Why Canadians Need to Keep a Close Eye on Alberta UCP’s Leadership Race

CommentaryWhile the eyes of most politicos are on the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, a provincial party leadership race is developing in Alberta that may have strong repercussions on Canadian unity. The race to replace Jason Kenney as the leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) is set to close on Oct. 6. The stakes are high as the new leader will immediately become the premier of Alberta. A wide spread of candidates has put their names forward for the job despite the prohibitive $175,000 entry fee required to run. A theme common among the presumed frontrunners in the race has been standing up to Ottawa, and some of the language used is increasingly becoming borderline secessionist. Jason Kenney tendered his resignation as the leader of the UCP when he could only garner a little more than 51% support among party members in a heated leadership review in May. Kenney’s staunch federalist approach to politics was a point of contention for many UCP members as they cast their ballots in the review. Kenney tapped into Western alienation in the 2019 Alberta election when he promised to take a strong stance against the federal government and its hostile approach toward Alberta. Upon becoming premier, Kenney struck the “Fair Deal” panel which toured the province to solicit input into how Alberta should protect itself from Ottawa. The panel concluded that Albertans wanted to distance themselves from the federal government through the formation of a provincial police force and a provincial pension plan along with 23 other recommendations. While Kenney put the report on a shelf, many UCP members didn’t forget about the recommendations, and took out their frustration in the leadership review. Alienation with Ottawa is running high in Alberta with 67 percent feeling Albertans aren’t respected within confederation and support for outright separation often hovering over 25 percent. While Jason Kenney underestimated the degree of regional alienation in Alberta, the candidates vying to replace him clearly don’t as they are making some controversial promises in the early stages of their campaigns. Former MP Brian Jean lost to Jason Kenney in the 2017 UCP leadership. He is running again and his campaign theme is “Autonomy for Albertans.”  He is proposing to begin constitutional negotiations with Ottawa and feels the province can potentially cut a new deal within confederation with a strong undertone of “or else.” Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel Garner has been openly testing the waters for a run at the UCP leadership. Rempel Garner co-authored the Buffalo Declaration that featured inflammatory statements such as “Alberta is not, and has never been, an equal participant in Confederation” and “Eastern Canada functionally treats Alberta as a colony, rather than an equal partner.” On Twitter when pitching a possible leadership run Rempel Garner referred to a “federal Liberal govt hostile to Alberta’s interests.” Former opposition leader Danielle Smith is running for the top UCP job and she kicked off her campaign by pitching an Alberta Sovereignty Act which would “authorize our provincial government to refuse enforcement of any Federal Law or policy that is an attack on Alberta’s interests or our provincial rights.” While catering to regionalist elements of the party members may be an effective strategy to win the leadership, the winning candidate may find herself/himself painted into a dangerous corner upon becoming premier. Support for policies challenging Ottawa or threatening to challenge confederation is strong among the UCP members but not so much among the general electorate. If the new leader appears to be supporting outright secession, they may lose to the NDP in the next election anticipated to be held in spring 2023. If the new leader doesn’t act quickly on his or her promises to pick a fight with Ottawa however, the party members could turn on the leader quickly. Members will not be patient when Kenney had already strung them along on this issue. The Wildrose Independence Party is waiting in the wings and while it is only drawing around 12 percent support, it could split enough votes to bring in an NDP victory in the next election. Alberta’s next premier may find himself/herself immediately between a rock and a hard place. The winner of the UCP leadership race is going to be obliged to pick a fight with Ottawa soon after being elected. The only question is how far will the new leader be willing to go and how much will it disrupt national unity? If Ottawa responds with aggression or arrogance, secessionism in Alberta could quickly ignite from being a small movement into a prairie-fire challenging national unity. The UCP leadership race may be a provincial one, but the outcome of the race could impact the entire nation. Canadians would be well-served to keep a close eye on this one. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not nece

Why Canadians Need to Keep a Close Eye on Alberta UCP’s Leadership Race

Commentary

While the eyes of most politicos are on the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, a provincial party leadership race is developing in Alberta that may have strong repercussions on Canadian unity.

