Jason Kenney. Image: michael_swan/flickr

Tick tock. The clock is running out on Brian Jean.

The former Wildrose Party leader and Harper Government MP is struggling desperately to hang onto the dream of leading of the United Conservative Party — that is, to keep it from being snatched away from him by Jason Kenney in the party vote that began yesterday.

Unlike Jean, who after the decade he spent as Conservative MP for the Fort McMurray area starting in 2004 to his term as Wildrose leader from the spring of 2015 until last July, Kenney needs no introduction.

Just in case you’ve been living in a ravine in Edmonton’s River Valley and using your only news source to start your campfire, Kenney is former Conservative PM Stephen Harper’s trusted minister of this and that. Need we say more? Once seen as the heir apparent to prime ministership of Canada, he is now devoting his estimable talents as a campaigner and mudslinger to capturing the booby prize, the premiership of Alberta by way of the Progressive Conservative Party (deceased, 2017) and the UCP that Jean once reckoned he was a deadbolt cinch to lead.

Kenney’s campaign has been described in this space as a juggernaut, crushing every conservative, progressive or otherwise, who stands in its way.

So far, Jean has dodged the machine’s rumbling wheels, although it’s been close on a couple of occasions, but the day of reckoning is at hand. The UCP will announce its new leader on tomorrow. Its new leader will be Kenney.

Never mind polls that say Jean would be more likely than the easy-to-dislike Kenney to beat NDP Premier Rachel Notley. That’s been Jean’s argument for a while now. His problem is it’s not Alberta voters who get to decide this race. It’s Tory insiders, some of whom have a pretty extreme agenda they think Kenney is more likely to carry out than Jean.

Anyway, the party’s elites and its rank and file alike have persuaded themselves beating the NDP will be so easy to do it really doesn’t matter who leads the party.

Kenney is the better campaigner, and Kenney is the leader desired by the cabal of conservative bagmen associated with the Manning Centre and the federal Conservative Party, so Kenney it will be who wins. Leastways, if he doesn’t, it’ll be the biggest political upset in Alberta since … well, since May 5, 2015!

As he has grown more desperate, Jean’s stunts have grown sillier.

Recently, he had one of his former Wildrose Caucus supporters — Grande Prairie-Smoky MLA Todd Loewen — argue in a fund-raising email that if anybody but Jean gets the job (meaning Kenney, since the third candidate, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, is barely on the radar) the party will end up frittering its donations away on the leader’s salary.

“The other two candidates in this race are not Members of the Legislative Assembly,” Loewen’s email said. “I’m concerned that we will have to use a large chunk of your hard-earned donations just to pay them a salary until the next election.”

Well, good luck with that argument. Most UCPers say ho-hum. Thanks to the U.S.-style PACs being set up at a brisk pace by conservative bagmen to subvert Alberta’s election financing laws, the Alberta right should be awash in grey money to lavish on the leader.

On Tuesday, Jean staged a photo opportunity in front of Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s constituency office in Calgary-Fort. He stood behind a sign reading “We can win here.” A Chinook wind was blowing.

The same day, he tried the same stunt at Premier Notley’s constituency office in Edmonton-Strathcona. The wind was blowing in Edmonton too. It made the sign a little unsteady, but at least it carried away the whiff of desperation.

This post is also found on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: michael_swan/flickr

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David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...