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Op-ed: Kenney resignation all but inevitable

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

A rocky premiership made even rockier by the pandemic and oil crash is coming to an end.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has decided to step down after only receiving 51.4 per cent of support in the UCP leadership review.

No doubt, Kenney has had a rough time of it since entering Alberta politics, dating back to the “Kamikaze campaign” scandal.

What Kenney had going for him was a province that had quickly grown tired of its NDP experiment and was desperate for a return to conservative rule.

Since Kenney took office, however, the media and an effective opposition have been haranguing him over a number of unpopular policies, whether it was attempting to bring back coal mining, unilaterally ripping up the doctor contract or introducing controversial changes to the K-6 curriculum.

Even UCP supporters balked at the proposal to close or delist dozens of provincial park sites.

Rather than introduce a provincial sales tax or come to terms with the fact that oil and gas is essentially on the way out, the UCP doubled down on budget cuts and nostalgic energy policies.

Many of the government’s proposals got such blowback that it had to awkwardly walk them back, leaving a lot of hurt feelings and a loss of confidence.

This was especially apparent with Kenney’s handling of COVID over the last two years.

He resisted vaccine passports for months, only to end up caving, which left his opponents saying it was too little, too late.

His base, meanwhile, resented how he failed to hold the line.

Many leaders have had trouble walking this tightrope throughout the pandemic, but Kenney’s style of governing did him no favours.

He was a man of politics more than a man of principles, and his wavering proved that.

The leadership review itself was contentious when it was changed from a day of in-person voting in Red Deer to mail-in ballots, with some alleging the changes were made to improve Kenney’s odds (which the party obviously denied).

Kenney survived the review but realized the writing was on the wall.

With a provincial election not too far away, the UCP will now have to select a new leader.

Given the lingering bad memories of the previous NDP government and the current amount of resentment against the cosmopolitan left, all the UCP needs to do is find a candidate who is somewhat tolerable and won’t pursue Kenney’s more unpopular policies.

But seeing how confused the party now is, that may be a tall order.

It’s time. Support your local media.

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