It is still early days, but the race to become the next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives has begun.
And the winner might already be a foregone conclusion.
The rumour mill continues to swirl with names of potentials, some who would return the party to its PC roots (Ric McIvor), some who would continue the party’s flush down the progressive crapper (Sandra Jansen), while others who make speculation of the party’s direction under their leadership difficult (Thomas Lukaszuk, Michael Oshry).
As everyone knows, federal Conservative MP Jason Kenney is the only person thus far to publicly announce his bid, which means the race might be over before it begins.
In this, his path towards Alberta premier is similar to the Jim Prentice saga. Prentice had also spent time in Ottawa before deciding leading Alberta was his goal. However, that’s pretty well where any similarities end.
While he was a known name as an MP, Prentice was never considered as serious a successor to Stephen Harper as Kenney. Some in the know even thought of Kenney as a ‘sure-thing’ to be Harper’s replacement.
Even with a better-than-average chance to lead the federal Tories and perhaps eventually replace Mimbo as Prime Minister, Kenney chose instead to follow his instincts and return to Alberta (to become leader of a third-place party) with the expressed purpose of ‘reuniting the right’, with the goal of putting a stop to further NDP damage.
This is something Alberta grassroots conservatives and moderates have been shouting for a while.
A similar precedent was set in Ottawa not long ago. The fractured political right, housed in the Reform and PC camps, opened the door for the Chretien/Martin era. Then, as now, party loyalists on each side stubbornly held on to their pride by reliving old days of glory mixed with fantasy hopes for the future.
In the end, common sense – and grassroots moderates and conservatives – were successful in overcoming this barrier. What followed was a decade of federal Conservative government.
There is much to be debated and lots of work (and convincing) to be done. What is certain is that, by using a call for unity as part of his leadership announcement salvo, Jason Kenney has made it clear he recognizes the barriers preventing solidarity of centre-right Albertans, as well as the reality of what’s at stake.
I, for one, agree.