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A spectre is haunting Alberta, and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean wants to assure you it's not him!

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Brian Jean

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A spectre is haunting Alberta, and Brian Jean wants to assure you it's not him.

So the Wildrose Party Leader said yesterday he's On Your Side, and he'll be at your side too all over Alberta this summer. All you have to do is fill out the form on the Wildrose web page and he'll let you know when he's going to be close to you.

If this seems to be a little creepy, don't worry about it. It's only politics, and in particular the politics of which person and right-wing party gets to lead the fight against Alberta's NDP government.

So the Opposition leader officially launched a summer tour yesterday, to be called The Brian Jean Town Hall Series -- complete with a nice cursive logo that includes some Rocky Mountains and a sheaf of free-market barley untainted by contact with the Canadian Wheat Board. He says he hopes "to welcome all Albertans who believe in these core values of small government, strong families and safe communities" to his town halls.

Small government we can argue about, as in conservative circles that term is normally a coded signal to those in the know meaning lots of privatization. Certainly Jean also wants you to associate big government with the NDP. But as Jean and what's left of his brain trust understand, you'd be hard pressed to find any Albertan who doesn't believe in strong families and safe communities.

The tour announcement also promises economic growth, "fiscal discipline" and "once again ... having effective health and education systems." Presumably, given what else the Wildrose Party has said about Alberta's alleged golden age under Ralph Klein and the more recent Tory governments that followed it, they would like to return to the heady days of blowing up public hospitals with dynamite.

Some readers may want to suggest that strong families and safe communities are code for something else too, but personally I'm going to take Jean at his word and assume that two outta three ain't bad and we're all welcome whenever the Wildrose dog and pony show hits the dusty trail.

But hovering above all this -- tweeting continually -- is the spectre that haunts Alberta nowadays: Jason Kenney, once Stephen Harper's minister of defence and multiculturalism in Ottawa and now a not-quite-declared candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, as the PC Party is legally known.

At any rate, for the past week or so Kenney's supporters have been feverishly running flags up flagpoles and sending balloons aloft, apparently heedless of the danger that, this being Alberta, some conservative supporters may shoot at the flags and salute the balloons.

What Kenney and his still mysterious backers seem to have in mind is an unusual double reverse hostile takeover, first of the PC Party by Kenney, a Wildrose supporter, and then of the Wildrose Party, of which Jean is already the leader, by the newly rosified PCs, thereby turning the PCs in to the Wildrose and then the Wildrose into the PCs. Still with me?

No wonder Kenney is reported to have breakfast many mornings at a discreet Calgary truck stop with Harper, who is not only Kenney's former mentor and boss, but Jean's sometime boss as well. Kenney presumably needs a devious mind like the former prime minister's to help him keep all the plotlines straight!

Speaking of which, the only person known to have had breakfast with Preston Manning recently is Derek Fildebrant, still the Wildrose Party's finance critic, Jean's recent efforts to skid him from that role notwithstanding. Tom Flanagan, once a political strategist for both Manning and Harper has been the man responsible for hoisting most of Kenney's flags and inflating the majority of his balloons.

Meanwhile, the Wildrose Party is said to be packed with a Fifth Column of Kenney supporters ready to turn on their present leader if he is unprepared to pack it in and make way for the not-so-young pretender. Indeed, another attack on Jean from a Wildrose constituency association is rumoured to be planned in the next couple of weeks.

So, as readers can see, the plot not only thickens like the gravy at the sort of truck stop used by former senior Tories to launch their schemes, it's practically congealed!

Amid all this skullduggery, it is reassuring from the perspective of political bloggery to learn that Jean seems to have decided it's worth a fight to keep his job -- which, if he succeeds, could leave the province with two Wildrose Parties and a vacuum where the PCs used to be. That could be filled, I suppose, by either the Alberta Party or the Alberta Liberals, rebranded yet again.

Alas, no actual details of Jean's Town Hall itinerary seem to have been set, or at least made public, possibly an operational necessity given all the intrigues the Wildrose leader is facing. We'll do our best here at Alberta Diary to pierce the veil of secrecy and keep you updated. 

In the mean time, we can tell you that the names Conservative Party of Alberta Association and Alberta Conservative Party Association have been registered at the Manning Avenue address of a well-known car wash in Fort McMurray. That business -- seemingly being used as a pawn to block Kenney's queen -- is owned by Jean's family.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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