Calgary·Opinion

Solberg: Let me explain why Albertans should choose Mr. Kenney

He is perhaps the most capable MP and cabinet minister I’ve ever known, and he has become an exceptional leader.” Monte Solberg, MP in the caucuses of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party of Canada, on the Alberta election.

'It would be just if voters punished those who cheapen the discussion'

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney reacts to winning the Calgary-Lougheed byelection on Dec. 14, 2017. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)
Editor's note: This is one point of view; other and different points of view on the issues facing Albertans during the election can also be found on our Alberta Votes 2019 page, i ncluding this counter opinion from NDP supporter Susan Wright.

The 28-day job interview to be the premier of Alberta and chief negotiator with the federal government is now in full flight.

Voters get to choose between the four-year reality of the New Democratic Party, led by Rachel Notley, and the vision proposed by the United Conservative Party, headed by Jason Kenney.

Let me explain why Albertans should choose Mr. Kenney.

But first, let me lay my cards on the table. I have no role in the overall UCP campaign, paid or unpaid, though I do have a son who is part of the UCP campaign. However, I have never hidden my conservative leanings. I lay them bare here.

Jason Kenney addresses a crowd of about 500 UCP members at an event in Edmonton on Feb. 16, 2019. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Exceptional leader

I have known Jason Kenney for 25 years. For much of that time, we served together in Ottawa as members of Parliament, first in opposition and then in government.

He is perhaps the most capable MP and cabinet minister I've ever known, and he has become an exceptional leader.

How many other people could run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party on a platform of merging with the Wildrose Party, then win the leadership in a romp, then convince Wildrose to merge, then win the leadership of the merged party and win a seat in the legislature, all in under two years?

I doubt that it has a parallel in Canadian political history.

He brings a work ethic to the table that would win the respect of a rig-hand just getting off a 12-hour shift.

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Staff have come to expect him to fire off a flurry of emails at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., seven days a week.

He and his Dodge Ram truck have been to every corner of the province countless times.

He has built the largest political party in Canada, with 150,000 members. He goes to hundreds of events a year and enjoys it. He has immersed himself in the issues. He has reached out to leaders in various sectors of the Alberta economy to ask them what he could do as premier to help get their sector moving again.

You'll find many of those ideas in his election platform.

Importantly, he has shown a warmness and generosity toward newcomers, many of whom are only in Canada because of the widely-lauded reforms that he, as minister, made to Canada's immigration system.

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His work with immigrant communities was a key reason the Conservative Party of Canada won seats in Canada's largest cities that helped propel them to a majority government in 2011.

He has also been a champion for Alberta's oil and gas industry, frequently getting far out ahead of Rachel Notley in proposing policy solutions only to see the NDP first mock and then adopt them.

That was the case with his proposal for legislation to turn off the taps to British Columbia, which would speed along the B.C. dream of being a carbon-free economy.

During the campaign he has provided daily, detailed policy announcements on everything from healthcare and education to the environment, equalization and attracting investment back to the oil and gas industry.

His policy-heavy and hopeful approach to the election is also a rebuke of cynical politics and the politics of personal destruction that, unfortunately, are being practiced by his opponents.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney pledged to review Alberta Health Services if he becomes premier after this spring's election. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Final arbiters

The NDP have set out to destroy, using three different attack websites to unleash their poison.

They had hoped that the public would be scandalized by intemperate language from a few UCP candidates in old social media posts, or by a 25-year-old grainy video of Jason Kenney.

But the great roaring public are the final arbiters of what matters and what doesn't.

Despite attempting to suggest the UCP is a happy home for racists, homophobes, transphobes, white nationalists, Islamophobes and, that old chestnut, Nazis, the public has so far brushed it aside. Why?

Precisely because they know that the United Conservative Party leadership are none of these things.

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Put another way, if we really are the sum of the five dumbest things we've ever said or done, then we are all very bad people, including and perhaps especially the NDP.

But common sense tells us that we should be judged by the sum-total of who we are, including what we accomplish and contribute, not just the rotten apple cores rummaged from the Twitter garbage bin.

I have no special powers to see the future, but it would be just if voters punished those who cheapen the discussion.

Jason Kenney speaks during a rally in Calgary against the provincial carbon tax. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Hailstorm of bad policy

In some ways the NDP approach is understandable because there's no nice way to say this — the NDP have inflicted on us a four-year long hailstorm of bad policy, bad decisions and bad times.

I'm not surprised that they don't want to talk about their record.

We've been beaten down by tax hikes. We're drowning in a flood of red ink. Investment has dried up and disappeared quicker than Tzeporah Berman's smile at an oilmen's club luncheon.

And yet, amazingly, other oil and gas jurisdictions boom.

Alberta, once Canada's job creation engine now leads in joblessness. Calgary and Edmonton are first and third for unemployment among major cities in the country. Our Triple A credit rating is gone.

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Bankruptcies have skyrocketed. Our debt levels would make a banker squeal with delight.

Despite her early chumminess with Justin Trudeau and despite doing everything she could think of to appease environmental groups, Rachel Notley never did get that elusive social license which, rumour has it, David Suzuki keeps in his yurt surrounded by softly glowing scented candles.

In fact, it's becoming more and more clear that the NDP spent so many years fighting Keystone XL, Energy East and Northern Gateway, that advocating for pipelines just doesn't come to them naturally.

They don't want to do it and when they try to do it, they do it badly.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley announced Albertans will go to the polls on April 16, setting up a showdown with her main rival, UCP Leader Jason Kenney. (Canadian Press)

Ballot box

Jason Kenney has no such ambivalence about pipelines, and he doesn't trust Justin Trudeau, but then again, these days half of the federal Liberal caucus doesn't trust Justin Trudeau.

But there are others that Kenney can work with, such as premiers Scott Moe, Brian Pallister, Doug Ford and Blaine Higgs.

Notley can't do that. She hasn't even tried. Kenney, who speaks French fluently, may even be able to help the new Quebec premier realize that oil that arrives in a pipeline from western Canada is better than foreign oil shipped up the Saint Lawrence.

It's time to end this four-year social and economic experiment where we are the lab rats living through the vivisection.

Albertans will soon head, no, stampede to the ballot box marking their ballots with extra vigor as they toss the NDP from office.

They are starting to realize that when Jason Kenney says he believes in a strong and free Alberta, he means it.

  • This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ

About the Author

Monte Solberg was an MP in Medicine Hat from 1993 to 2008. He served as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and as Minister of Human Resources and Social Development. Solberg was an MP in the caucuses of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, and the Conservative Party of Canada. He is currently the Principal of New West Public Affairs.

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