VICTORIA — At least some in the Alberta NDP must have been offering up discreet prayers of thanks last night.
Premier Jason Kenney, threatened with a vote of confidence yesterday by his rebellious United Conservative caucus members, bluffed the lot of them into silence.
The gathered MLAs, so the stories go, folded like a canvas lawn chair when they realized some of the premier’s supporters weren’t about to allow a secret caucus vote.
In other words, they would have to let their colleagues in caucus know where they stood, and that was enough to stop the idea dead in its tracks. After all, eventually how they voted might leak out to the general public, including many voters who would not be happy whatever they decided to do.
Let’s just say these Conservative legislators are not made of the same stuff as the Canadians who took Vimy Ridge!
It is a truth universally unacknowledged by Alberta’s opposition that they are better off with Kenney, who has proved to be a catastrophe as premier during the drawn-out disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the leader of the government party.
After all, every day, more small-c Alberta conservatives, the sort of folks who have long voted for the Progressive Conservatives and later for Kenney’s United Conservatives with the force of habit, are quietly confessing to themselves and their friends that for the first time they’re contemplating voting for Rachel Notley’s NDP.
At least Notley, they’ll admit when pressed, was competent during her term as premier from 2015 to 2019.
Kenney, pretty clearly, is not. At least, it’s extremely difficult to make a case he had no choice when it came to how he responded to the pandemic, or to claim he couldn’t have chosen a better course on any number of issues.
Sometimes you have to lose something — or someone — to realize how good you had it. A lot of Albertans are starting to pine for the quiet competence of Notley.
The admission Kenney is good for the Opposition because he is so bad at being premier is a difficult one for the NDP to acknowledge because it would also mean admitting that some other Conservative leader might be harder to defeat. It could even be spun to suggest anyone who feels this way hopes for more of the disasters that Kenney has perpetrated.
Plus, of course, it’s simply fun to watch the disunited United Conservative Party tear itself apart because its remaining components are so incompatible with one another.
The UCP’s Calgary Caucus quite reasonably fears the wrath of its voters if the party continues to bow to the lunacy of their anti-vaxx rural brethren.
Rural MLAs who may privately acknowledge the validity of science and the effectiveness of vaccines rightly fear what their many Q-influenced constituents might get up to if they listen too closely to their Calgary colleagues.
Both camps are terrified of what would happen if the other side manages to pick Kenney’s successor.
They obviously concluded yesterday they’re better off with the devil they know than the devil they don’t. Anyway, with an election scheduled to be held by May 2023, there’s plenty of time to comfort themselves with the thought everything will still somehow work out.
As for Kenney, the former federal MP seems like a politician confident he really can fool all of the people all of the time. Anyway, even if he doesn’t, he’ll soon be eligible for his full Parliamentary pension from the Government of Canada, also in May 2023.
Meanwhile, the UCP MLAs supposedly agreed yesterday to go ahead with a planned leadership review in the spring of 2022.
Mark my words, come 2022, Kenney will do his best to wiggle off the hook again, no doubt by arguing it’s too close to the Spring 2023 election for the United Conservatives to be airing their dirty laundry in public, or even behind closed doors through which the grunts and slaps of conflict will be muffled but still audible.
The UCP boil, un-lanced, will continue to grow more inflamed.
Maybe there will be some defections or resignations, maybe there won’t. But it’s hard to see how it won’t become increasingly obvious to Alberta voters that the UCP is an unhappy union of two bitterly opposed camps, incapable of managing its own affairs, let alone those of the province.
Meanwhile, the Opposition must continue to oppose. As it does, though, it should also keep in mind the sage advice attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: “Never interfere with your enemy when he’s busy destroying himself.”
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 at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: David Climenhaga