February 25th, 2020

Alberta back in conservative hands; the Jason Kenney era begins

By medicinehatnews on April 17, 2019.

Welcome to the Jason Kenney era of politics in Alberta.

It has been a long journey for the 50-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who served as a federal MP for a Calgary riding for 19 years and was a prominent member of the Stephen Harper cabinet in a number of roles, including minister of immigration and, later, defence.

But in 2017, he came back to Alberta to rescue this long-time conservative province from what his party’s followers call the scourge of the leftist New Democrats, who had shocked the province in 2015 by taking advantage of perceived arrogance by the governing Conservatives — not to mention significant Wildrose-Conservative vote-splitting on the right side of the political spectrum — to form government in what had always been the most conservative of conservative provinces.

So while Kenney has come home, now so has Alberta, whose most comfortable home is on the right.

After taking leadership of the Conservative Party in early 2017 and then spearheading the dissolution of both the Wildrose and Conservative parties, the Kenney-led United Conservative Party rose from the ashes of those two, with the new leader promising a restoration of true Alberta values.

Alberta voters endorsed that approach Tuesday by giving Kenney and his band an overwhelming majority government.

The UCP’s election campaign mantra was “jobs, the economy and pipelines,” three trigger words that boiled it down to make it easy for voters to understand. The UCP continually lobbed grenades that said jobs had been lost under the Rachel Notley government, that the economy was struggling, some of it due to what the UCP called the ‘tax grab’ carbon tax that was the centrepiece of the Notley rule, and that no pipelines had been built in Alberta under the Notley watch and Alberta’s wealth-producing oil was not able to produce big profits as a result. Kenney and the UCP also regularly mentioned Notley’s close association with Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals, as if the two were scheming to wreck Alberta’s economy by stifling the construction of pipelines.

Kenney has promised quick action. The first item on the agenda, he says, will be the “Carbon Tax Repeal Act” which he claims will spur the economy simply because Albertans will have more disposable income. He says Alberta will join other provinces in the lawsuit against the federal government to ensure the federally imposed carbon tax never violates Alberta’s boundaries. He says he will “turn off the taps” for energy currently flowing to B.C. if that province doesn’t co-operate in getting pipelines built.

Locally, Medicine Hat returned totally to its conservative birthright, electing both UCP candidates — Drew Barnes in Cypress-Medicine Hat and Michaela Glasgo in Brooks-Medicine Hat. Barnes and New Democrat Bob Wanner had represented this area for the past four years. Barnes, who has been a key ally of Kenney’s from the start, is likely to get a prominent position in the new government’s cabinet — perhaps even the high-profile finance minister. It would give Medicine Hat more government clout and would also help to smooth relations between the province and city officials (Mayor Ted Clugston has rarely hidden his disdain for New Democratic policies of the last four years).

So the left-of-centre blip of Alberta political history is over, and it’s back to conservative rule. We can only hope that campaign promises are kept, that Alberta can somehow regain its political civility after a nasty, dirty campaign, that some of the draconian concerns of NDP supporters about Kenney’s approach to health care and education will not come to fruition, and that Albertans of all stripes will be better off as we approach the third decade of the 21st century.

(This editorial was composed by the Medicine Hat News editorial board.)

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