As elec­tion stakes rise, so does the dis­sent in Ken­ney’s UCP

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - 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.

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