Campaign 2019: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up?

Jason Kenney at the "Ralph Revival" November 2017
Jason Kenney: “Ralph Revival” November 2017

Duane Bratt, a political science Professor and Chair in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University, wrote a fantastic article about how political parties can, and do, capitalize on voter anger.  

In 2015, Alberta voters were angry. They saw the backroom politics, political opportunism and an entitlement they wanted to fight back against. In 2019, they are faced with the same but it’s a change from what they have now and they want change. 

Since Jason Kenney returned to Alberta as the Saviour in Waiting, he has been promising a return to the “Alberta Advantage”, and to “take Alberta back”.  What the brain trust behind Kenney’s glory run didn’t expect back in 2016 was that the economic recovery that has been slowly, but steadily, apparent in the province would face another hit in 2019: a global recession.

By many accounts, a recession is “unavoidable” in the U.S. and Canada is never immune to its neighbour’s woes. Alberta’s oil and gas industries have yet to replenish the employment numbers and if a recession is nearing, they won’t be doing so any time soon.  Some suggest this is the new industry reality but others are determined to protest their way back to work. 

The United Conservative Party, along with its federal counterpart the Conservative Party of Canada, has been very supportive of the protests as they both have a common enemy – not unemployment but federal policies that can be made to disappear if people elect the right Party in 2019.  Sure, one can argue that a proposed bill will kill jobs or that a current bill already has (no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary), but a global recession will be hard on whomever forms government in Alberta; and Canada.

I’ve said before that the best thing to ever happen to conservative parties was not forming government in 2015.  Oil began its decline in 2014 and is likely the reason Jim Prentice called the election early; had he waited, Alberta would have been in the depths of the recession in 2016.

Heading into another election, Alberta’s political parties (should) know there’s a recession on the horizon that Alberta is not in a great position to weather.  A global recession is out of the hands of any party that manages to form government but, oddly enough, the NDP has an advantage: they’ve campaigned in recession territory before.

I have no idea at this point what the outcome of Election 2019 will be because I think there is more riding on this campaign season than people want to admit.  I’m going to focus instead on campaign predictions.

Alberta Advantage Party and Freedom Conservative Party will shoot off some fireworks in rural.

Derek Fildebrandt, leader of the FCP, former Wildroser and UCP caucus member is after the same base as the Alberta Advantage Party. AAP’s founding member and current leader, Marilyn Burns, was a founding member of the Wildrose. 

AAP will be fighting a two-front war with Fildebrandt, the once very popular Wildrose MLA, and Jason Kenney’s party of one who decimated the party Burns actually built. 

FCP will probably become more separatist and more independent.

NDP and UCP only have eyes for each other.

It will be as if no other party exists and that works to the advantage of both parties. We should continue to see video and audio declarations from an intolerant Jason Kenney after the writ drops.  It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 years old, hearing Kenney proclaim the ugly things he has is powerful.

The ND’s have an advantage over the conservatives in that they’ve campaigned in a recession period and can again focus on keeping the lights on. This possibility could force the UCP to not even mention the “r” word lest Albertans think re-electing the NDP is the only way to save services.

The UCP will pivot from “bringing back the Alberta Advantage” to “we need years (and maybe decades) to fix what the NDP has done”.  That should be fun.  Would this be the earliest point, historically, that a yet-to-form-government has begun to make excuses for why they should not be held accountable if they form government? 

At this point and time, the leader’s debate will include Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley as they are the only two parties with party status in the Legislature.

Alberta Party does something bold.  

The Alberta Party needs a fourth MLA before the writ is dropped so they can participate in the leader’s debate.  They have Party Status in the Legislature but the broadcasters choose the participants.  In the past, no Party with at least four MLAs has been left out.  If they manage to convince someone to help them do that, it will be no small feat.  Note the same case can be made for the Liberals and the FCP…  

It is possible that the Alberta Party will try something really bold: honesty. I’m not saying every other party will be full of lying liars who lie, but I don’t see the UCP admitting anything other than NDP policies as a problem and while the ND’s could talk about an impending recession, I’m not sure they’ll go there; they will want to focus on their record and stay away from bad news. 

Alberta Liberals

I don’t see them gaining momentum.  Being a liberal in Alberta isn’t an easy thing but being a Liberal with a Trudeau in government must be a nightmare (not if you are a liberal, of course, just if you’re trying to drum up support).  David Khan, the leader of the party, is running in current Liberal MLA David Swann’s riding of Calgary Mountain View which has some fantastic competition: NDP’s Minister of Justice, Kathleen Ganley, Alberta Party’s Angela Kokott, and UCP’s Caylan Ford.  Swann was the only Liberal MLA to survive the orange crush in 2015.

It will be very interesting to see which way the winds are blowing after the writ is dropped.  So much can change during a campaign – after all, look what happened last time. 

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

dmaclean@countersign.ca

@Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB

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