Kenney immediately announced that he was resigning. Within 24 hours he walked out of caucus with a letter stating he would officially step down.”for the election of a new leader.”
On Friday, Kenney greeted reporters in the Cabinet Room for a short statement on the government’s spring agenda. His tone suggested business as usual, but politics in Alberta these days is anything but.
“Mr. Kenney was kicked out of his party because he wasn’t extreme enough,” Cabinet Minister Randy Boissonnault, a Trudeau cabinet minister from Alberta, observed the morning after the vote. time for moderates and conservative movements in this country to step up and ask themselves, ‘Where is this train going and where is it going to stop?’ ”
Kenney’s downfall caps a long period of relentless political drama. His grip on his own caucus began to crumble at the height of a deadly wave of Covid in the spring of 2021, when he asked Albertans to clamp down amid cases and hospitalizations.
These restrictions may have followed the advice of the province’s top doctors, but they misjudged a widespread sense that the people who lived there had done their part – and they shouldn’t be forced to obey unpredictable rules. transmitted from above.
Even though he ended public health measures on Canada Day last year and heralded the “best summer ever” on the Canadian Prairies, its popularity plummeted like a stone.
He never got over it. The public had soured on him and the voters had followed suit.
Slow death of a seller
The timing of Kenney’s resignation announcement was also dramatic.
Just a day earlier, the prime minister was in Washington selling Alberta’s energy deal to influential senators during a meeting of a US Senate committee chaired by Democratic maverick Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.).
It was a friendly audience. The couple hit it off last month after Kenney hosted Manchin on a two-day tour of Alberta, a high-profile visit concluded following the province’s intensified lobbying efforts in the United States led by former Conservative MP James Rajotte. Alberta aspires to match Quebec’s influence in the United States and emulate its success by signing major agreements.
Kenney stormed into the Capitol Hill committee room on Tuesday, greeted with bipartisan warmth.
Manchin and Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the committee’s top Republican, shared Kenney’s irritation at President Job Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline.
Kenney brought statistics. He pointed out that 60% of US oil imports come from Alberta. Only 13% was shipped from OPEC countries, including 6% from Saudi Arabia. He did the math. That’s 10 times more Alberta oil than Saudi oil.
Funding for Saudi influence campaigns in Washington is not so meager. More math: Rajotte told reporters the day before that the Saudis spend $300 million a year on public relations alone. “My budget is a little less,” he joked.
The prime minister told senators on Tuesday that he wanted to team up on a new pipeline. Alberta has the supply, he said, we just need the infrastructure.
“If the United States wants to get rid of its dependence on OPEC conflict oil, if it wants to stop funding the barrel bombs used by the Saudis against civilians in Yemen,” Kenney said Tuesday, “then the United States should make a strategic decision.”
Canada, he said, is the solution for soaring gasoline prices in the United States.
“The invasion of Ukraine is obviously a game-changer in geopolitics and global energy markets,” Kenney told the POLITICO Energy podcast this week after spending the audience emphasizing the message that the United States United can no longer encourage the oil states that fuel conflict and war.
“We hope and believe that the administration will change its policy to address the new reality of energy scarcity, energy inflation, energy poverty, but also the realization that we cannot allow hostile dictatorships to destabilize global energy markets.”
The charm offensive worked. At the end of the meeting, the senators were invited to visit Kenney to see Alberta with their own eyes.
That’s a feat, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to lure Biden to Ottawa for a bilat — not even after border restrictions were eased late last year.
Canadian-born Jennifer Granholm also did not cross the border to visit Canada in an official capacity as Biden’s Energy Secretary. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is the one who travels regularly to Washington for their meetings.
Kenney’s goal was to get more attention from the Biden administration. He has it. But he won’t be there to see the fruits of his labor.
For now, Kenney is still Alberta’s top seller, but he’s become something of a lame duck.
When Alberta loses its star pitcher over the next few months, the door will open for an even more zealous defender of Canada’s oil and gas industry or perhaps a leader more receptive to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate policies. that focus more on a future without oil than one that depends on it.
Early election theory of the game
Alberta’s energy future is mixed with its electoral future, which is a buffet of choose-your-own scenarios.
