Following a tireless unity-turned-leadership campaign that began 16 months at “ground zero” – the Cochrane Legion – the first elected leader of the UCP, Jason Kenney, is wasting no time reaching out to Albertans in his continued pledge to undo the perceived “collateral damage” caused by the governing NDP.
With Cochrane holding one of the largest UCP memberships in the province, many Cochranites were present at the blue-lit BMO Centre in Calgary for the leadership announcement on Oct. 28 in a room filled with a surprising number of conservative-supporting youth.
Cochrane resident Peter Guthrie, with an engineering and small business background, was a supporter of the Kenney vie for leadership and attended the event.
“The NDP are very worried,” said Guthrie. “It’s still a year and a half away from the election, but they’re already starting that anger machine up and diverting attention away from the economic situation.”
Guthrie said he thinks, with Kenney’s continuation of social media connection, there will be plenty of opportunities for voters to get to know him and see through NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s divisive rhetoric.
Guthrie feels it’s key for Kenney and the UCP to come out with a clear platform on social issues — to not make the mistakes that he felt cost the federal and provincial conservatives the last elections.
While Brian Jean lost the leadership race with 31 per cent of the vote to Kenney’s 61 per cent, Guthrie said even though Jean has turned down Kenney’s offer of a critic position he is hopeful Jean will take some time to regroup and choose to run again for MLA in the 2019 election, as he could see the former Wildrose leader having a lot to offer in a ministerial positionThe third leadership candidate, social moderate and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, trailed with 7.5 per cent.
On Monday, Kenney chose UCP Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Leela Aheer deputy leader of the UCP. Jean said he is choosing to focus on his role as MLA of Fort McMurray-Conklin.
The gloves are off between the 49-year-old leader of united conservatives and Premier Notley, where the NDP maintain the election of Kenney is nothing short of a repeat of an old boy’s club with a prohibitive approach to social issues.
“I will stand up against Jason Kenney’s and the UCP’s job-killing, gay-outing, school-cutting, health-privatizing, backward-looking, hope-destroying, divisive agenda,” said Cameron Westhead, Banff-Cochrane NDP MLA.
Cochranite Phillip Cape also attended the UCP leadership event. From his perspective the NDP’s personal attacks on Kenney are pointless – given that “the Supreme Court ruled on all social issues … (it will be) Jason’s job to run the province.”
He added that the NDP has “framed the narrative of outing gay kids” but he feels this is a blatant misconception and that Kenney is making it about parental rights.
For Coun. Morgan Nagel, who was also on the Kenney campaign team, the NDP’s focus on “hyper-partisan issues surrounding identity politics,” is a less-than-clever attempt to distract from the economy.
Nagel feels strongly the Notley government is paving the path toward bankruptcy – coming into office two years ago with “around $15 billion in debt and looking to leave us with over $90 billion in 2019.”
He feels Kenney will have the teeth to get the province “back on track.”
The UCP will hold their founding annual general meeting and policy convention in May 2018.