Jason Kenney might be planning to leave federal politics to enter the fray in Alberta, riding in as a white knight to unite the divided right and defeat Rachel Notley’s governing New Democrats.
It may prove even more difficult than many think.
Kenney, a former high-profile cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, has been widely seen as a likely front-runner in the race to replace the departed Conservative leader.
Instead, the job vacancy that Kenney might now be hoping to fill is the leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives — a position abandoned by Jim Prentice after the PCs, who had governed the province uninterrupted from 1971, were reduced to third-party status in the 2015 election.
The party that vaulted ahead and currently occupies the role of the Official Opposition is Wildrose, led by former Conservative MP Brian Jean. Kenney would need to absorb Wildrose into the PCs in order to unite the right and create a common front to fight the NDP.
Wildrose, however, is not much inclined to be absorbed. And Brian Jean doesn’t want to go anywhere. With more seats (22 compared to nine for the PCs) and more money in the bank, he could easily make the argument that it is the PCs that need to sacrifice themselves.
In fact, Wildrose has already been trying to cast itself as the true conservative party in Alberta. Late last year the party changed the colour of its logo, transitioning from dark green (reminiscent of the old Reform Party) to dark blue, the colour of the PCs — and the federal Conservatives.
Wildrose’s attempts to reposition itself have not been subtle. Take, as an example, an image posted to its Facebook page and Twitter account, boasting of the party’s fundraising performance in the first quarter of 2016. Wildrose’s number was coloured a dark blue. The Progressive Conservative figure was presented in vibrant Liberal red.