Alberta legislature opens after wild weekend in provincial politics

After a wild weekend in Alberta politics, MLAs are back in Edmonton as the legislature reconvenes.

There’s the business of writing laws, like the NDP plan to introduce new gas and dash legislation, but it will also be interesting from a purely political perspective now that the United Conservative Party is officially in play.

For starters, newly elected leader Jason Kenney won’t be there because he doesn’t have a seat, as he waits to run in a by-election in Calgary-Lougheed.

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said that affords him other opportunities.

“To try to reach out to some of the Albertans that he hasn’t connected with yet and then he’ll try and let them know what he stands for, the kind of leader he would be, the kind of opposition leader he’s going to be,” she said.

Williams expects the NDP will give him that by-election relatively quickly.

“Sounds to me like the NDP is looking forward to meeting him whether out in the streets of Alberta or in the legislature, they’re actually thinking they’ve got a good chance against him,” she explained, while cautioning the ruling party isn’t guaranteed anything.

“If the economy is doing better and the deficit is coming down I think it’s going to be a very tightly fought race in the next election,” she said. “If the economy is not doing well then the UCP has a much better chance.”

Another question is what happens to Brian Jean. Williams said Kenney would be wise to keep him close, since he has so many loyal supporters.

“Put him in a position that’s fairly high in the party, deputy leader or something like that, so that he has him in a position that will persuade his supporters, that is Brian Jean’s supporters, to come onside with Jason Kenney,” she said.

Whether Jean would accept is another story.

“The party members want to see a united party so my guess is that Brian Jean will support Jason Kenney at least superficially but it may well be that his supporters don’t,” said Williams. “Whether that be rank and file party members or even MLAs, we’ll have to see.”

Another unresolved topic is the future of Derek Fildebrandt and whether or not the former Wildrose finance critic will be welcomed into the UCP as suggested.

“If they bring somebody who has been irresponsible with taxpayer dollars, that is Derek Fildebrandt, back into the fold, then even their fiscal conservatism could be open to questions, so they’ve got some challenges ahead of them,” she said.

Williams added Jean’s and Kenney’s own social conservative backgrounds could also hurt the overall appeal of the party and moderates could be looking for a new home.

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