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This is a great line: "Further, Alberta isn't a particularly ideologically conservative place. This is a point I keep on trying to make to no avail to partisans."

I think that's true for most of Canada and moreover, it's true across the ideological specrtum. Most Canadians don't really care about political ideology. We're a fairly pragmatic people who seem to want stability, prosperity and for things to work -- peace, order and good government.

We're not getting as much of that as we probably want lately, which seems to motivate politicians to go harder on ideology. But, what matters -- what we actually care about -- is governments who deliver the stuff that actually touches our lives. A LOT of that is actually on how well the government and the public service can work together. But, ideologues (on both sides) tend to like to spout easy-sounding, difficult-to-deliver solutions that ulimately fail.

Of course, most public policy challenges that matter to people are actually complex and not easy to solve. Inflation, deficits, climate change, pandemic response, productivity -- all require pretty difficult trade-offs and defy easy solutions. Anybody that promises easy solutions is probably not being entirely honest!

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May 20, 2022Liked by Line Editor

An excellent piece of analysis. Gerson is a fine writer, always look forward to her material. As to Kenney - or O'Toole for that matter - always important to remember that trying to keep everyone happy is almost always a mistake. He should have had the backbone to stand up to the most divisive members of his caucus and let the chips fall where they may. As it is, I don't know who in their right mind would want to lead the federal or Alberta Conservative parties, as long as they seem bent on purging each other.

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founding

"What's the value in being an ideological conservative if your dogma doesn't produce the results you promise to the electorate?"

Yeah, exactly.

Maybe THE fundamental problem with Conservatives in Canada is their fixation on being "Conservative". When you do that, you are automatically creating a divide, a sort of club you have to join to be one of the cool kids. You're in a bubble that effectively contains your group and acts as resistance against others coming in.

People don't necessarily want to join your college campus club of nerd-Cons. They just want competency, good judgement, and hopefully some minimum of integrity.

Politics is like economics: if its in the news, you're doing it wrong.

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May 20, 2022·edited May 20, 2022

That's one very broad definition of "broadly in line" death rate. It was double that of BC next door.

The gross numbers only appear to be 50% higher (4452/3447 but for 15% less population than BC), but it's really double, because BC has so many more old people, like myself and 3 friends who spent our young, productive, high-tax years in AB, then promptly moved to BC to inflict our aging bodies on its health-care system. When I went through the number of people over 70 in each province, the death rate in Alberta is really double that of BC.

http://brander.ca/c19#jasonbutcher

(The attached horrid graphic is intended to be funny. Honest.)

I don't actually blame JK for that death rate, "worst summer" and all. Alberta is *obviously* a different ideology, as shown by their lower vaccination rate, despite the government never dissing that, always encouraging it. The difference between urban and rural vaccination rates is an even clearer marker that it is cultural, not government-driven.

Jason's "open soon" attitudes and programs didn't help, but they were a symptom of the pressures he was under, not the root cause of the problem. People in Alberta took the pandemic less seriously, distanced less, restricted contacts less. Similar stories across the 3 prairie provinces, again, contrast the rural vaccination and death rates.

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A good overview of why Kenney rose and fell - much better than the 'he was a true conservative who was pushed out by a bunch of kooks' narrative that others are pushing. I don't think Alberta is ungovernable. I don't even think the UCP is unmanageable - though that is clearly the harder task. It does require an ability to be open and form a consensus from the variety of tribes that live under the broad 'conservative tent' in Alberta. Ralph Klein did it. So did Peter Lougheed (though the composition of the 'conservative tribes under the tent' was quite different back then). Unfortunately, it only took a couple of months into Kenney's Premiership to see that his idea of consensus-building was that he would be the coachman, hold the reins and crack the whip while everyone else could get in harness and pull. That was never going to work for long, COVID or no COVID.

There's surely an irony that the leader most like Klein since he left office is Rachel Notley (though I doubt she's appreciate the comparison). Not only does she relate well to 'severely normal Albertans' but her political skills in holding together her own centre-left coalition AND making it look easy are very Klein-like. It's not often as discussed, but the centre-left in Alberta is easily as disjointed as the centre-right. Yet she's united those tribes and has held them together through four years of government and three years of opposition with nary a peep of dissent. If I could offer one piece of advice to any would-be conservative leader looking to 'unite' the UCP, I would say, "Look across the aisle for an example of both the qualities needed and how to do it."

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I suspect one of Kenney’s problems is that there’s a growing, near irreconcilable gulf between urban and rural Albertans. Political power and population used to be fairly evenly split between the groups back in the glory days of Peter Lougheed, but was significantly tilting towards cities by the time Klein came to power. The rural caucus is disproportionately strong in the UCP, but can’t carry the province.

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Back to topic (sorry; pandemic stats are a fussbudget trigger).

No analyst should try to get around what Kenney could not: the Kook Factor. At least Jason, as he went down in flames, called them out with the K word.

It's so very hard for me to believe that smart people could possibly have believed in the "War Room" narrative; they had to have been cynical politicians selling a Tale. It was a conspiracy theory, furcrissakes. A conspiracy, presumably with American oil behind it (cui bono?), to use green protests as a cover for landlocking our oil, to improve their sales. That most of the "green movement" were really dupes, funded by foreign frackers. That was the nub of it.

