Editorial—Back to the Wall

Premier Kenney has said he’ll be stepping down.  The leader of the UCP received an approval vote of 51.4% in the recent leadership review here in Alberta, and although Premier Kenney previously said that any majority would be enough for him to continue and that all party members should fall in line if it happens, when the results were announced, he proclaimed that it was not enough support for him to continue to lead the party.

Of course, exactly when he’ll be stepping down isn’t known quite yet.  Rather than appoint an interim leader, Premier Kenney has also announced he’ll continue to lead the party until a leadership contest can be run and the UCP can select a new leader from the bouquet of candidates that will be on offer.

Currently, that includes Brian Jean, a further right social conservative, and Danielle Smith, former leader of the far-right WildRose party who abandoned it for the political opportunity to be in the Progressive Conservative government of the time—for all of six months—before it fell to the NDP government in 2015.

There is a lot of speculation about who else might decide to throw their hat into the ring, but to my mind, it doesn’t really matter.  Whoever wins the UCP leadership will likely win the next election, as the riding system currently gives more power per vote to those in rural ridings, and those ridings are generally locked in for the conservatives.  2015 was an exception brought on by the falling price of oil severely damaging the Alberta economy, coupled with the rural ridings feeling a sense of betrayal because of Smith’s floor-crossing.

Neither of those situations is likely to apply in the next election, especially as sanctions against Russia continue to drive the price of oil skyward.

For us as AU students, this means that what we’ve seen over the past couple of  years is likely what we’re going to continue to get—further cuts to post-secondary funding and more arbitrary and populist driven changes to how post-secondary institutions have to work, regardless of evidence.

But, for Kenney, what could have caused him to change course and decide to—eventually—resign?  I think, in this case, it’s attempting to preserve his legacy as creating a political party that can withstand the test of time—or at least a second election.  This also frees him to approach federal politics once again.  And while I don’t think he intends to throw his hat into the leadership run for the federal conservatives, not this year, anyway.  The next election isn’t so far away, and now he has connections in politics both federally and provincially in Alberta.  These are connections that he would certainly suggest he could leverage to some oil company that might find an extra seat on its board of directors for him.  Especially if the CPC wins at the federal level.

And all of this, of course, is with a backdrop of Putin’s aggression in Eastern Europe.  All in all, it stands to be interesting times.

Enjoy the read!

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