Stephen Harper

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”

That’s King Henry speaking, words provided by William Shakespeare, by the way.

But no one was going to shout “God for Harry, England and St. George” or any Albertan version of it in Red Deer last night, where the five Progressive Conservative leadership candidates had a debate with Jason Kenney, who is running for the same job they but with the intention of destroying the former natural governing party of Alberta.

The game, however, did appear to be afoot.

Kenney, until recently a Calgary Member of Parliament and minister in the cabinet of former PM Stephen Harper (who was at the PC policy convention to cheer on his former subordinate), proposes to achieve his goal by merging the PCs with the Wildrose Party to create what MLA Richard Starke, one of the Faithful Five, termed “some new Franken-party.”

If the socially conservative Kenney succeeds in this goal — which by the sound of media coverage of the event he is prepared to do by hook if not crook — he will be duplicating the reverse hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada by the Reform/Alliance Party in 2003 that was engineered by Preston Manning and carried out by Harper and his minions.

After that, the merged national party was renamed the Conservative Party of Canada — nothing progressive about that crowd — and pretty well all remaining Tories anywhere to the left of Genghis Khan were purged. Count on it, Kenney has the same thing in mind for his vision of a merged Wildrose-PC entity, which he tells supporters is the only way to defeat Alberta’s NDP government.

The only difference this time — since there are Wildrosers like Opposition Leader Brian Jean who are just as unenthusiastic about Kenney’s project as substantial numbers of members of the traditional big-tent PC Party — is that this time Kenney and his advisors propose to pull off a double reverse hostile takeover!

Which is where the bit about the game being afoot comes in: Another of the Faithful Five, former cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans, observed with distress Kenney’s teen-aged supporters being bused into Red Deer to take over the PC youth wing, which gets to appoint 20 delegates who get to vote for the leader at the party’s leadership convention in March.

“There’s obviously something afoot here,” she told the CBC, noting that most of young ‘uns outdoing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s supporters by wearing camo Kenney caps hadn’t been PCs very long and seemed to be social conservatives.

Before departing for kiddie-coup preparations, the young folks were escorted into a room where they could have their pictures taken with Kenney and Harper, if you had any doubts left about where the former prime minister of Canada stood on the project.

“Kennedy-Glans said these newer supporters are trying to dominate policy discussions that have been studied at the grassroots level of the party,” a CBC web reporter wrote. Kennedy-Glans elucidated: “I think they are trying to usurp some of that. And that bothers me.”

Kenney told media the yout’ were recruited during his travels around Alberta in his new blue Ram pickup truck over the summer, and expressed the view most Tories would be pleased to have some folks around.

According to news reports of the event, Kenney touted the model of the Saskatchewan Party — led by Brad Wall, the man he calls “the real leader of Western Canada” — as the way to unite the PCs and Wildrosers. An observer at the meeting I spoke with by phone (I had another engagement in the capital city) noted the number of AGM goers who sat on their hands during Kenney’s comments.

Each of the Faithful Five — the others are MLA and former cabinet minister Sandra Jansen, Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson and former MLA and cabinet minister Stephen Khan — took pains to declare support for a revitalized Progressive Conservative Party. This put them all at odds with the celebrated Mr. K, who performed his feat on Saturday at … the Red Deer Sheraton.

Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off!

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

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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...