Fought to unite Alberta conservatives: Former MP Kenney ready to run for premier

Fought to unite Alberta conservatives: Former MP Kenney ready to run for premier

Kenney, 50, was born in Oakville, Ont., raised in Saskatchewan, and spent his adult years in Alberta

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney finally gets his title shot.

It’s not a chance the former federal Conservative cabinet minister saw coming until he put together a plan in the summer of 2016 to unite the province’s feuding right-of-centre Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party into what would become the United Conservatives.

“If you had talked to me in March of 2016 and said I’m going to be the leader of a merged conservative party and leader of the Opposition and heading into an Alberta election now, I would have said you’re nuts. I had zero inkling to do it,” Kenney said in an interview.

“But as I got further into the spring and then summer of 2016 I just realized that somebody with the relevant profile, network and experience had to step forward with a plan.”

Kenney, 50, was born in Oakville, Ont., raised in Saskatchewan, and spent his adult years based in Alberta.

He has lived much in the public eye as he has fought for conservative principles and the concept of ordered liberty, first as an anti-tax crusader and later as one of the key lieutenants in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

He is not married and happily recounts a life committed to public service. A day’s politicking is followed by a night of campaigning and handshaking, followed by late-night reading from a stack of philosophy books at the bedside.

He is schooled in the ground game of politics and had legendary campaign war chests as a Calgary MP.

Some credit him with moving Harper’s government into majority territory by reaching out to ethnic newcomers, breaking the shibboleth that they vote Liberal, so much so he gained the nickname of “the minister for curry in a hurry.”

He is a Catholic and has spoken out against gay marriage and abortion in the past, but promises not to act on those issues if he becomes premier.

He has been dogged in recent months by allegations he secretly pulled the strings on a fellow candidate during the United Conservative leadership race to have him attack Kenney’s main opponent, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, before dropping out and supporting Kenney. Both deny any collusion.

“The NDP is going to throw that stuff at me and at us. I don’t get fazed by it. I just mute the crazies on Twitter and carry on,” said Kenney.

“(Voters) want to see a very serious sober debate on the economic future of the province, how we’re going to fight for Alberta’s place in the federation. And I think parties that engage in nasty, negative campaigns will be penalized by the voters.”

In the weeks leading up to the election, Kenney outlined the broad strokes of a policy platform that begins and ends with jobs and the economy.

He has promised to balance Alberta’s multibillion-dollar budget deficits within four years by freezing current spending and cutting regulations, taxes and red tape to free up entrepreneurs to grow the economy by what he says would be three per cent a year.

Kenney was just 10 years old, sitting on a couch minding his own business at a Saskatchewan school fundraiser, when politics first found him.

John Diefenbaker, well over a decade removed from being prime minister, came up to young Kenney, asked him his name, and struck up a conversation: Do you know the mythical story of Jason and the Argonauts? What’s your favourite subject at school? What are your future plans?

“That 10-minute conversation made an indelible impression on me,” said Kenney.

“That a former prime minister would spend 10 minutes talking to a 10-year-old boy was remarkable to me. I never forgot the kindness that he showed. And that maybe gave me sort of my initial interest in politics and public service.”

Forty years later, even if he doesn’t win the Golden Fleece, this Jason hopes he has Alberta’s conservatives all rowing in the same direction again.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

File photo
Sylvan Lake NexSource Centre reopens Monday

As part of the provincial reopening plan, the recreation facility is able to open to the public

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Most Read