Braid: Kenney drive NDP from office after epic political odyssey

They arrived on a wind of change in 2015, only to be blown out of office four years later by an even more powerful gale.

Rachel Notley’s New Democrats, with all their dreams and hopes and agonies, succumbed exactly as UCP Leader Jason Kenney said they would, overwhelmed by a united conservative bloc that is once again Alberta’s dominant political force.

It was a genuine thumping, with the UCP winning more than 60 seats, and the New Democrats largely cornered in their Edmonton stronghold. The Alberta Party and Liberals were shut out.

Kenney has been personally demonized in this campaign, but even his most bitter enemies have to recognize the scope of his achievement.

To come back to Alberta from Ottawa, to talk about uniting conservatives, to run for the Progressive Conservative leadership, to win that unlikely prize; then to virtually force successful merger talks with Wildrose; to win the new united party’s leadership, and now to capture the premier’s office — that staggering list is simply unprecedented in Canadian provincial politics.

There is no question that if Kenney hadn’t appeared on the scene, the old Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose would have fought each other for votes once again, probably ensuring another NDP victory Tuesday night.

To do all this, as we’re now aware, Kenney’s people didn’t exactly follow the boy scout manual. The goal was immutable, the means adjustable, and that may yet cause Kenney grief.

But he pulled it off, and Alberta’s political future is in his hands. It will be a wildly different future.

From the day Kenney is sworn in later this month, until the federal election in October, there will be an epic battle with the Justin Trudeau government, and with Premier John Horgan’s NDP in B.C.

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Horgan’s government waited until just before the polls closed to register its approval for Bill C-48, the infamous tanker ban.

That might have been a feeble attempt not to hurt Notley further, on the dawning realization that B.C. has created its own nightmare.

If Horgan had done Notley a few favours in the pipeline dispute, not blocked the project at every turn, perhaps seen a spark of merit in Alberta’s environmental program, last night’s result might have been different.

Now Kenney says his first act as premier will be to proclaim Bill 12, which would allow cuts in gasoline shipments to the Lower Mainland.

And then, we’ll see the deepest conflict with Ottawa since the 1980s, fought in courtrooms and across economic battlefields.

At home, Kenney has a choice to make; he can accommodate his many MLAs who have retrograde social agendas or adapt to the wave of young progressive voters fast replacing the fading boomers. That may determine whether Kenney, like Notley, will be a one-term premier.

Notley’s campaign is already being criticized by some New Democrats for blurring her achievements with personal attacks on Kenney. Those ads and websites certainly created wariness about the premier-designate but failed to reduce UCP support.

The deeper problem, I’ve always thought, is that Notley’s agenda was too aggressive for hard times. There’s a list circulating on social media that shows 258 different government actions since she took office.

But Notley always felt that after 43 years of Tory rule, massive change was necessary. She didn’t really care if it annoyed people.

“There was a lot of pent-up governance needed in Alberta,” she said last week.

“So yeah, maybe it startled some people, but frankly my very presence startled some people, so I might as well give them something to be startled about.”

That she did.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Calgary Herald.

dbraid@postmedia.com

Twitter: @DonBraid

Facebook: Don Braid Politics

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