatives are born to brawl. They’re at it right up to the eve of a crucial provincial election call.One regular theme is unhappiness with Jason Kenney’s leadership. The stories are edging beyond traditional conservative crankiness to become a genuine challenge for Kenney and the UCP.This list is getting too long to brush off.Rick Strankman, UCP MLA for Drumheller- Stettler, quit the party caucus Tuesday to sit as an independent.“The hyper-partisan, self-centred policies we see at play today in Alberta has degenerated the direct grassroots representation to a point where their best interests are being put behind unwritten party interests,” he said.Almost instantly, UCP Leader Jason Kenney noted that Strankman had lost his riding nomination to Nate Horner, of the storied Horner political clan that includes Jack, Doc, Ralph, Norval, Doug, etc.“We always knew that having open, democratic nominations would create some tensions within the party,” Kenney said.Sour grapes are fermenting, obviously.But the tensions often bring claims that Kenney is dictatorial. Derek Fildebrandt, for instance, says the leader told him flatly that he would not be allowed to compete against fellow MLA Leela Aheer.Fildebrandt — plenty controversial enough all by himself — went off to form his own Freedom Conservative Party.There were no riding stakes for Ian Donovan, though. The former MLA simply quit the party’s board on the weekend.“If I feel (something) is crooked and corrupt, if I’m sitting there watching it still happen, I’m just as bad as what’s going on because I’m not doing anything about it,” he told Postmedia. Donovan was especially concerned about allegations that UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway, who withdrew from that race, was advancing Kenney’s interests by denigrating Brian Jean. Callaway denies it.The UCP quickly dismissed Donovan as one of the Wildrose floor-crossers to the PCs who paid the price by losing in 2015.But until this week he was, for heaven’s sake, a member of the UCP board.Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson has filed a complaint with Elections Alberta, saying some of the same people caught on recordings about the Callaway matter tampered with his riding campaign.In Calgary-East there have been allegations of bribery, signed by five candidates who lost to the campaign of Peter Singh. The party is investigating and a resolution is expected soon.In Calgary- Greenway, MLA Prab Gill quit the UCP caucus after a report found he manipulated ballots. Later, he claimed the charges aren’t true and began criticizing Kenney.To cap this latest round, 17 members of the Calgary-Falconridge riding association quit last weekend.A letter to the party said: “Instead of grassroots participation, we have suffered from top-down dictatorial behaviour on the part of party officials and employees.”Former Wildrose leader Jean, who lost the UCP leadership to Kenney, put up a surprising Facebook post Monday, saying that “none of our political leaders understand the current anger of Albertans — Albertans want a ‘mad as hell’ party, that isn’t going to take it anymore.”Conservatives can rightly point to NDP embarrassments — MLA Robyn Luff ’s cry that she was bullied and bossed around in the NDP caucus, and Karen McPherson’s defection to the Alberta Party, where she is increasingly critical of the government.The NDP has also been uncharacteristically secretive about allegations of sexual harassment against two unnamed MLAs.But for sheer volume, there’s nothing to match the UCP noisemaking.After the 2015 election loss, most Alberta conservatives wanted a united party. Whether they have one now is open to serious doubt.Instead of grassroots ... we have suffered from top-down dictatorial behaviour on the part of party officials and employees.
Unhappiness about Jason’s Kenney leadership is getting too loud to brush off any more, writes Don Braid.
© PressReader. All rights reserved.