The Alberta election is going to be ugly, and crazy, and the next few years could be worse.
Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party (UCP) has kludged together an alliance of the shattered right-wing that ruled Alberta for nigh on about a million years. He’s facing off against NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
This should be Kenney’s election to lose, and so far he’s trying to live up to that sentence.
Kenney started out well in the lead and remains there, as of the most recent polls. And why shouldn’t he?
Alberta has leaned conservative in one way or another for longer than most people alive can remember. An NDP majority government taking up residence in the legislature was clearly a sign of the end times, on par with a three-headed dragon torching the West Edmonton Mall.
And yet… it happened. Alberta isn’t a right wing monolith, at least not anymore.
Last time around, the conservatives were divided between Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives.
But in welding them together, Kenney created one of the two controversies that would dog his campaign – the spectre of a so-called “kamikaze candidate” allegedly remote controlled by Kenney’s campaign during the UCP leadership race.
Then there were the expected bozo eruptions, with candidates getting punted from the UCP for saying bizarre or offensive things, or hanging around with the Soldiers of Odin, a group too odious even for Facebook to handle.
So why is Kenney still the front runner and presumed next premier?
Well, because the price of oil is down, way down, and because a lack of investment in pipelines over the past few decades has come back to bite Albertans right in the wallet.
I’ve written before that Alberta needs to start thinking seriously about what happens when oil stops being a permanent ticket to financial stability.
The petro-province might have one or two more booms in her, but then it’s over. Electric cars and cheap solar and wind power are within reach. The oil sands have an expiration date, and it’s getting closer.
But that’s why the election aftermath will be worse than the vote itself.
Kenney is winning – so far – on the promise of endless war against any and all perceived enemies of oil.
Turn off the taps to B.C., for our temerity to oppose Trans Mountain expansion! Roll back action on climate change – and death to carbon pricing, too! And a referendum on equalization payments, to somehow force Ottawa to let Alberta keep more oil money!
Kenney is riling people up for a series of fights. He’s going to lose most of them. Trans Mountain will likely be built, but that has nothing to do with Kenney – Notley’s for it, too, as is Trudeau. But the rest of it is going to go badly, and waste a lot of time and resources. Just when Alberta needs to be conserving what it has for an uncertain future.