Understanding Kenney's firing

Conventional wisdom has it that Mr. Kenney was fired by the UCP membership largely because he mishandled the Covid crisis and/or because he did not follow through on national relationship issues like the vote against continuing equalization payments to Ottawa. I do not believe that; nor do I accept former UCP president Ed Ammar's argument that Mr. Kenney should be replaced immediately simply because many people dislike him:


The UCP will continue to suffer from the dislike of Premier Kenney as long as he remains in the leader’s seat. We need an impartial interim leader so the focus can be on moving forward, not on Premier Kenney.

Ask the average Albertan about Mr. Kenney and you don't get an outpouring of love for the man - but there's a reason for that and it has little or nothing to do with Mr. Kenney personally. That apparent dislike among people who spend minutes a year on politics is an effect of the mass media's commitment to amplifying negative views on almost any policy enacted by conservatives and then directing that response against the party leader, not the policy. Notley's policies were far worse in their consequences for Albertans, but her co-operation with Trudeau in stopping pipelines was never given mass media attention and the NDP's responsibility for the consequences were never personalized against her. In contrast, anything interpretable as negative during the premierships of Redford, Prentice, and Kenney was instantly, insistently, and repeatedly presented as arising from a combination of that leader's inherent evil, personal corruption, and obvious stupidity.

Fortunately the bottom line on this kind of media inculcated public dislike is that it is too shallow to matter: Albertans, like most people worldwide, would gladly vote the devil himself into the premier's office if he could be trusted to deliver good grey government - fiscally conservative, socially liberal - while getting the federal boot off our throats.

Second, the policies that got Kenney fired did not arise from his inability to keep his Caucus united against the media-public health feed back loop - most people forgave him that because it's been obvious from the beginning that Caucus was being torn apart between those who didn't believe, those who did, and those who just went along; with the votes - which amount to instructions to Mr. Kenney - sometimes going one way, and sometimes the other.

What did, I think, get him fired - and should now end the Travis Toews candidacy before it even gets going - was his acceptance of the managerial and financial recommendations in the Mackinnon report. Talk to conservatives outside the Brian Jean back to the 50s movement and you'll find that most of the rest of the anti-Kenney votes came from people who work in, or know people who work in, education and health care - more importantly, talk to party members who didn't vote and you'll find most of them wanted Mr. Kenney to succeed, but could not support him because their view of the way in which budget constraints were selected and implemented attached to him, not Caucus and not Toews.

When Mackinnon first came out I thought it looked like an exploding cigar: the amplification of some loose campaign rhetoric into simple minded, and totally wrong headed, public policy recommendations intended to commit the UCP Caucus to its own electoral destruction. I still think so; and, of course, I now think the authors succeeded in their mission in getting Kenney to destroy himself and, possibly, the UCP with him.

So what can Kenney do? he could accept resposibility for the mess the UCP has made of education and health care budget management, stay on as interim leader, and redirect the leadership contest into a fall leadership and policy convention in which Brian Jean and the angry men get to defend Mackinnon, while Kenney works with the other candidates to unite the party behind both a leader and a policy platform Albertans can believe in.



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