I am not particularly interested in the race for the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership race and have not tracked polls, the issues or know or care when the vote will be occurring. What I do pick up on when something rises above the white noise of the Alberta right is that there is an arrogant inevitability about Jason Kenney’s campaign. He is campaigning directly against the NDP government rather than any of his opponents and that is well within his rights and it is not the first time such a strategy has been adopted in a leadership campaign.
Despite my disregard, I regularly see posts from his campaign appear on social media and I'm regularly invited to like his posts or follow the campaign; an indication that the algorithmic nuance of his social media campaign is set somewhere between zero and absolute zero. I have the most fleeting of temptations of following the campaign, but I have scanned enough vitriolic message boards on topics that I anticipated benign discussion to quash the notion rapidly. The amped up anxiety of those who have believed the Alberta is the divine right purview of conservatives and that the province needs to be taken back - in time, I ask myself - in order for it to proceed down the road to oil riches that Alberta travelled so well for so long. The unstated fallacy being that the election of a UCP government would see the consequent recovery of the price of oil the day after the election and that the “normalcy” the Albertans perceived as their right would be restored. The oil patch would be revitalized, the biweekly Fort Mac-Newfoundland commuter conveyor would restart, there'd be a pipeline in every kitchen… er… direction and our property values would rise again.
The splinter issue of gun control is more likely to get certain groups out of a space of calming sitting through the debate of a campaign and get everyone on edge about the dearth of meaningful dialogue, the conduct of politicians in general and disengage voters who want a civil, detailed and clear campaign about significant issues rather while energizing voters who have clear hot button issues that will bring them out to campaign events and shout down the civilized dialogue and discussion of policies about the future of Alberta rather than a gilding of the good old days that are out of reach and require vision, an ability to negotiate collaboratively, a focus on building communities the appeal to families and potential investors. You can already see the campaign trail silliness of a UCP hack heckling a suburban NDP candidate about the National Energy Board as if it were 1979 and disbanding the NEB was something that the candidate was solely responsible for and the move would restore the price of oil to $140 a barrel. Mr. Kenney, with his talk in the past about firewalls and his assertion that he can renegotiate the equalization formula with Ottawa seems more intent on delivering a deftly managed federal campaign for 1997 than he is in putting forward a vision for governing a diverse, increasingly urban and urbanist Alberta in the 2020’s. The firewalls sound more like the musing of a boy in his shorts wanting to keep his treehouse safe from girls than the musings of a former Minister of Immigration or Minister of Defense who ought to be drawing on his experience of how permeable reality is and how we need to be responsive and nimble in the face of not only threats but opportunities as well. Instead he will argue that his party will need more funds to keep that reality away or hold off the rationally stated fact or valid argument that he cannot contend with
He is not offering anything of substance that pertains to running the province and leveraging the resources that are available in the Premier’s office in Edmonton. Should he assume the Premier’s seat after the next general election, there is the strong possibility that he will go into Stephen Harper's mode of constant campaign and keep the electorate’s attention away from his lack of vision for the future of the province or his administrative skills and strive to divide Albertans or mislead them with rhetoric, much like the recent comments about a left-wing hate machine — such mature a contribution to discourse about Alberta politics — that is in full churn against him. Refusing to allow Mr. Kenney’s campaigning to go unchallenged by the facts is not the work of a hate machine, it is an assertion that we must live and agree to be governed within the realm of reality rather than the illusions and rhetoric that serves an aspirant on the campaign trail.
Despite the focus of Mr. Kenney's campaign, he will not become the Premier of Alberta, the Prime Minister of Canada or the lead rodeo clown in Ponoka. He will be the leader of the UCP, a group that has its roots nourished by supporters of some of the most narrow-minded and divisive politicians to sit in the provincial legislature over the last decade. In light of the misogyny they have targeted the Premier with since the NDP formed the government and the distasteful ways they have attempted to dehumanize members of the current provincial government and the diverse constituencies they attempt to represent there will be an attempt by the UCP to run a campaign similar to one we saw a year ago south of the border, and only because it worked.