Is Jason Kenney becoming an albatross for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives?
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has enough problems already.
He surely doesn’t need Alberta Premier Jason Kenney making his life — and the probability of turning Conservative fortunes around in Ontario and Quebec — any harder.
But that is exactly what Kenney is doing with his frantic push to position Alberta as an angry, demanding teenager whose threats to run away from home get louder by the day.
Why would more voters in central Canada decide to support Scheer and the Conservatives when Kenney, one of the party’s prominent premiers and surely the party’s alpha male, seems dead set on weakening Alberta’s ties to the federal government in order to humiliate Justin Trudeau no matter the consequences to the rest of the country?
Kenney’s latest salvo is the Fair Deal Panel, a group of mostly conservative Albertans appointed by the government and led by Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party.
They have been mandated to study whether Alberta should:
Establish its own tax revenue collection agency, provincial police force, and an equivalent of the Canada Pension Plan.
Opt out of cost sharing programs such as pharmacare.
Have its own representatives at international treaty negotiations in which Alberta has a stake.
In other words, should Alberta be more like Quebec?
The panel is also mandated to hold seven public meetings between now and Jan. 30. The meetings will no doubt attract rabid separatists who will force more thoughtful Albertans to the sidelines.
This is all in addition to the promised referendum on the controversial equalization formula, which Kenney reminds everyone almost daily always means Quebec profits at Alberta’s expense.
And then of course there is the war room designed to target environmentalists and their sympathizers. The Public Inquiry into anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns intends to unmask more enemies.
It’s not clear how any of this will improve Alberta’s sluggish economy. But maybe that’s the point; if everyone is busy figuring out how to make Alberta more independent they won’t notice that the price of oil is still in the cellar and secure, well-paying jobs in the oilpatch aren’t as plentiful as they used to be.
But as Scheer embarks on his post-election listening tour and picks up ideas from Conservatives about how to improve their chances in the next election, it’s going to be interesting to see how he defends or explains Kenney’s paranoid behaviour.
An attendee at one of the listening sessions might ask: does the Conservative leader believe Canada should now function as a collection of semi-sovereign states, which
Kenney seems to want? How might that gain votes for the party in Ontario and other parts of the country that are not Alberta and Saskatchewan?
Axing the carbon tax secured lots of votes for Scheer in those two provinces but it wasn’t a big seller in other parts of the country.
And given that the federal Conservatives climate change policies were basically a rehash of Kenney’s policies and that two thirds of Canadians voted for parties with much stronger policies, how is Scheer going to strengthen that part of the Conservative platform so it appeals to more Canadians without ticking off Kenney?
The Alberta premier enthusiastically campaigned for Scheer in Toronto’s suburbs during the campaign but the Conservatives didn’t gain any seats there. Scheer’s team didn’t win any seats in Toronto.
Scheer and the Conservatives badly need to win over more Ontario voters if they are ever going to form government.
The Reform Party faced the same problem in the 1990s. It wasn’t until elements of the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives merged under the leadership of Stephen Harper that they were able to break through in Ontario.
Kenney was first elected as a Reformer in 1997. He knows firsthand what a tough fight it was for a Western-based party to gain enough seats in Ontario to form government.
But now rather than help Scheer in the Conservative cause he seems intent on being the albatross around his neck.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.