Jason Kenney opens PC leadership office but won't open up about platform — yet

Jason Kenney says he's "trying not be too detailed in policy specifics" in his run to lead Alberta's PCs because his main focus right now is to rebuild the province's conservative movement from the grassroots.

Calgary MP says his focus is rebuilding the conservative movement from grassroots

Federal Conservative MP Jason Kenney is vying to become the next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

He opened his campaign office in Calgary on Monday, but Jason Kenney says he's not yet ready to open up about his political platform as he continues his bid for the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party.

The federal Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore said he's "trying not be too detailed in policy specifics" because his main focus right now is rebuilding the conservative movement in Alberta from the grassroots.

"If there's one common critique I hear from people, including lifetime PCs, about the recent Progressive Conservative governments is they were far too top down and out of touch and too often arrogant," Kenney told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday morning.

"So I'm trying to learn that lesson by deferring detailed policy development to members in the future as opposed to seeking to impose them well in advance."

Still, Kenney did say he'd scrap Alberta's carbon tax, which is set to kick in in 2017, and repeal recently passed legislation that extends workers' compensation coverage and occupational health and safety rules to farm labourers.

Kenney also said he's not opposed to increasing private sector opportunities in health care.

Kenney officially launched his campaign office over the lunch hour on Monday, but he's been touring Alberta for the last few weeks in his pickup truck, drumming up support for his bid to unite the right.

While Kenney said the tour has been "low budget," he's been criticized by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for collecting an MP's salary while seeking the PC leadership.

"Well, you know what, normally in August, in the past I'd be doing French immersion and nobody would be complaining," Kenney said.

"Some MPs take a little bit of time off in August. Instead, I'm driving around — no vacation — talking to Albertans about issues that matter to them and I continue to perform my functions as an MP."

Kenney will be stepping down from his seat in the House of Commons when the PC leadership race formally begins on Oct. 1 — something, he says, that has never been done before by an Alberta MP.

"Out of 35 MPs who have run for the provincial leadership, I'll be the first in history to do so — so I'm creating a new precedent."

Kenney claims NDP voters will come to him

At his campaign office opening, Kenney told reporters he believes a united right could not only collect the votes of both Wildrose and PC supporters, but also win over NDP voters.

"I've met NDP union members who said they didn't vote for a carbon tax and they didn't vote to shut down the coal industry," he said.

"I absolutely believe if we put together one big, broad new party that we're going to get a lot of traditional NDP voters supporting it. I'll tell you, the kind of blue-collar NDP spirit that Brian Mason represented is not the spirit animating this current NDP government."

Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Calgary's Mount Royal University, said Kenney's efforts at getting his name out there, at the very least, are helping him gain a sizeable advantage over other contenders.

"He's got a complete summer lead over any body else in the PC race," Bratt said.

'Crazy people' making threats on social media

Asked what he thought about recent tweets among NDP opponents that include a crosshair overlaid on a photo of Premier Rachel Notley, Kenney didn't mince words.

"I think that's deplorable," he said. "Anything of that nature should be condemned unequivocally, and I do so."

The tweets are the latest chatter suggesting — or outright threatening — violence against Notley or members of her cabinet, and Kenney said social-media providers need to do more to curb it.

"Unfortunately, there are some crazy people on Twitter and I think that company should block people who ever make a hint or a threat of violence of that nature," he said. "I'm all for freedom of speech but intimating violence crosses a huge red line and should be banned from that platform, as far as I'm concerned."

"I don't like to draw attention to those things because those people are just looking for attention," Kenney added.

"They're looking for an audience. They're just a bunch of losers who should be ignored by ordinary people."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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