Widely perceived to be the most conservative mainstream politician in Canada, Jason Kenney wants to lead Alberta’s new United Conservative Party (UCP).
Kenney made the announcement on Saturday in the provincial capitol of Edmonton. The UCP is a merger of two right-of-center provincial parties that have shared the conservative vote in the last two Alberta elections.
Kenney is a former high-profile cabinet minister in the former federal Conservative governments of Stephen Harper. His portfolio included defense and immigration. In the latter post he rewrote the Canadian citizenship manual to ensure it condemned “barbaric practises” like female genital mutilation and honor killings.
Kenney kept his audience in suspense for almost 20 minutes before telling them what most political observers in Alberta expected to hear: that he would join former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer in the leadership contest.
He spent most of that speech castigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead of leftist Premier Rachel Notley, who Kenney hopes to replace as premier.
“Justin Trudeau says that Canada, quote, ‘has no national identity.’ And he seems to think that Canada 150 is all about apologizing for our past,” Kenney told a boisterous crowd that booed Trudeau’s name.
“I think he could not be more wrong,” Kenney said to applause.
“I’m sorry, Justin, but I’m not distracted by the socks and selfies.”
Kenney eventually got to Notley and the provincial New Democratic Party, calling their carbon tax “all economic pain and no environmental gain” while accusing the left-of-center government of administering “the failed theories of socialism.”
He said if elected leader and then premier, he will focus on Alberta’s oil patch as the primary source of economic prosperity. Kenney also promised to stop pushing “political correctness” in the provincial schools — he will insist that students learn about Canada’s rich military heritage and “colonialism.”
After describing his accomplishments first in federal politics and then as the leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, Kenney said he has the experience and the principles to lead the new party. “We need a leader with consistent, conservative conviction,” he said. “I know that I have those clear convictions.”