Last year was not an easy year for most leaders as they tried to navigate through the pandemic. Balancing public health with economic needs and personal freedom was a challenge for most jurisdictions and Alberta was not alone in this.
The start of the year saw Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dealing with issues involving caucus and cabinet members travelling over the Christmas holidays when Albertans were told to stay home due to COVID. The actions by those members of the legislature caused the public to question whether the government was really on their side.
When Kenney became the leader of the UCP he had to balance the urban and rural sentiments to build a solid base of support across the province. Many of his urban caucus members hold contrary views to their rural counterparts and vice versa.
Since forming government there were always rumblings about Kenney’s leadership from backbench MLAs but these were dismissed as sour grapes. Recently those rumblings became loud and are now out in the open.
Todd Lowen, MLA from the Central Peace-Notley constituency has called on Kenney to resign. This is significant as Lowen also served as Caucus Chair for the UCP Caucus.
Lowen is probably not alone in his thoughts about Kenney as eighteen UCP backbenchers balked at Kenney’s healthcare restrictions last month.
There is also the personality issue. Kenney has always had a top down approach to his caucus and to the electorate. Past Alberta leaders who weathered caucus discontent were always given the benefit of the doubt by the voters.
Former Premier Ralph Klein had mastered the art of being genuine. Even if you disagreed with him you always knew where he stood. Klein had the common touch, something that is lacking in Kenney’s DNA.
Recent polls show that if the election were held today the NDP would win a majority. The next Alberta election is slated for two years away. That is a long time, especially in politics.
That being said, Kenney will have to act sooner than later to hold together his coalition or risk losing the “U” in UCP and the next election.