Kenney meets with constituency association members
When we’re in government, said United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney to the party faithful in Slave Lake on Feb. 17, Northern Alberta will be the heart of Alberta. Northern Albertans are the toughest of the tough, he continued, buttering up his audience.
Kenney was indulging in plain old politicking, crafting his message to what he thought his listeners wanted to hear. If he’d been speaking in Lethbridge, it likely would have been quite similar, but with the ‘Northern’ swapped for ‘Southern.’
That aside, the new UCP boss certainly appears confident in his party’s chances in the next provincial election, not to say downright cocky. Perhaps he has reason to be.
“According to the polls, the UCP is the most popular party in Canada,” Kenney said.
The day after I’m elected, he continued, a carbon tax repeal bill gets introduced (applause from the audience). Another Day 1 pledge: appoint a “Minister of Deregulation, whose sole focus is on cutting red tape.”
In other words – Alberta will be ‘open for business’ again, after what Kenney calls “the NDP’s attack on our economy.”
Joining the current provincial government in the Kenney ‘bad guys’ book are the federal government, the governments of B.C. and Quebec, Venezuelans, Saudis, Qataris and pretty much anybody that can be blamed for obstructing Alberta’s oil industry.
“It’s a moral question,” he said. “Qataris and Venezuelans don’t care about the environmental impact of oil. They also don’t care about human dignity and labour rights.”
His point was that Albertans do care about those things; therefore our oil is better than their oil.
But there are these obstacles to getting our oil to market. Kenney sounds ready to go to war on that point. He noted that B.C. natural gas gets to U.S. markets via Alberta, toll-free – something that he said needs to be looked at. Quebec – an opponent of new pipelines carrying Alberta oil – benefits greatly from Alberta oil wealth via transfer payments. A Kenney-led government would force a constitutional discussion on the equalization system, he promised.
“We must fight back,” Kenney said.
Hosting Kenney was the fledgling Lesser Slave Lake UCP Constituency Association, which had held its first annual general meeting just a few days before. Elected as chair was Ken Vanderwell, with Gordon Ferguson as treasurer. Other executive members are Paul George, Shirley Torresan-Chykerda, Jerry Wallsten, Susan Giesbrecht and Marion Leonard. Serving as directors are Tyler Warman, Brice Ferguson, Kirsty Boissoneault, Wayne Sharko, Rodney Cardinal, Bonnie Nash, Colin Parada, Brian Rosche, Shane Knutson, JD Dennis, Irene Salisbury, Ray Juneau and Jim Sparks.
Kenney encouraged the association to start beating the bushes for people who might be willing to put their names forward to represent the party in Lesser Slave Lake in the next election. The process of actually choosing a candidate won’t officially start until after the party convention in Red Deer this spring.
“We’re going to need strong people,” Kenney said, “to undo the damage of this government.”
Lesser Slave Lake United Conservative Party Constituency Association board members with provincial party leader Jason Kenney, at the Slave Lake Inn on Feb. 17. Pictured left to right are Gordon Ferguson, Paul George, Tyler Warman, ShirleyTorresan-Chykerda, Kenney, Brice Ferguson, Kirsty Boissoneault, Susan Giesbrecht and Wayne Sharko.