Metric loss

David Staples: A simple metric drove Jason Kenney from power

Content of the article

Intrigue, questions and controversy surround Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s resignation, but his departure comes down to a simple metric.

Advertisement 2

Content of the article

For Alberta’s United Conservatives, there was only one question about Kenney’s leadership – how would he fare against his rival, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, in the upcoming election provincials of May 2023.

The answer to a near majority of party loyalists was as clear as Kenney’s dismal ongoing polling numbers: Not well.

Whatever you think of his policies and leadership style, if Kenney was currently well ahead of Notley in the polls, he would have easily won his opinion vote in the leadership, getting 70% or 80% of the vote, not only an unimpressive 51 percent. hundred. But he had done poorly against Notley for a long time and there was little hope for improvement, mainly because if Kenney had stayed in power his United Conservative Party was bound to fracture, with many libertarian Tories voting for others right-wing dissident parties.

Advertisement 3

Content of the article

the Angus Reid Polling Firm found Kenney had a 60% approval rating through the summer of 2019, but had dropped to 47% even before COVID. As the global pandemic dragged on, his popularity dipped to 22% last fall, before slowing to 30% last March.

This is a terrible number for a province where the majority is rather conservative.

The math did Kenney in the zero-sum game of partisan politics.

Much is being made in certain circles of Kenney’s authoritarian leadership style within the ranks of his own party, but this internal baseball stuff is unlikely to have had much of an impact on the general public. Who cares if he was known as an island boss and know-it-all?

What mattered was his rapid drop in the polls, a drop that was driven not so much by politics as by the simple question of Kenney’s questionable bedside manner and erratic and sometimes obnoxious public messaging during COVID.

Advertisement 4

Content of the article

In this crisis, Kenney had to combat partisan concerns and sincerely respect the fears of all Albertans, something he realized too late to address them last fall with the appointment of comforting Minister of Health Jason Copping, a master graceful political rhetoric.

The prime minister was unlikely ever to please the large NDP-leaning group that would have locked down the province for two years because they feared COVID so much. But his failure to end hostilities and warm to doctors and nurses quickly at the start of the pandemic was a sure recipe for failure.

He also ticked off his own supporters. Perhaps there was a way to introduce public health measures and vaccination mandates without completely alienating the many people in his own UCP base who feared the vaccine more than the virus. But it certainly wasn’t by insulting the anti-vaxxers, who were after all driven by self-interest and concern, like every other faction in the pandemic.

Advertisement 5

Content of the article

Yet this group came to feel demonized by Kenney. I can’t read his mind, but maybe the premier was frustrated with them because he had to step up unpopular public health restrictions last fall due to so many Albertans refusing vaccination. . Perhaps it’s because his more radical anti-vax opponents have made violent threats against Kenney and his 83-year-old mother. Such fearsome threats have a knack for radicalizing a person.

But during the leadership review, Kenney lashed out, saying he wouldn’t let the UCP become a hotbed for “hateful, extreme and divisive voices” and telling his staff that “crazy people are trying to take control of the asylum”, while noting that due to the success of the UCP “bright light attracts a few bugs. Well, there are more than a few bugs attracted to us, this party, right now.

Advertising 6

Content of the article

Compare your political opponents to bugs? Not cool.

This is the kind of rhetoric I expect from Justin Trudeau, not the premier of Canada’s most freedom-loving province. Kenney’s libertarian base will never forget or forgive his hurtful words.

The big question now is who will run to be UCP leader, with names like Danielle Smith, Travis Toews and Doug Schweitzer garnering some support among the multiple conservative insiders I spoke with.

The same simple factor will also drive votes, namely how well a potential candidate compares to Notley, but there is an added complexity, how strongly each candidate will support the winning UCP candidate.

As Smith said in his opening press conferencea fractured conservative movement will lose to the NDP.

This fracture was insured if Kenney had stayed.

But maybe now the UCP can live up to the “united” part of its own name.

dstaples@postmedia.com

Advertisement 1

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user follows you comments. Visit our Community Rules for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail settings.