What a brouhaha we have brewing in the province to our right. So far the race for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party has had a little bit of everything — allegations of harassment and bullying, two female candidates quitting, one candidate crossing the floor to the NDP, fines for questionable behaviour. It’s been quite the show so far.
At issue is the very heart of the Alberta right, and what sort of policies will be put forward as part of that movement. And perhaps what sort of attitude will be considered acceptable.
Jason Kenney, former federal Conservative Minister, has, as we briefly discussed last week, eschewed the chance to fight for leadership of the national party and has returned to Alberta with a mission to unite the right. Not only does he wish to lead the Alberta PC Party, he wishes to have the Wildrose Party join them, creating one new right wing juggernaut. It does make sense. Leaving Albertans with only one choice on the right provides a far better chance of victory. Just look at vote splitting between Greens and NDP in some ridings in recent elections. Choice, while always a good thing, can sometimes produce unexpected results.
Alberta has been reeling in recent years, as global oil prices play havoc with their economy. Albertans reeled so hard that they actually gave the NDP a chance in the last provincial election but that experiment doesn’t seem to be going particularly well. Many Albertans remain unsatisfied, fearful of what is to come.
Enter Kenney on his white steed, here to save the day.
But not without a few shenanigans. Kenney was fined $5,000 this week by the Party he wishes to lead. His infraction? Being on the premises of a delegate selection meeting last week in Edmonton. Kenney set up a hospitality suite just down the hall from the meeting. Party president Katherine O’Neill said the rules state that candidates are not welcome at these meetings so that delegates can vote without any last-minute pressure or campaigning. In fining Kenney $5000 for his breach of the rules, O’Neill found that he and his campaign planned to “test the boundaries” of the rule, rather than ask for clarification of just what it meant. Just to see what would happen. In fact, one of Kenney’s organizers said that if the campaign was fined, “they could afford it”.
The delegate meeting was rescheduled. Ironically, it’s much ado about nothing as all the delegates were lined up for Kenney anyway. So why did he poke at the rules? Who knows.
Another, more sobering occurrence in the race is the resignation of the two female leadership candidates. Donna Kennedy-Glans and Sandra Jansen both stepped down last week and neither was impressed with where the Party was headed. Kennedy-Glans described herself as a fiscal conservative but said that there appeared to be no interest from the Party in hearing her more progressive views on social issues. She said that Alberta politics were polarizing and there was no opportunity for centrist voices to be heard. Jansen went further. She not only resigned her leadership bid, citing harassment and bullying, but later in the week she crossed the floor of the Legislature to join the NDP. Conservative to NDP. Now, that is a giant leap across the ideological divide.
In her bid for leadership, Jansen told the Globe and Mail that, “Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women’s reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.”
And in a truly jarring moment this week, Jansen stood up in the Legislature and read out a list of insults that had been hurled at her, written on her Facebook page and more. Being called a “dumb broad” is the mildest of the insults.
The MLAs of all parties gave her a standing ovation. Nice. But a meaningless gesture. If the type of behaviour recounted by these two very capable candidates is allowed to continue, it is a sad day indeed. Not just for progressive politics but for politicians of every party. Civility is not just a word. It should be the very least we expect from those who lead us.
Carolyn Grant is Editor
of the Kimberley Bulletin