The race to replace Jason Kenney as the leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) is set to close on Oct. 6. The stakes are high as the new leader will immediately become the premier of Alberta. A wide spread of candidates has put their names forward for the job despite the prohibitive $175,000 entry fee required to run. A theme common among the presumed frontrunners in the race has been standing up to Ottawa, and some of the language used is increasingly becoming borderline secessionist.

Jason Kenney tendered his resignation as the leader of the UCP when he could only garner a little more than 51% support among party members in a heated leadership review in May. Kenney’s staunch federalist approach to politics was a point of contention for many UCP members as they cast their ballots in the review.

Kenney tapped into Western alienation in the 2019 Alberta election when he promised to take a strong stance against the federal government and its hostile approach toward Alberta. Upon becoming premier, Kenney struck the “Fair Deal” panel which toured the province to solicit input into how Alberta should protect itself from Ottawa. The panel concluded that Albertans wanted to distance themselves from the federal government through the formation of a provincial police force and a provincial pension plan along with 23 other recommendations. While Kenney put the report on a shelf, many UCP members didn’t forget about the recommendations, and took out their frustration in the leadership review.

Alienation with Ottawa is running high in Alberta with 67 percent feeling Albertans aren’t respected within confederation and support for outright separation often hovering over 25 percent. While Jason Kenney underestimated the degree of regional alienation in Alberta, the candidates vying to replace him clearly don’t as they are making some controversial promises in the early stages of their campaigns.

Former MP Brian Jean lost to Jason Kenney in the 2017 UCP leadership. He is running again and his campaign theme is “Autonomy for Albertans.”  He is proposing to begin constitutional negotiations with Ottawa and feels the province can potentially cut a new deal within confederation with a strong undertone of “or else.”

Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel Garner has been openly testing the waters for a run at the UCP leadership. Rempel Garner co-authored the Buffalo Declaration that featured inflammatory statements such as “Alberta is not, and has never been, an equal participant in Confederation” and “Eastern Canada functionally treats Alberta as a colony, rather than an equal partner.” On Twitter when pitching a possible leadership run Rempel Garner referred to a “federal Liberal govt hostile to Alberta’s interests.”

Former opposition leader Danielle Smith is running for the top UCP job and she kicked off her campaign by pitching an Alberta Sovereignty Act which would “authorize our provincial government to refuse enforcement of any Federal Law or policy that is an attack on Alberta’s interests or our provincial rights.”

While catering to regionalist elements of the party members may be an effective strategy to win the leadership, the winning candidate may find herself/himself painted into a dangerous corner upon becoming premier. Support for policies challenging Ottawa or threatening to challenge confederation is strong among the UCP members but not so much among the general electorate. If the new leader appears to be supporting outright secession, they may lose to the NDP in the next election anticipated to be held in spring 2023. If the new leader doesn’t act quickly on his or her promises to pick a fight with Ottawa however, the party members could turn on the leader quickly. Members will not be patient when Kenney had already strung them along on this issue. The Wildrose Independence Party is waiting in the wings and while it is only drawing around 12 percent support, it could split enough votes to bring in an NDP victory in the next election.

Alberta’s next premier may find himself/herself immediately between a rock and a hard place.

The winner of the UCP leadership race is going to be obliged to pick a fight with Ottawa soon after being elected. The only question is how far will the new leader be willing to go and how much will it disrupt national unity?

If Ottawa responds with aggression or arrogance, secessionism in Alberta could quickly ignite from being a small movement into a prairie-fire challenging national unity.

The UCP leadership race may be a provincial one, but the outcome of the race could impact the entire nation. Canadians would be well-served to keep a close eye on this one.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Cory Morgan is a columnist based in Calgary.