Friday, April 19, 2019

As Alberta retreats into bad conservative habits under Jason Kenney, PEI may show us what real change looks like

There isn't much positive to say about the gross Alberta election results this week.

The voters of that province are generally much more conservative than other Canadians and they stayed true to those inclinations this week.  The Alberta NDP's election in 2015 was a unique event that took place simply because they were the only viable option that year to boot out the old Progressive Conservatives, who truly deserved it.  The NDP was abetted that year by a divided conservative vote, when 52% of the right-wing vote was split almost down the middle, allowing the NDP's 41% to translate into a majority government. 

There's no doubt that Jason Kenney is an effective politician.  Many thought he'd run to succeed Stephen Harper as leader of the federal Conservatives.  But after 2015, he may have (correctly) deduced that Justin Trudeau would be hard to beat in 2019.  As such, Kenney changed focus and left federal politics for Alberta where he united the two provincial right-wing parties there into one, the United Conservative Party (or UCP).  The result was a provincial victory this week, in which the UCP took 55% of the vote, while Notley's NDP receded back to 33% (still a huge level of support for the NDP in that province, which averaged around 10% support in the 20 years prior to Notley becoming leader.) 

Like the federal Conservative Party that Stephen Harper helped create, the conservative union was and continues to be somewhat awkward, putting people who hate LGBTQ people and non-white people in the same tent with people who don't.

Notley hoped that by reminding socially liberal conservatives of the bigoted positions taken by Kenney and many others in the UCP in the past, they'd wrest those votes back to the NDP.  But as always with the NDP, it was a bridge too far.  Too heavy was the weight of dissatisfaction with the NDP's economic record.

It's sad that bigotry is not much of a deal breaker for most socially liberal conservatives.  On every issue that's ever mattered to LGBTQ people, Kenney has always sided with the bigots.  His election this week was a clear declaration by a majority of Albertans that LGBTQ people just don't matter that much to them.  Or at least not as much as some vague notion of "fiscal responsibility" and "economic growth."     

The irony is biting, of course.  Kenney has a strange personal history that's been largely ignored by the mainstream press in Canada.  Years ago, he professed that he'd remain a virgin until married.  And of course, he remains unmarried today.  Like many, I've long suspected that he's really a closeted, self-hating gay man who put his devotion to his Roman Catholic faith ahead of even himself.  The whole thing is such a gross throw-back to yesteryear, when gay men lived deeply sad and closeted lives.  Kenney seems to have whittled off a major portion of his life based on the false belief he must in order to save his soul.  All the better if doing so, in his mind, is the only path to unfettered political success.

It's gross to watch Kenney's contortions today pretending to have "evolved" on LGBTQ rights from the time 30 years ago when he campaigned against same sex spousal hospital visitation rights in San Francisco.  The best part of this election campaign was Charles Adler's scorching interview when he took Kenney to task for that history.  LGBTQ people know well that the biggest homophobes are usually closeted homosexuals themselves.

So now Albertans have ignored all of this oddness and embraced this man as their new spokesperson.  Good luck with that.  Personally, I'll be muting the television every time Kenney appears on it, as I have done previously.  This is not a person who can speak with any authority on anything that matters to me, that's for sure.  If Albertans thought they'd elected a champion who will shake up eastern Canadians into supporting their big oil agenda, they are sadly mistaken. 

PEI Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is poised for historic breakthrough
Despite this depressing turn of events, there is reason for optimism this weekend for progressive political junkies in Canada.   

Prince Edward Island goes to the polls on Tuesday.  And it seems that it may be far more historic and interesting than anything Albertans did last week.  

The Green Party seems poised for a historic victory, which would probably be the first time in the world this has ever happened.  That's what I'll be hoping to see. 

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