United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney took Monday off after a United Conservative public relations disaster on the weekend. First, Prab Gill, MLA for Calgary-Greenway, announced he would step down as the caucus whip pending the investigation into ballot stuffing on Thursday. Then he resigned from the caucus on Friday evening and will sit as an independent until 2019. Gill says he will not contest the nomination in the riding. Gill is the third MLA to resign from the UCP caucus amidst controversy after Derek Fildebrant, MLA for Strathmore-Brooks was disallowed a return to caucus and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, Don MacIntyre, resigned due to allegations of sexual interference.
Since its inception, the UCP has seen Dave Rodney, Don MacIntyre and Brian Jean resign their seats. Richard Starke refused to join and remained the lone PC representative. Derek Fildebrandt, Rick Fraser and Prab Gill resigned from caucus and Wayne Drysdale, Scott Cyr, Dave Schneider and Pat Stier announced they would not seek re-election… 11 out of 27 since the “unity vote” in July 2017. But I digress.
Friday evening, a candidate for nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat, S. Todd Beasley, shocked supporters with a post that he was withdrawing from the race. A couple of contentious Facebook posts against the Muslim religion that Beasley made last year had surfaced and the Party disqualified him from seeking the nomination. Beasley doubled down on both his opinion and the posts in an informative interview with QR770’s Danielle Smith on Monday morning. Kenney, while unavailable to comment on Party business, did post a meme about Tzeporah Berman on Twitter.
Albertans were also treated to a story about how Gill charged taxpayers for a Conservative banquet featuring Jason Kenney and his push for all things UCP. MLA’s are not permitted to use their MLA constituency funds for partisan events.
Unity does not appear to be going as smoothly as some would like the public to believe. To date, there have been allegations of threats and intimidation in Strathmore-Brooks, which saw sitting MLA Leela Aheer acclaimed as the nominee; complaints in Airdrie-East which saw sitting MLA Angela Pitt handily win the nomination; a “foot in the door” pro-life candidate elected in Cardston-Siksika, and; two eleventh hour disqualifications of male candidates in ridings where the only other candidates were female. There have also been a number of candidacy withdrawals in other areas.
To credit their loyalty, a number of those withdrawing still put their support behind the Party. The “disastrous NDP”, who has seen Alberta through an economic depression, doesn’t scare everyone though. Still struggling to get a handle on their own recovery, Saskatchewan is beginning to look west with misty-eyed wonder while the UCP want to impose Wall’s austerity here.
Saskatchewan’s unemployment has continued to rise, reaching heights not seen since the 1990’s while Alberta’s are on a decline. Even their former Premier, who implemented an austerity budget and then walked away, joined many of his former constituents in seeking employment in Alberta. Alberta’s recovery, while not as fast as some think it should be, is much better than our closest comparative economy and still has the highest GDP in the country.
But all is not lost for those who cannot bring themselves to vote for a “socialist” government who carried them through one of the worst recessions in decades. If George Clark can get 180,000 signatures for a failed “kudatah“, the Alberta Advantage Party should be able to get the signatures it needs to register as a Party. And the Alberta Party is nominating candidates without any controversy at all unless you consider the fact that some of the nominees are former PC, NDP or Wildrose candidates. Sometimes, the “big tent” isn’t just a slogan.
The cracks are not just beginning to form in the UCP, they were already there and they are growing. Discontent with the “top-down” decision-making is only getting stronger. Some UCP insiders believe the supporters will still vote for them, no matter what they do to suppress member input but Alberta is not yet a two party province. Albertans still have choice; unless you’re a UCP supporter, apparently.
Notice: This article contains both fact and opinion. Links to supporting documentation provided.