I have lived in Alberta a long time, all but four years under conservative governments—Social Credit, then Progressive Conservative, now UCP. Only for four years did I enjoy the governance of a social democratic party. I have never enjoyed that pleasure federally although I have found a number of Liberal governments to be quite tolerable.
But even though I may not have voted for the governing parties and even though I may have opposed most of their policies, I nonetheless always thought of them as my governments and the premier or prime minister as my premier or prime minister. I am, after all, a democrat and I accept the will of the people.
That changed with the election of Stephen Harper. Although technically he was my prime minister, I never thought of him as my leader. Harper was a man who saw the world in black and white, us and them, and if you were one of them you were an enemy. Indeed there were even rumours he kept an enemies list. If I had been a person of any importance I have no doubt I would have been on it. And you cannot think of someone as your leader if he chooses to think of you as an enemy.
Now, for the first time, I think the same way of my province’s premier. Jason Kenney is a chip off the old Harper block, a former member of Harper’s cabinet and a disciple of the master. Like his mentor, Kenney is all us and them, a man who would rather fight an enemy than make a friend, a man who prefers confrontation to negotiation. He despises those who disagree with him, chief among them environmentalists. I have no doubt in which category I would fit in his enemies’ list.
My concept of a good premier or prime minister is one who runs as a leader of his party and its supporters but if he wins is the leader of everyone, of every citizen. This has simply never been the case with either Harper or Kenney.
Neither man was Alberta born and bred. In fact both migrated from Ontario, but both matured as politicians in Calgary, represented Calgary constituencies, and make their homes here today.
Now we have Pierre Poilievre, another disciple of Harper and another former member of his cabinet, born, bred and educated in Calgary. He has, however, migrated the other way, now representing an Ottawa riding. Nonetheless, he has the same us and them attitude, and has become the junkyard dog of the Conservative front benches.
Three angry men. To the extent divisiveness is a mark of current political practice, these three play the game well. It’s never hurt them at the polls. Harper became PM, Kenney became premier, and Poileivre … well, we’ll see.