Long odds for a united party

Written by Brenda Schimke

It’s little wonder the UCP government has spent more time fighting and scheming amongst themselves than actually governing the province. Little wonder when you consider the shenanigans around its first leadership campaign.

The allegation that the Jason Kenney camp and the “kamikaze” candidate, Jeff Callaway, worked in concert to trash Brian Jean’s character and then join forces went unresolved. Once elected, Premier Jason Kenney fired the chief electoral officer to stop his investigation so we’ll never know if there were unlawful acts by Kenney and Callaway. But it set the tone for what we see today—UCP leadership candidates with few common values.

Despite revenge being sweet, Jean’s time has passed. In the intervening four years, his singular focus became ridding the province of Kenney—and for that he deserves our forever thanks. But his focus in the intervening years has become more radical, promising the impossible to resolve some of Alberta’s legitimate concerns.

Another UCP candidate, Todd Loewen is in the same camp as Danielle Smith, a follower of the Free Alberta Strategy. A manifesto authored by three private citizens—two lawyers and a professor at the University of Calgary—with the stated goal ‘to make Alberta a sovereign jurisdiction within Canada’. They are the authors of Smith’s Sovereignty Act.

It is indeed strange that Smith, Loewen and Jean are seeking leadership in a party that proudly wears the business-friendly mantel, yet at the same time promote policies that would put Canada and Alberta on a path to political and legal instability.

Then there’s leadership hopeful, former Finance Minister Travis Toews, who argues the exact opposite. “The Sovereignty Act is fundamentally illegal and unenforceable”, said Toews. “It’s bad for business and politically problematic by overpromising what can’t be accomplished.”

Toews’ policies are closely aligned with Jason Kenney. In his life before politics, he was a long-term board member of a private school. Public and separate school teachers and school board trustees shouldn’t expect any more love from Toews than they received from privately-schooled Kenney.

In fact, Toews’ campaign statement on education is a promo for private and charter schools—public and separate schools aren’t even mentioned! He promises to expand private and charter schooling further and to significantly increase their funding.
He never mentions or discusses the flawed and poorly-designed curriculum, which also makes sense as private school advocates had the most influence over its development.

Not surprising, Education Minister Andrea LaGrange is supporting Toews’ leadership candidacy, as is Associate Minister for the Status of Woman Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk. The Minister who gave a third place prize to a female essayist who wrote that women should stop working out of the home and instead make babies and reduce the need for foreign workers.

Toews likewise believes in fast-tracking the privatization of Alberta’s health care system, seemingly unaware that two parallel systems take more doctors and nurses, not less. Nor does he seem to understand the current worldwide shortage of doctors and nurses.

Toews is the first conservative politician, however, to admit that the centralized decision-making structure of AHS has failed Albertans. And he’s right. Mammoth corporations are too far from end users to be successful at anything other than making profits.

And although Toews also said AHS “acutely failed the incredible frontline healthcare workers”, he still doesn’t get it that COVID restrictions were an absolute necessity to support hospital workers during a pandemic.

The UCP leadership race is a hodgepodge of candidates with diabolically opposed beliefs, specifically as it relates to fairness and the rule of law. But whoever is elected as its leader, the UCP seems destined to stay more disunited than united.


Brenda Schimke
ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.