By Jonathon Van Maren
Tonight is a very bad night for Rachel Notley, for David Eggen, and for the rest of the accidental NDP government that many Albertans just can’t wait to get rid of: Jason Kenney, possibly the most formidable conservative politician in Canada, has won the leadership of the United Conservative Party by an overwhelming margin. That, conversely, is great news for Alberta’s entire conservative movement, which had been divided prior to Kenney’s arrival on the scene with a unity plan just sixteen months ago.
The NDP fears Kenney because he’s never lost an election, and the past year and a half have again revealed his inexhaustible energy, his skills on the stump, and his ability to grasp and articulate policies in a way that voters connect with. But the NDP despises Kenney because he has a perfect pro-life record, while they talk about expanding abortion services in Alberta (they even included one of my columns in a party press release, demanding that he explain why his position didn’t mirror theirs). They despise him because he believes in conscience rights for physicians. And most of all, they despise him because Jason Kenney actually believes in genuine diversity and the rights of parents to pass their values on to their children.
That’s why they tried to target him as a bigot along with parents who do not hold the same rigid ideological views that they do—parents that include Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, orthodox Jews, and Mormons. And when Rachel Notley pulled her final dirty trick this week, actually insinuating that the Catholic school system didn’t think it was necessary to teach consent—a libel they insisted was accidental once it was revealed to be entirely baseless—Jason Kenney defended the slandered parents and educators and pointed out the insidiousness of a government that despises genuine diversity of belief and spurns the rights of parents to send their children to a school that reflects their own sincerely-held values.
I should probably also note that I’m pleased at the loss of former Wildrose leader and United Conservative Party leadership candidate Brian Jean, who spent the last month or so of the campaign accusing the Kenney camp of a “shadow campaign” that questioned his faith as a way of refusing to address his previous comments about social conservatives that I detailed in multiple columns. There was no “shadow campaign,” of course—that was simply Jean’s way of trying to avoid addressing what he actually thought of one faction of the conservative movement and instead accuse Kenney of smearing him.
Jean already had, as I pointed out throughout the campaign, gone on TV to apologize for any expression of social conservative sentiment and to label one major faction of the conservative movement—which would certainly be a necessary partner in any “United” Conservative Party—as “nutbars” and “crazies.” Parents could not rely on him to defend them when the NDP and their media hacks came after them with baseless slanders—and indeed, when Notley parroted the media lies about Albertan Catholic schools, Jean was as silent as the grave. He was probably debating whether or not to go on TV and promise everyone that he was as disgusted as Notley was when it was revealed that the entire story had been invented out of thin air.
That’s why the great Albertan, Ted Byfield, reached the same conclusion that many of us did—that Jean was untrustworthy and had no desire for a big tent party. He didn’t have the guts to stand up to the ideologues who wanted to smear thousands of Albertan parents. Instead, Jean’s instinct was always to go to the media to assure them that he, too, thought that many Albertan families were toxic bigots.
But Jean has lost, and good riddance. The new leader has shown that he has genuine skill as a man capable of uniting conservatives behind a common agenda. Jason Kenney’s entire career has shown that he is a common-sense conservative who builds bridges between communities. He has shown that he respects each wing of the multi-faceted conservative movement, and refuses to back down when his supporters are slandered and attacked by the NDP. Hopefully, the arrival of the United Conservative Party will mean that come next election, Alberta can turn a fresh page and begin to undo the damage that Notley’s NDP has done with such relentlessness and relish.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.