Print this page
Friday, 07 October 2016 08:00

Jason Kenney says southern Alberta needs some attention

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Jason Kenney says southern Alberta needs some attention Photo by Ryan Dahlman

In the second of a two-part story, provincial Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful and former long-time Stephen Harper cabinet minister Jason Kenney explains why rural southern Alberta is important to him.

Jason Kenney is hoping his five-point unity plan will resonate with Progressive Conservative supporters who are looking for a new provincial Alberta leader in March 2017.
This includes southern Alberta. He was in Medicine Hat Sept. 27 before making a visit to southwestern Alberta for a few days following that.
He agrees a connection between urban and rural is important but doesn’t think there’s a divide between rural and urban voters. Kenney bristles at the questioning of whether he understands rural Albertans.
He quickly reminded reporters while at a stop in Medicine Hat in late September, that he’s from the rural area himself being a native of the hamlet of Wilcox Sask. He had served the federal Progressive Conservatives, Alliance and Reform in Calgary ridings as both an MP and in the Stephen Harper years as a cabinet minister including defence, employment and social development as well as immigration.
The whole unity process is how to bridge the gap, while he agrees the Wildrose’s support generally comes from the rural areas where as the PCs is in the urban areas — he doesn’t see it as a problem down the road.
“These two regions don’t have irreconcilable differences. We’ve managed very successfully to put together the Conservative party of Canada,” says Kenney. “I would just apply the same approach to creating a similar party in Alberta. The key thing is this, when you are building a big coalition, the key rule is: everybody gets their say although maybe not get their way. It means there has to be an acceptance or a tolerance of other views rural versus urban for example ... that’s how we did it nationally. For goodness sakes, the question you asked, you can ask at a national level ... there are some specific issues and I’ve talked to (former MLA and long-time PC supporter) Jim Horsman about that in Medicine Hat where the so-called rural urban divide can be tricky — (take for instance) land use issues. Quite frankly, I don’t think urban Albertans have strong views about that. We need to listen to rural Albertans who are landowners about the right balance between the common good and private property right so I think there are ways of figuring that out.”
Kenney says he understands concerns in rural areas as he points to the NDP’s Bill 6 which was introduced in late 2015. Bill 6 targets farmworkers who are now by law protected under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers Compensation Board. It also means agricultural operation owners and workers have to have certified safety training.
Kenny, without hesitation explained what he thought of it.
“It’s a cinch; we’d repeal it,” explains Kenney adding the way he would bridge the gap from those rural PC supporters who don’t like Bill 6 to those in urban centres who may think this is a good idea, he cites the long arm registration issues in the mid nineties.
Those in the country protested the bill while those in the city thought it was common sense.
“For most rural Canadians, rifles and shotguns— they are tools not criminal weapons, they are part of the rural way of life. We were willing to spend urban capital in order to repeal the long arm registry. We would be very sensitive to the unique perspective and way of life of rural Albertans. I don’t think that’s complicated for this kind of coalition. I mean the NDP did this because they are run by the unions.”
In general, Kenney says the PCs blew it the last election. He has heard from PC brethren themselves. They rested on their past laurels and took the voters for granted. Now they have to show a large amount of “humility.”
“Much of what drove the 2015 election results was a protest vote, a desire to send a message to the PCs who in the eyes of most Albertans had become out of touch and arrogant and many would say incompetent. These are reasons by the way why the Wildrose Party came into being,” explains Kenney. “I often remind my PC friends that the Wildrose Party didn’t land here from Mars. The Wildrose voters were folks who typically helped to keep the PCs in office for four decades. I think what happened last year is that the cynicism of the floor crossings jaded a lot of people who might have normally cast a protest vote with Wildrose lodged it the NDP. I think a lot of people thought they were casting a risk-free protest vote for the NDP. I don’t think they could conceive a NDP government, but it seemed like a potent protest vehicle.”
What voters got was an unexpected carbon tax and a different economic agenda.
“Denying the reaction of Albertans last year by just saying it was a weird aberration  that’s not the path back to power, that’s the path to total irrelevance.” 
Kenney says he has a lot of respect for Wildrose leader Brian Jean and the work of the Wildrose caucus.
He says the merger is inevitable, Kenney just wants the process sped up. The two caucuses have voted on the same side of legislature votes 86 per cent of the time.
“My response to Brian and to my Wildrose friends, is that they’re right, I think they could win the next election, but I also think there’s a plausible scenario where the PCs could win the next election. Here’s my concern:as long as we’re fighting each other, competing with each other for the same scarce resources, the NDP could win the next election and that is a price that none of us should be prepared to pay.”
Poll-wise, Kenney says both the PCs and the Wildrose have a strong electoral base but describes a relatively low electoral ceiling of popularity. For example, Kenney says Wildrose has typically never hit above 40 per cent. It does well and then popularity slides whereas the PCs always have a consistent 20-25 per cent.
Kenney says the uniting the right has met with some resistance partially because some don’t want to try something different. Kenney’s argument is that he doesn’t want to risk having an NDP government in power again. There was some controversy as there were some leadership rule changes which tilted the odds towards other leadership hopefuls who don’t want to unite the right and create a new party.
“Ultimately I want to create a new party in partnership with Wildrose and PCs that receives the endorsement of grassroots members and then let them decide who is the best person for the job. Let me be absolutely blunt. I say everywhere I go: I’m not necessarily the best or only person to lead this the Conservative movement into the next provincial election (2019), but what I am trying to do is get the ball rolling to overcome the institutional resistance to unity ... this is bigger than him (Brian Jean)or me.”

Read 1045 times
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor