Kenney immediately announced that he would resign. Within 24 hours, he left the caucus with a letter in which he clarified that he would officially resign “after the election of a new leader.”
On Friday, Kenney welcomed reporters to the Cabinet room for a brief statement on the administration’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. conservatives in this country step up and ask, ‘Where is this train going and where is it going to stop?’ ”
Kenney’s downfall caps a long period of unrelenting political drama. His grip on his own caucus began to unravel at the height of a deadly wave of Covid in the spring of 2021, when he called on Albertans to clamp down amid a surge in cases. and hospitalizations.
Those restrictions might have followed the advice of the best doctors in the province, but they misjudged the widespread feeling that the people who lived there had done their part, and shouldn’t be forced to obey unpredictable rules dictated from above.
Even when he canceled public health measures on Canada Day last year and announced the “best summer ever” on the Canadian prairies, his approval ratings sank like a stone.
He never recovered. The public had been angry with him and the voters had done the same.
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 market to influential senators at a US Senate committee meeting chaired by the maverick Democratic senator. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.).
It was a friendly audience. The couple had hit it off last month after Kenney hosted Manchin on a two-day tour of Alberta, a high-profile visit achieved as a result of the province’s intensified lobbying efforts in the United States spearheaded by former MP Conservative James Rajotte. Alberta aspires to match Quebec’s influence in the United States and emulate its success in signing major deals.
Kenney entered the Capitol committee room Tuesday and was greeted with bipartisan warmth.
Manchin and Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the committee, shared Kenney’s irritation at President Job Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline.
Kenney brought statistics. He noted that 60 percent of US oil imports came from Alberta. Only 13 percent was shipped from OPEC countries, including a measly 6 percent from Saudi Arabia. He did the math. That’s 10 times more Alberta oil than Saudi oil.
The financing of Saudi influence campaigns in Washington is not so miserable. More math: Rajotte told reporters the day before the Saudis spent $300 million a year on public relations alone. “My budget is a little lower,” 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 infrastructure.
“If the United States wants to kick its addiction to OPEC conflict oil, if it wants to stop funding the barrel bombs that the Saudis use against civilians in Yemen,” Kenney said Tuesday, “then the United States should make a strategic decision.” .
Canada, he said, is the solution to rising 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 hearing hammering home the message that the US can no longer abet the petrostates 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 offense worked. At the end of the meeting, the senators invited themselves to visit Kenney to see Alberta with their own eyes.
It’s a feat, considering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to lure Biden to Ottawa for a bilat, even after border restrictions were relaxed late last year.
Canadian-born Jennifer Granholm also did not cross the border to visit Canada officially as Biden’s energy secretary. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is the one who regularly travels to Washington for his meetings.
Kenney’s goal was to draw more attention from the Biden administration. It has. But he won’t be there to see the fruits of his labor.
For now, Kenney remains Alberta’s top salesman, but he has become somewhat of a lame duck.
When Alberta loses its star promoter sometime in the coming months, the door will be open to an even more enthusiastic supporter of Canada’s oil and gas industry or perhaps a leader more receptive to Prime Minister Justin’s climate policies. Trudeau that focus more on an oil-free future than one that depends on it.
Game theory of early choices
Alberta’s energy future is mixed with its electoral future, which is a buffet of choose-your-own-adventure scenarios.
Officially, the legislated date for the next election is May 29, 2023. But fixed-date provincial and federal laws often give governments a safety valve; in this case, a clause allowing Alberta Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani to formally dissolve the legislature. When she wants
Convention dictates that lieutenant governors take that step 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 has a majority, so it has all the cards.
It is unclear exactly when the party will elect a new leader, although the timetable will be measured in months, not weeks. A pair of fierce Kenney critics who once ran the defunct Wildrose Party, Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, have announced their interest in the top job.
Prominent members are likely to consider their own offers, including Finance Minister Travis Toews and Employment Minister Doug Schweitzer. The Ottawa rumor mill has raised the possibility that Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner may also throw her hat into the ring.
Many Conservatives in the province whisper that the next permanent prime minister should not call a snap election. The more time they have to bring a fractured party together, the better chance they have of defeating the New Democrats (NDP) who have been leading in the polls for months.
When he announced his intention to resign on Wednesday, Kenney urged people in his province to put things right after a pandemic that left plenty of bad vibes in its wake.
“It is clear that the last two years have been deeply divisive for our province, our party and our caucus,” he said. “But I am fervently hopeful that in the coming months, we will all overcome the Covid divide.”
Patient voices on the right argue that waiting until spring would give the economy more time to recover from Covid woes and opens the door to a budget with a lot of black ink thanks to rising oil prices.
The Alberta government expects oil and gas to generate 62.6 billion Canadian dollars in revenue in fiscal year 2022-23, a far cry from the negative crude prices in the early months of the pandemic, and a boon to fuel boosters. oil patch on both sides of the hall in the legislature.
On the other hand, a new prime minister could call a snap election and seek a new term for the post-Kenney era.
Or the new prime minister could fail to unite the party and it could split in two, offering an opportunity to leftists in the province who are licking their chops. Alberta is a rare province where the New Democratic Party applauds oil and gas, though the party’s protest against corporate profits makes big business feel sour.
Revenge at the Battle of Alberta
Cue the NDP and this week’s unveiling of the party’s newest slogan: “United.”
The party’s leader, former Prime Minister Rachel Notley, has been more popular than Kenney in the polls for more than a year.
She is presenting her candidates as smart veterans who know how to run the province.
“Our team is ready to build a government that acts with integrity, filled with experienced and capable Albertans who will work day and night on what matters to them,” he said Thursday. “And we are united in this purpose.”
Notley, like Manchin, is also something of a political maverick.
His support for the Keystone XL pipeline and Trans Mountain contrasts with the NDP’s archetypal leader and distinguishes the provincial party from its federal cousin.
If an orange wave returns to Alberta, there is simply too much money coming from oil and gas for Notley to change the province’s policies.
The NDP is interested in a fall election. The game coffers are full and they’re running TV spots on the National Hockey League playoffs between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, the first “Battle of Alberta” since 1991.
Electoral math is tough for Notley’s NDP. He won in 2015 largely because two now-defunct parties, the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose, split the Conservative vote. That meant dead-end NDP candidates ran in the middle in midsize cities, like Red Deer, where Kenney’s United Conservatives (UCP), who formed a winning coalition of the warring factions of Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose, soundly defeated them in 2019.
Notley would also have to retake a wide swathe of Calgary races that he narrowly won in 2015 and gave Kenney’s UCP comfortable victories four years later.
It’s an uphill climb for a former prime minister whose approval ratings in office fell as low as 28 percent, higher than Kenney’s personal worst 22 percent, but a sign of her own deep-seated unpopularity with the electorate.
When Notley lost power in May 2019, the Angus Reid Institute poll showed his approval rating had improved to 40 percent, but not enough to retain power. She could offer the most stable alternative if a fire-breathing populist telling moderates to push him takes over the ruling party.
When the next election rolls around, Albertans who have proven fickle with their leaders will see their seventh prime minister since 2011 go to the polls. If Notley wins again, she would be the first Alberta leader to win non-consecutive terms.
The only sure thing is that Alberta’s next budget will be swimming in black ink, thanks to oil prices that offer at least the illusion of good times. Everything else is impossible to predict.