The metaphor of a marathon doesn’t begin to describe the journey Jason Kenney embarked upon to become Alberta’s 18th premier with a resounding majority government, making the Alberta NDP the only one-term government in the province’s 114-year history.
Even an Ironman metaphor doesn’t adequately symbolize the onerous odyssey that Kenney has undertaken to ensure Premier Rachel Notley’s “job-killing” government was “one and done.”
One must go back two years, nine months and 11 days to July 6, 2016. That’s when Kenney announced he would seek the leadership of Alberta’s moribund Progressive Conservative party, with the aim of seeking unity with the Wildrose Party to stop splitting the small-c conservative vote that made the Notley government a reality on May 5, 2015.
On March 18, 2017, Kenney won the PC party leadership with 75 per cent of the vote.
Without so much as a pause, he took to the road in his Tory-blue pickup truck, criss-crossing the province, reminding members of both parties that unity was the only way to reclaim the mantle of power and restore business-friendly, job-creating policies.
On July 22, 2017, PC and Wildrose members voted 95 per cent in favour of merging.
But a new political battle was immediately upon Kenney. On Oct. 28 of that same momentous year, after a tough battle with former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, Kenney became the United Conservative Party’s first leader on the first ballot with a resounding 61 per cent of the vote.
Then, in the Dec. 14, 2017, Calgary-Lougheed byelection, in which he battled a doctor for the NDP and Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan, Kenney garnered a whopping 71.5 per cent of the votes. He’s grown accustomed to such dominant winning percentages — he also won seven federal election campaigns, starting in 1997, most with similarly commanding majorities.
And now he has decisively won this election. That’s five campaigns fought and won in less than three years. It’s nothing short of a political miracle on the Prairies.
Might he take a bit of a rest? That’s apparently not part of his plan. Kenney intends to call a special sitting of the legislature to begin what has been called the “Summer of Repeal,” reversing many NDP signature policies, including scrapping the carbon tax, lowering corporate taxes, reversing Notley’s changes to the Power Purchase Arrangements that have cost Albertans $2 billion, firing anti-Alberta oil activists from the Alberta Energy Regulator, and the list goes on.
Kenney’s first order of business is to let the world know that Alberta is “open for business” again, that the only way taxes and red tape are going is down, something he made clear in his Tuesday night acceptance speech in Calgary — which included a portion in French, clearly directed at Quebecers.
Regardless of the signals Kenney sends to investors, capital will not come rushing back into Alberta as fast as it fled under Notley’s disastrous policies that have led to more than 170,000 unemployed Albertans. As long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Bills C-69 and C-48 are not scrapped or fundamentally changed, capital will stay away.
Over the past year and a half, Notley tried desperately to paint herself as a champion of pipelines. Albertans didn’t buy it because it wasn’t true.
Notley was a proponent of just one pipeline — Trans Mountain — but she actively fought against Northern Gateway, which had been approved by the NEB and passed in the House of Commons under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, only to be killed by Trudeau.
The oilpatch never forgot or forgave Notley for that betrayal. Albertans knew Notley’s anti-pipeline leopard spots were barely covered under her designer blazers. That she only limply objected to the rule changes that crushed Energy East — which would have sent Alberta crude east to replace OPEC oil travelling by tankers down the St. Lawrence Seaway — was, frankly, the final nail in Notley’s premiership coffin.
During this campaign, which Notley made intensely vitriolic, the legitimacy of Kenney’s decisive leadership victory for the UCP has been called into question as a result of what’s been dubbed the kamikaze candidate scandal.
So hungry are suffering Albertans for relief, this controversy scarcely resonated with voters, as Tuesday night’s results indicate.
Shortly after Kenney won the UCP leadership vote in 2017, he said: “I just realized that you cannot have a viable national conservative movement if Alberta becomes a socialist democratic province. We need Alberta back as the beating heart of free enterprise and the conservative movement in Canada.”
That beating heart is back, it’s fit and it’s ready to battle countless marathons ahead of it to stand up for Alberta.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia opinion columnist. email@example.com
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