Yesterday brought news of the first entry into the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership race of a candidate who is not Jason Kenney.
Donna Kennedy-Glans — MLA for Calgary-Varsity from 2012 to 2015, starting and finishing that stage of her political career as a Progressive Conservative — announced her intention to run for the leadership of the party on Wednesday in an email to her former caucus colleagues, which by yesterday was conveniently in the hands of the media.
She will announce it all over again for the benefit of rest of us later.
If there’s one thing you can say about DKG — the first Alberta politician in years with a name highly suitable for initializing in the manner of those other Kennedys — it’s that she’s got a resume impressive enough at first glance to describe the very model of a modern major party leader!
Indeed, Kennedy-Glans has been, among other things, a high-powered corporate executive in the Calgary oilpatch as the first female vice president of Nexen Inc., a Conservative cabinet minister, a negotiator for a pipeline company, and a lawyer with a QC. She has written two books — one of them with “Islam” in the title. She’s got some international experience, and a couple of magazines have put her on their lists of 50 most influential people.
So she has obviously achieved a number things that would likely be positively received by folks in several categories of contemporary voter, including the significant number of mildly progressive, faintly conservative urban electors who inhabit a large and crucial segment of the Canadian electorate.
Should she grasp the brass ring, you’d think that would make her a serious contender in Calgary, and quite possibly in other parts of Alberta too, as PC leader.
But whether that translates into what it takes to unite the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party into one happy conservative family — which for the moment at least the Alberta right insists is a necessary prerequisite to defeating Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government — that’s another matter entirely.
To be blunt about this, while the PC Party’s success over the 44 or so years before the NDP won the May 5, 2015, general election depended upon looking like a big-tent, mildly progressive party, much of the party’s establishment was always far more conservative.
As for the Wildrosers, well, they are more like a little trailer than a big tent, don’t you think? Much like the federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper, despite their protestations for the benefit of squishy voters that they are a centre-right party, there is very little room in their ranks for anything or anyone inclined to be progressive in any way.
So, if a necessary qualification for the next PC leader is at least the possibility of uniting the right, even if it’s only on the PCs’ terms, it suggests Kennedy-Glans is probably a long shot.
What’s more, if her resume faintly reminds you of … Alison Redford’s … the same thought has probably occurred to a lot of disgruntled Wildrosers, and not in quite as complimentary a way.
For his part, Kenney, a former Harper cabinet minister and determined social conservative, looks like the more likely candidate of the two to do the uniting thing — probably at the unlamented cost of the entire progressive wing of the PCs. On election day, though, he’s more likely to scare the beejeepers out of genuinely centrist voters.
But there’s worse, I suspect, from Kennedy-Glans’s perspective. According to people who have more insight in to the dark heart of the Alberta conservative movement than I do, she has few fans among the Tory establishment. Indeed, she is said to be seen by some of them as a flake.
Back on St. Patrick’s Day 2014, in the last hours of Redford’s troubled leadership, Kennedy-Glans famously resigned from the party caucus and cabinet, in which she had served briefly as associate minister of electricity and renewable energy. Less than two weeks later, Alberta’s first woman premier, already put on a disciplinary sounding “work plan” by her caucus, was for all intents and purposes fired by her colleagues.
Kennedy-Glans’s 11th hour public disagreement with Redford, her timely resignation and subsequent events, indeed, may now contribute to the not-entirely-complimentary way she’s viewed by some in establishmentarian Conservative circles. And if there’s ever been a PC leadership election in which the party establishment plans to throw its weight around, this is the one!
“I was going to fight for change from within and I have had a lot of roles in government,” DKG said when she quit to sit as an independent. “My sense is that change just cannot be done from within.”
Down tumbled Premier Redford and, seven months later to the day, Kennedy-Glans was welcomed back into the Tory caucus by Jim Prentice, who had been premier for two days. Parties change!
Come the 2015 election — which was scheduled to take place on her 55th birthday — Kennedy-Glands decided not to run. Just after the election, that must have seemed like a prudent decision. Now? Perhaps not so much.
All of this leads some to suggest Kennedy-Glans is something less than the sum of her parts.
Be that as it may, other than the next job they’d both like to have, she has at least one important quality in common with Kenney. Like so many conservative politicians in this province, both are natives of Ontario.
The PC Leadership race is scheduled to officially begin on Oct. 1. Nominations must be submitted by Nov. 10, and the winner will be selected at a convention in Calgary on March 18, 2017, one day after the third anniversary of Kennedy-Glans’s resignation from the Redford cabinet and PC caucus. More candidates are bound to have emerged by then.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.