What Alberta’s Tories urgently need now is proven competence, and that means vote Kenney
Whenever I try to be “clever,” I get into trouble. So I won’t try; I’ll come right out and confess. I have two biases in favour of Jason Kenney becoming leader of the new United Conservative Party. For one. he is the godfather of our granddaughter, Elise Byfield, fourth child of our son Link who died two and a half years ago. How can I vote against him?
And why would I want to? He’s a very good politician. I spoke at his nomination meeting in 1997 in Calgary when he first ran for Parliament. He won that election and six more. In fact he’s never lost one. In Ottawa, under the Harper government, he handled three top cabinet posts, all risky — employment, defence and immigration– and succeeded eminently in all three.
However it was in an adjunct to the third one — labelled “multiculturalism” — a burden at best to most incumbents, where Kenney’s success was simply remarkable. He turned the office into an election gold mine for the Tories, addressing every possible New Canadian group across the land with the same message — “Vote Your Conscience.” He knew that New Canadians were probably the most natural social conservatives in Canada. They logically had little in common with the social agenda of the Liberals and even less with that of the NDP. In the 2011 election, he is credited with adding more than a dozen Tory seats in the Toronto area, helping mightily to achieve a Conservative majority government.
His skills are much needed right now in Alberta. Throughout this calendar year, we have begun to suffer the dire consequences of what seems, to inexpert people like me, an agenda of flawed environmental policies. On top of this, we must sustain the effects of new technologies that vastly expand the reserve of fossil fuels– meaning there’s a crippling oversupply of what we sell. Construction, I’m told, has come near a dead halt in Calgary, empty office space is everywhere evident, and Edmonton can expect to be hit just as hard next year. The outlook, in other words, is grim. Not since the ‘Eighties. or perhaps even the ‘Thirties, of the last century have our prospects looked so bleak.
So what we urgently need at the helm of the provincial government is sound, proven competence. And in Kenney, that is precisely what is being offered to us. In terms of experience, aptitude, and governmental background, nobody in the province comes anywhere near him. “Folksiness” just won’t cut it. We’ve already got our fill of that in Ottawa. So that’s one reason I urge people to make Kenney leader of the UCP, of which he himself is the central architect. After that, the job will be to make him premier. And make no mistake about it: it’s Kenney that the NDP really fear, and well they should.
Then there’s the other reason I’m backing Kenney. I really like the way this new conservative movement is taking hold, and I honestly do not want to be expelled from it. But nevertheless that’s what the other leading candidate for the leadership, Brian Jean, promises he’s going to do to me if he gets elected leader. Why? Because I’m one of those awful “crazies,” as he calls us, whom Mr. Jean so bitterly denounces. I’m a social conservative.
He gets quite nasty about us. When the Calgary Sun reporter asked him to explain the “homophobia” in the old Wildrose Party, he had a ready answer: “There are nuts in every party. Everybody has these people in their party who others would classify as nutbars. What do we do with them? Well, at first, we can try to manage them and then we get rid of them. That’s the truth of it. Our reaction will be quick. It will be ruthless.”
When I first read that word “ruthless,” I found myself smitten with Jeanophobia. Oxford provides some synonyms: “merciless, pitiless, cruel, hard-hearted, cold-hearted, cold-blooded, harsh, unmerciful, unforgiving, uncaring, inflexible, implacable, brutal, inhuman, barbarous, barbaric, savage, sadistic, vicious.” This is how Mr. Jean sees himself treating us social conservatives if he becomes leader. It’s his way, as he explains, of uniting the party– “ruthlessly” throwimg everybody who disagrees with him out of it. Perhaps, however, he didn’t actually realize what that word means, and perhaps it doesn’t really matter, and might even help. It will make him sound folksier than ever. Purists would doubtless object. It’s not good, they would say, for a premier to use words without knowing what they mean. But they are plainly out of touch with the new realities.
In a Global Television interview Mr. Jean sought to explain his phobia for homophobia: “I have no tolerance whatsoever for any kind of hate or abuse,” he declared. (Unless, apparently, it’s directed at social conservatives.) “I don’t think those people belong in any party, to be honest. (Is he actually suggesting that we social conservatives be denied the rights of citizenship? Surely not.) “But I do believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue what you want to do, and I protect that, but that doesn’t mean you can hurl hate and abuse on people.”
The Global interviewer struggled to extract from Mr. Jean the dimensions of the group he was planning to expel. How many social conservatives did he have in mind? Obviously there were thousands of people in the new party who probably considered themselves social conservatives — doubtless many of the 25,000 parents who signed a petition demanding greater participation in curriculum planning and other educational policies would place themselves in that category. Were they all to go? Or are there to be permissible degrees of social conservatism with allowable bounds on what criticisms could and could not be made publicly. Would there perhaps be a party censorship commission to police all comments by members offered on the social media?
Obviously, Mr. Jean had nor directed his thoughts to any of these problematic questions, though he did mention he had five people in mind for expulsion, and later without explanation changed this number to three. Meanwhile, his emails cite dubious polls showing he’s a sure winner, and reflecting that more and more people are coming to his cause. Among those hoping against hope for his victory, one can dependably believe, is the entire caucus of our socialist NDP government
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.