Medicine Hat News

Could Kenney face the music from his own party?

- GILLIAN SLADE gslade@medicineha­ Twitter: MHNGillian­Slade

Premier Jason Kenney might be more concerned with how the United Conservati­ve Party is viewing him at the moment than with what will happen in the next provincial election.

Jim Groom, political science instructor Medicine Hat College, says whether the public outcry about elected officials travelling outside the country over Christmas and New Year is remembered when voting in the next provincial election, may be a moot point.

“(Historical­ly) premiers in this province don’t lose elections, they’re shown the door by their party,” said Groom, citing examples of Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Ralph Klein of the former Progressiv­e Conservati­ve party.

They were leading majority government­s when their party decided it no longer had confidence in their leadership. Even going back to the days of the Social Credit party, with a majority government under the leadership of William Aberhart, it was the party that decided against him, said Groom.

“We don’t throw out parties, 44 years for the PCs, 35 years for the Social Credit,” said Groom. “We depend on the parties ... to throw them (leaders) out when the time is up ... (based on) how they perceive the public response. They (the party) want power and they throw out their leaders every once in a while.”

Groom says if the UCP considers Kenney to have handled the out of country travel furore badly, they may feel he is not the best leader for the party. They may consider his “chameleon-like” approach in addressing the issue unacceptab­le. Initially Kenney did not appear to understand how upset Albertans were and defended those who had travelled.

Groom says this could also reflect on his handling of the whole COVID pandemic and have party leadership questionin­g whether that is a liability.

“They read the tea leaves of the public sentiment and they may sit down and say, ‘Let’s have a leadership vote at least,’” said Groom.

The Alberta Party is not convinced that all the elected MLAs that travelled out of the country have been exposed and whether Kenney knew about the travel ahead of time.

On Wednesday they asked the NDP, as the official opposition, to file a motion requiring the schedules of all MLAs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 1.

If Kenney was facing a general election the other parties may be less of a threat, said Groom. Strong UCP supporters are not likely to jump ship in favour of the NDP.

“That is too much of an ideologica­l jump in most cases,” said Groom.

If the UCP party is looking for an alternativ­e leader to Kenney there is no obvious person standing in the wings. Groom says it is too early for that person to emerge because Kenney has been in power for a relatively short period.

“Nobody has the savvy, the profile that Kenney has,” said Groom.

This would factor into any discussion the party may have about his leadership.

Kenney’s style has also been one of being loyal to his elected officials and he expects the same loyalty from them.

“It’s the Jason Kenney UCP at this point,” said Groom.

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Jim Groom

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