Officially, the statutory date for the next election is May 29, 2023. But provincial and federal fixed-date laws typically give governments an escape valve — in this case, a clause that allows the Lieutenant Governor from Alberta, Salma Lakhani, to officially dissolve the legislature whenever she wants.
Convention dictates that lieutenant governors take this action only on the advice of prime ministers. In a minority government, Lakhani could invite one or more opposition parties to test the confidence of the legislature. But the UCP is in the majority, so it has all the cards in hand.
It’s unclear exactly when the party will elect a new leader, although the timeline is measured in months, not weeks. Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, two fierce Kenney critics who both led the defunct Wildrose party, have announced their interest in the top job.
Prominent members are likely to consider their own offers, including Finance Minister Travis Toews and Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer. The Ottawa rumor mill raised the possibility that Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner also threw her hat in the ring.
Many Tories in the province are whispering that the next permanent premier should not call a snap election. The more time they have to reunite a fractured party, the more likely they are to crush the New Democrats (NDP) who have been leading in the polls for months.
When he announced his intention to step down on Wednesday, Kenney urged people in his province to mend fences after a pandemic has left a host of bad vibes in its wake.
“It is clear that the past two years have deeply divided our province, our party and our caucus,” he said. “But it is my fervent hope that in the months to come we all move beyond the Covid divide.”
Patient voices on the right argue that waiting until spring would give the economy more time to bounce back from Covid woes, and opens the door to a budget with plenty of black ink thanks to soaring oil prices oil.
The Alberta government expects oil and gas to generate C$62.6 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2022-23, a far cry from negative crude prices in the early months of the pandemic – and a boon for the oil patch boosters on both sides of the legislature aisle.
Then again, a new prime minister could call a snap election and seek a new term for the post-Kenney era.
Or the new premier could fail to unite the party and the party could split in two, providing an opportunity for the province’s licking leftists. Alberta is one of the few provinces where the New Democratic Party is pushing oil and gas, though the party’s protests against corporate profits are leaving big business uneasy.
Rematch in Battle of Alberta
Cue the NDP and the unveiling this week of the party’s new slogan: “United”.
The leader of the party, former Prime Minister Rachel Notley, has been more popular than Kenney in the polls for more than a year.
It presents its candidates as savvy veterans who know how to run the province.
“Our team is ready to form a government that acts with integrity, full of experienced and capable Albertans who will work day and night on what matters to you,” she said Thursday. “And we are united for this purpose.”
Notley, like Manchin, is also a political maverick.
His support for the Keystone XL and Trans Mountain pipelines goes against the archetype of an NDP leader and sets the provincial party apart from its federal cousin.
If an orange wave returns to Alberta, there is simply too much oil and gas money for Notley to reverse the province’s policies.
The NDP is holding an election in the fall. Party coffers are full and they are running TV commercials in the National Hockey League playoffs between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers – the first “Battle of Alberta” since 1991.
The electoral calculus is difficult for Notley’s NDP. She won in 2015 largely because two now-defunct parties, the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose, split the Conservative vote. This meant that luckless New Democrat candidates were in the middle in mid-sized cities, such as Red Deer where Kenney’s United Conservatives (UCP) – which formed a winning coalition from the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose factions in war – have largely beaten them in 2019.
Notley will also have to take over a large swath of Calgary ridings that she narrowly won in 2015 and delivered comfortable victories for Kenney’s UCP four years later.
It’s a tough climb for a former prime minister whose approval rating in office has plummeted 28% – higher than Kenney’s personal worst of 22%, but a sign of his own deep unpopularity with the electorate .
By the time Notley lost power in May 2019, the Angus Reid Institute poll showed his approval rating had improved to 40% – but not enough to retain power. It could offer the most stable alternative if a fire-breathing populist who tells moderates to hustle takes control of the ruling party.
In the next election, Albertans who have been fickle with their leaders will see their seventh premier since 2011 go to the polls. If Notley wins again, she would be the first-ever Alberta leader to win non-consecutive terms.
The only certain thing is that the next Alberta budget will be swimming in black ink, thanks to oil prices that offer at least the illusion of a boom period. Everything else is impossible to predict.