It was easily debunked, before the War Room even started up business, and never made a serious defense of the conspiracy theory. It may be the first time millions in public funds have been spent to chase and promote a conspiracy theory, at least since the Red Scares.

I really think that Kenney and his staff had to sit around at some point, figuring out how to placate and inspire the Kooks with a gesture, like building a wall to keep out nonexistent Caravans, a giant virtue signal.

American Republicans had to walk that tightrope for 35 years, since White Evangelicals flipped to Republican to vote for Reagan. They had to throw them bones, gestures, (always cultural, never economic) on topics like race, women, gays and immigrants. But now, the Republicans have fallen off that tightrope, and their party got eaten by those they'd pandered to.

Jason was still pandering, with a theatrical re-opening in the face of full ICUs, in mid-February, I think he hoped that would break the Coutts blockade. They sneered at the gesture.

I don't think the UCP can pander any longer; they've got to draw a clear divide, as the feds did when Bernier had to go off with his few percent. Whether that costs an election or two, is just too bad; you can't build a party on conspiracy theories and denial. It won't last.

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Great read, Jen!

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Kenney could have been Canada's Ron DeSantis, who was proven categorically right about Covid - same mortality record as comparable states, far better performance on human rights and the economy.

DeSantis showed courage, and is now a very popular governor and presidential contender. Kenney lost his nerve, and now he has lost his job.

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Terrific article. This is just what I subscribe to The Line for! A few points:

-Ms. Gerson's best point is that we're not even that ideologically conservative. Our politicians have been saying and doing things for decades that would have ruined their careers in the American Bible Belt on everything from gay marriage to public healthcare to abortion, and they've suffered little to no political consequences. If anything, it's moving towards social conservatism that'll kill you, even in Alberta.

-In their letter explaining why they decided not to go ahead with their mine, Teck Resources explicitly said that one of the major reasons was because Alberta nixed its carbon tax. I can almost see Preston Manning facepalming in frustration while muttering "I told you so" under his breath, particularly when raging socialists like Jack Mintz have also come out in favour of carbon taxes. Manning has been trying for years to get his fellow conservatives to be more assertive on the environment, and Teck Resources arguably vindicated him.

-The funny thing about equalization that Kenney probably hoped we'd all forget is that it was his government, led by Stephen Harper, that established the current equalization formula. I agree that equalization needs an overhaul, but Kenney was basically demanding that Trudeau clean up the mess he and Harper made in the first place.

-As much as right-wing partisans might have hated Rachel Notley, her stances on resource development kind of made her a black sheep in NDP circles in the rest of Canada. And she actually left resource rates the way they were, while Peter Lougheed was the one who actually raised them back in the day.

-I wonder if, instead of the decades-long periods of one political party being the only viable one in Alberta, we'll become like the other Western provinces with the NDP and a conservative party constantly rotating in and out of government and swapping sides in the legislature. Having multiple competitive parties can only help our democracy. Even if you prefer having a conservative party in office, a progressive opposition will keep it on its toes and force it to remain competitive.

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What makes Alberta seem ungovernable and, for that matter, even Canada, is not its citizens. The issue is the First-Past-the-Post electoral system. FPtP, perversely, rewards politicians who traffic in divisiveness and discord.

If Alberta and Canada, for that matter, adopted one of the proportional representation election systems recommended by citizens assemblies, mixed member proportional or single transferable votes, the perverse incentives that seem to make Alberta ungovernable would mostly vanish.

The problem is not Alberta nor Albertans nor politicians nor political parties, it's the FPtP electoral system.

Alberta is not unique. FPtP degrades politics everywhere that it is in use.

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Health Care : His push towards privatization ( without actually saying that was the direction) came at the cost of the collapse of the Public Systems,.Long wait times ( not COVID Induced), closed Emergency Departments, shortage of both Nurses , Physicians and Allied Health Professionals.. The Health Care System unraveling was closely followed by the blundering changes to the Education System. A system where Private and Public is achievable, but not at the cost to Public too the extent they have taken it. Nor at the cost of ramming it through and turning a deaf ear to Parents ( Voters) as has been the case in Education!

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From A to Z his government lacked any common sense. They couldn't even get the referendum on DST question right. If you think about it he had no leadership experience prior to this gig, he was always Harpers follower.

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Well written & thoughtful article. Eastern Canada seems to change parties every 2 terms or so with the idea that a government too long in power becomes complacent and stops listening.

Comment of Mr. Kenny in the last election that Alberta was “ naturally Conservative” did sound both complacent and arrogant.

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Yet another superb piece, Jen! There’s something Nixonian about Kenney’s fall in the way that, more often than not, his (mostly unnecessary) machinations blew up in his face. It suspect he enjoyed the skullduggery for its own sake

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Excellent sum-up of Kenney's sojourn in Alberta.

It looks like Kenney once again used a shock tactic to send us all off in the wrong direction.

Now we see nothing's changed, Kenney's still in charge ... and rumour has it that he'll run in the leadership race and probably win!

And here it is Victoria Day long weekend ... UCP's favorite time to slide nasty stuff through while we're all camping and barbecuing!

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