Commentary by Gord Fortin
The United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney made his way to Slave Lake during the Family Day long weekend to speak with constituents.
There is no doubt that those unsatisfied, putting it quite mildly, with the current provincial government came out to see what Kenney and the UCP itself is all about. One does not have to be psychic to see that the chances of Rachel Notley’s NDP government have long odds to overcome in the next election.
That being said, the UCP needs to be careful. Despite what any supporter or party member can say about the NDP, the UCP is an unproven commodity in politics and there is more to it. The UCP needs to prove that the past is in the past.
The UCP is the result of the merger of the Alberta Progressive Conservative (PC) Party and the Wildrose Party. The Wildrose originated, ironically, from an ideological split with the PCs. This was due to the perceived shift to the left the PCs were making after Ralph Klein. So like it or not, the UCP needs to prove that these ideological differences are ancient history. This will be harder than anyone cares to admit. Again the split happened for a reason and those reasons didn’t just go away.
The merger happened just last year. The Wildrose and the PCs have been fighting with each other for the majority of the Wildrose’s existence. Ideological differences don’t just magically go away because Jason Kenney, a former cabinet minister for the Stephen Harper Government, decided to enter provincial politics, and, recreate the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
The UCP is at risk of counting their chickens before they hatch. Personally I think the merger was too much of a risk. The Wildrose had nothing to gain from the merger. All they were doing to marrying themselves to the unpopular PCs who were perceived to be corrupt. The PCs had everything to gain in the marriage.
I think Kenney may be overestimating his popularity as well. It was not too long ago that Alberta was facing hardship over the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Kenney was the minister involved in making changes to that program and those changes angered local businesses.
I was at the local paper in Edson at the time, where I heard a town councillor call out by name both Harper and Kenney over this at a regular town council meeting publicly. This councillor said those two Alberta MPs left Alberta high and dry. Sure this is four to five years ago now, which in politics might as well be a lifetime, but voters have way longer memories than anyone ever gives them credit for.
Ultimately the next provincial election results for the UCP will likely not surprise me. I can easily see them win and just as easily see them lose. Time will tell. In the end these concerns may be largely irrelevant if the NDP is as unpopular as Internet message forums would have you believe.
All I know is, I do not like my options. I was repulsed by Jason Kenney and blatant pandering to Albertans. The NDP is not a party I can get behind either. The Liberals are a non-factor and the Alberta Party is too small to really have an effect at this point.