What to do with a problem like Jason Kenney

This week the Conservative Party of Canada caucus voted to remove Erin O’Toole as CPC leader.

This move was exactly what the majority of party members wanted and was accomplished by MPs taking matters into their own hands.

O’Toole repeatedly chose to put the advice of lobbyists and armchair strategists ahead of his own party’s membership on carbon taxes, vaccine mandates, and many other issues. It earned him the same fate that other political leaders received for forgetting their proper role in our democratic process.

With O’Toole’s departure, the nation’s political focus now shifts to Alberta, where another deeply unpopular leader is scrambling to maintain a grasp on power. Jason Kenney is one of the least popular Premiers in Canada, and he has been trailing the Opposition in the polls for more than a year.

The ties that link Kenney and O’Toole are readily apparent. Kenney unequivocally endorsed O’Toole in the CPC leadership race. Both strongly endorsed the Paris Accord against the wishes of many within their parties.

They both forcefully supported vaccine mandates and demeaned any who dared oppose these positions.

Both have demonstrated no respect for grassroots democracy or the independence of elected representatives.

Even worse, both sought to strong-arm their caucuses, ignoring and vilifying dissenting voices.

From both a policy and leadership style perspective, there is no daylight between O’Toole and Kenney. They are two sides of the same coin. The question is, what do you do with a problem like Jason Kenney?

Simply waiting for a promised leadership review vote in April is not acceptable. There is no reason for UCP members to trust Kenney and his cronies to run a fair and balanced review process.

In November, Kenney-friendly PACs used corporate donations to bus supporters into the most recent UCP party AGM, where they successfully stacked the party board with Kenney allies.

Stacking the party board allowed Team Kenney to disregard the wishes of more than 22 UCP constituency associations, who called for an earlier leadership review.

This board now refuses to use an independent firm to conduct the leadership review vote and won’t organize an audit for the process.

Meanwhile, at the Legislature, the UCP used its majority to enact changes to Alberta’s election laws to further ease the party’s vote-stacking process.

At the same time, senior officials in the Premier Office face allegations of influence peddling for allegedly promising Alberta corporations’ favours in exchange for supporting Kenney.

Forcing members to participate in a leadership review process already mired in the stench of corruption and coercion is no way to restore public trust in the UCP party.

There is a better path forward, and it depends entirely on the courage and conviction of the UCP Caucus.

There is currently no formal mechanism for a caucus to remove a leader in Alberta, similar to the process used to remove O’Toole.

However, it should be noted that when sitting as a Member of Parliament, Jason Kenney voted in favour of Bill C-586, which brought in the very changes used by the CPC to turf O’Toole this week.

It’s also worth noting that there was no formal mechanism to remove either myself or MLA Barnes from the UCP Caucus last spring. Yet, when it mattered to Kenney, his cronies created a mechanism for our removal.

It all adds up to this: if the UCP caucus were to vote non-confidence in Kenney, the vote might not be binding, but it would remove the last shreds of this Premier’s moral authority to lead.

Removing a sitting Premier is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. But that hasn’t stopped past Alberta caucuses from pushing for the removal of leaders.

Folks like former Premiers Redford and Stelmach were forced to resign from caucus pressure.

It’s simple; either caucus represents Albertans or Jason Kenney. There is no path to electoral victory for a party led by Kenney in the 2023 general election.

The public trust is irreparably broken.

The question is this: Do UCP MLAs want to be responsible for handing the province back the Rachel Notley and the NDP?

 

By Independent MLA Todd Loewen

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