Premier Jason Kenney, who lead the UCP to taking over 50% of the votes in the 2019 election (and won his own riding with over 65% of the vote) is now polling across Alberta with only a 22% approval rating. The party as a whole fares little better, and there are fears among some in the party that Kenney has become an anchor around their necks.
Over 25% of the riding associations have submitted their resolutions to have an early leadership convention. The party has responded with a motion to be dealt with this weekend at the UCP’s annual general meeting that would raise the threshold needed to force an early leadership convention from a quarter to a third. Kenney and his supporters are looking for more time in the hopes that something magically turns around that they can claim credit for, or at the very least to keep getting their paycheques. The party is looking for some way to reassure the public (and many of their own members) that they are taking serious actions to deal with the multiple failures of Premier Kenney to successfully steer Alberta forward, and hopefully do so soon enough that the public has time to notice before the elections in 2023.
Regardless, however, this puts the government in a position of volatility, and that leads to both opportunity and concern. If you recall, when first elected, the Alberta Government was making some noise about copying Ontario’s “student choice” initiative, which essentially made student union membership an opt-in affair. Students generally don’t tend to have a lot of extra money, as in addition to tuition and textbook costs, there’s also the costs of simply having the time to devote to studies, which often means having to forego high paying jobs. As a result, it’s little surprise to learn that many students in Ontario chose to opt out, and as a result various student-funded initiatives, such as assistance, awards, and student media programs all had to scale back operations.
Since then, the Ontario courts have struck down the student choice initiative legislation and the government’s subsequent appeal, but that doesn’t mean that a political party desperate to appear relevant and doing something here in Alberta might not choose to do something that they think would make them more popular with their base (regardless of what the rest of Alberta thinks).
At the same time, this could also be an opportunity for post-secondary institutions to push back on the reductions in funding, noting that a government saying it was investing in retraining Albertans for the next energy boom (whether that be in renewables or conventional energy) might play well with a base that is looking for some positive policy decisions and evidence of leadership. For AU, it would be especially beneficial to point out how we are often training the people who are already working, not the typical student who they believe would never vote for them in any case.
“May you live in interesting times,” has said to be a curse, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad.