This column is an opinion of Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for over 30 years. For more information on CBC Opinion Section, please consult the Faq.
As the federal Conservatives unravel election mess to figure out why they lost, they are pointing their knives in the direction of beleaguered Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
They are upset, to say the least, by Kenney for handling the fourth wave of the pandemic so badly that he became a problem during the last week of the election campaign as he chaotically tried to prevent the system from breaking down. health of Alberta collapsing under the weight of COVID -19 cases.
By declaring another province-wide public health emergency and ultimately being forced to introduce a vaccine passport (which he disguised as a “restriction exemption program”), Kenney allowed the Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for attacking it and, by extension, Conservative leader Erin O ‘Toole, who had applauded the premier of Alberta’s response to the pandemic days before.
Of course, O’Toole really only had himself to blame for praising Kenney as COVID-19 began to hit Alberta’s healthcare system. In the end, O’Toole awkwardly did his best to avoid questions from reporters on the matter, even going so far as not to mention Kenney by name.
The campaign may have had a litany of issues, including Afghanistan, gun control and child care, but the pandemic has overtaken them all, and Kenney has become the poster child of how to let COVID- 19 overwhelm your health care system.
It’s not fair to blame Kenney for the loss of O’Toole, but Federal Conservatives who are keen to save O’Toole’s skin after the election are not going to be lenient on the premier of Alberta .
Even though the results from the Liberal and Conservative national headquarters roughly echo those in the 2019 election, Alberta’s results are a worrying sign for the provincial Conservatives.
The NDP retained Edmonton Strathcona and early Tuesday NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais was declared the winner over incumbent Conservative Kerry Diotte in Edmonton Griesbach.
George Chahal won for the Liberals in Calgary Skyview, while in Edmonton Center incumbent Conservative James Cumming was in a checkered battle against Liberal Randy Boissonnault.
This is bad news for the federal Conservatives, but it is a disaster for Kenney. It appears that public anger against the premier of Alberta has seeped into the federal arena.
Normally, federal Liberal candidates in Alberta only stand a chance of winning a seat when their party clearly moves towards a majority government, as was the case in 2015 when the Liberals won four seats.
When their party heads for defeat or minority status, they lose those seats, just like they did in 2019.
Now they are on the verge of winning two seats in Alberta when their party only managed to bring out another minority government.
And the NDP, always thrilled to win even one seat in Alberta, now has two.
You could call it the Rachel Notley Effect, where public approval of the behavior of the provincial leader of the NDP during the pandemic has spilled over into the federal arena.
If Kenney was standing still yesterday, he’s drowning today.
Not only is he the least popular Prime Minister in the country, with a cranky caucus on the verge of revolt and a party falling behind the NDP in fundraising, but he will be the target of federal Conservatives at the same time. finding a place to point.
This has happened in Alberta politics before.
In the June 2004 federal election, Prime Minister Ralph Klein’s very outspoken plans to shake up Alberta’s health care system created a huge headache for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Klein had boasted of “bold and courageous” reforms that would challenge – if not outright break – the Canada Health Act.
Liberal Leader Paul Martin used Klein’s rhetoric to attack Harper and it worked. The Conservatives criticized Klein for allowing the Liberals to retain power with a minority government.
Klein’s popularity, already starting to wane, began to plummet. He managed to win the Alberta election in November 2004, but lost 11 seats and 200,000 votes from the 2001 election.
Klein’s days were numbered and, after receiving humiliating 55 percent support during a management review in March 2006, he had no choice but to retire earlier than expected.
Kenney, on the other hand, isn’t supposed to be under a leadership review until the end of next year.
However, some UCP constituency associations are currently undertaking a review early next year to give the party time to choose a new leader before the next election slated for spring 2023.
The knives are out for Kenney and they are coming from all directions.