As we have seen this weekend, Jeff Callaway was not only a kamikaze candidate (a person who had was not campaigning to win), but whose campaign was directed by staff from Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign. Email documentation and testimony from former co-campaign manager Cameron Davies showed there was a direct effort on behalf of Kenney’s campaign to discredit Brian Jean through Jeff Callaway.
There’s another candidate whose role in the UCP leadership has been the topic of skepticism but on a much lower level: Doug Schweitzer.
Schweitzer was originally planning to enter the Progressive Conservative Leadership race but decided instead to back Kenney. After Kenney won said leadership, Schweitzer then decided he could be a better leader. Or whatever their story was.
Schweitzer filled a very important role, for Kenney, in the UCP leadership. As noted in the linked article above, Schweitzer offered a necessarily tempering voice to Kenney’s socially conservative views. He was a sliver of hope for former Progressive conservatives who were still hoping their Party existed inside of this new tent full of people they didn’t recognize. That sliver turned out to be 7% but it existed nonetheless.
What Schweitzer also did was flank the left of the “united” party. Kenney had the right firmly locked down. That left Jean, and Callaway, in between. Callaway allegedly had one job: discredit Jean and erode his support. As the former President of the Wildrose Party, Callaway likely had some credibility as well.
It was a good ruse. Wildrose supporters trusted this was a demolition of the Progressive Conservatives and a kingship for their policies and constitution. The PCs would have nowhere to go and would have to support them. They won.
People didn’t seem to trust Kenney, whose Ottawa scent still lingered, but if a familiar voice said “you can trust him because I trust him”, well people might just believe it.
There is a very good possibility, in fact, a very high likelihood, that Schweitzer thought he had a chance. Bringing a progressive conservative view to a party of “true” conservatives that had just punted the progressive conservatives is about as questionably strategic as you can get, but maybe he really thought it was a solid tactical move. Strategic. Shocking, even, in its unexpectedness…
The real benefit, of course, went to Kenney. If “New Blue” Schweitzer supports Kenney, and Callaway supports Kenney, and the social conservative base supports Kenney; well then golly, gee, what a united party they are!
Schweitzer’s decision to run, and then not run, in the Progressive Conservative leadership race didn’t seem like much at the time. It’s almost as if someone told him it would be more beneficial if he showed up in the UCP leadership race. And if that someone exists, they might have just forgotten to tell him they didn’t mean it would necessarily benefit him personally.
This post is an opinion.
Twitter: @Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB
Categories: Alberta Politics