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Previewing potential successors to Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party

So who will replace Jason Kenney? Will it be an insider? An outsider? A loyalist or a renegade? Rebel News has some ideas.

Previewing potential successors to Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party
Twitter / ABDanielleSmith, BrianJeanAB
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As the United Conservative Party (UCP) of Alberta begins a search for a new leader after the shock resignation of Jason Kenney, names are already being floated for his replacement.

Kenney, though he received 51.4% of the party membership's support to carry on as the boss, choose to resign Wednesday night, triggering a hunt for the next premier as the province hurtles toward a general election in May 2023.

“Resign” might not be the right word. “Long goodbye” à la Andrew Scheer might be more accurate.

Reports are that the UCP caucus spent most of Thursday wrestling with the timeline of Kenney's exit, finally resting on “when the new leader is elected on an undefined date to be chosen by the party.”

So who will replace Kenney? Will it be an insider? An outsider? A loyalist or a renegade? We have some ideas.

The names below do not amount to an endorsement, but rather a thought experiment to foment discussion!

Danielle Smith:

The former leader of the Wildrose Party (WRP) announced her intention to run to replace Kenney in a Thursday morning press conference on Zoom wherein she said she would have the government immediately stop the legal proceedings against lockdown resisters. However, Smith comes with more baggage than Calgary International Airport. She could have been Alberta's next premier in 2015, until she destroyed her own party in a betrayal that paved the way for four years of NDP government when she crossed the floor, along with several other members of her party, to join Jim Prentice's Progressive Conservatives. Conservative voters rallied to make sure she lost her nomination in her riding of Highwood. But, hers is a story of redemption. Since the betrayal of 2015, Smith has worked hard to rehabilitate her reputation as a conservative broadcaster who took the moral stance of leaving her job when her employer tried to censor her opinions. But will it be enough? Are conservative memories short? Are voters the forgiving kind?

Brian Jean:

The former 10-year Harper MP Brian Jean recently overwhelmingly won his riding of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche after first winning the nomination against a handpicked Kenney candidate. What's peculiar is that Jean won his place as a UCP MLA campaigning on the promise to challenge Jason Kenney for the leadership of the UCP — he ran for the government against the leader of the government. And this was not the first time the two have clashed. Jean, the former leader of the WRP after Danielle Smith destroyed it, ran against Kenney to lead the UCP after the merger of the PCs and WRP (not in the Danielle Smith betrayal way, but after the matter was put to a vote of the membership) and he lost, opting to take a break from politics until now. Jean still has a lot of goodwill with Albertans. Between February 25, 2015 and May 5, 2015, Jean declared his intention to lead the WRP, tragically lost his son, won the party leadership and led the party into a general election wherein he won 21 seats; five more seats than the party previously held. But does the party want a new face?

Shannon Stubbs:

The CPC MP for Lakeland has been a star for the federal Conservative Party since the day she took office in 2015, winning her seat with 84 per cent of the vote. She was outstanding for three years fighting for Alberta jobs in her role as the Natural Resources critic, which makes sense — she is from the heart of heavy oil country. She is now the Public Safety critic holding the Liberals to task for their scapegoating of lawful Canadian gun owners for rising gang violence in progressive cities and for the Liberals' abuse of peaceful protesters in Ottawa during the convoy. Stubbs' conservative bona fides run deep. She was mentored by the former leader of the Reform Party and the first female leader of the official opposition, Deborah Grey. She also served as Danielle Smith's chief of staff from 2010–2012 and the WRP Director of Legislative Affairs from 2012–2014. She is currently married to former WRP MLA Shayne Saskiw. She's got a bright future federally. Would she give that all up to face off against Rachel Notley in the legislature?

Stephen Harper:

Prime Minister Harper knitted and then held together the “big blue tent” of the Conservative Party of Canada after merging the Reform Party with the scattered remains of the Progressive Conservatives, post-Kim Campbell. He served as the nation's prime minister for almost 10 years of peace, order, and good governance. After 2015, upon losing to Trudeau, Harper slowly began to step away from Canadian politics and took on a number of international business and leadership roles, founding a global consulting firm, appearing on U.S. and British media, and was elected leader of the International Democrat Union. Harper's son Ben has joined the family business of politics, working as a policy advisor in Kenney's office. Would Harper come back to keep the conservative coalition in Alberta together as he did for so long at the Federal level? Or is he happy to pet foster cats and make the CBC flip their wigs by talking to Dennis Prager and Ben Shapiro?

Drew Barnes:

A Wildrose and an outsider from the beginning, Barnes is the now independent MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat after first being elected in 2012. He's a rancher, a businessman and a former realtor involved with the United Way and the Kiwanis Club. When Smith crossed the floor to try to merge the WRP with the Prentice PCs, Barnes stayed behind on principle and was awarded for it at the ballot box, winning his seat again as a WRP MLA in 2015 in an election that punished the PCs and the WRP floor-crossers and swept the NDP into power. He finished second to Brian Jean in the 2015 WRP leadership race after Smith's near nuking of the party in her floor-crossing fiasco, and he threw his support behind Kenney for the leadership of the newly formed UCP in 2017. A lot of good that did him. He was tossed out of the party in May 2021 for being critical of the Alberta government's response to the pandemic, and has been an outspoken advocate for Alberta to get a fair deal within Canada. Will he get a fair deal if he runs for leader?

Todd Loewen:

First elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015 prior to the merger of the PCAA and the WRP, he represents the riding of Central Peace-Notley (I know), as an independent. In the last election, Loewen took home 75 per cent of the vote defeating the former NDP energy minister, Marg “Missing in Action” McCuaig-Boyd. In February 2021, Loewen advocated for a regional COVID strategy and not a blanket one coming from the premier's office in Edmonton. He signed the same letter that Barnes did criticizing the government's COVID lockdowns. Loewen was tossed out of the UCP along with Barnes for a Facebook post calling on Kenney to resign. Loewen is a man vindicated, but has he had it with partisan politics?

Travis Toews:

Toews is the current provincial President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance overseeing a robust economic recovery in Alberta that seemed impossible just a few short years ago. Buoyed by rising oil prices, the Kenney loyalist and MLA for the riding of Grande Prairie-Wapiti is the man with the plan to have Alberta balance the budget for the first time in eight years, and achieve a half-billion dollar surplus in 2022-2023. But Toews, if he is to run for UCP leader, has to overcome criticism of his constant silence on the issues that ultimately led to the ouster of Kenney. Where was he when Kenney was closing churches and businesses and allowing the Alberta Health Services persecution of lockdown resisters? Toews was a good soldier and team player in Kenney's circle. Will that hurt him or harm him?

Patrick Brown:

The current mayor of Brampton, Ontario, and hockey lover is running and expected to lose miserably for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada so he will be looking for his next big thing. Best known for locking up playgrounds, hiring security guards to police social distancing at municipal cemeteries, getting caught by David Menzies playing shinny with his buddies on a private, taxpayer-funded ice surface and making Jean Charest seem like a blue tory, Brown was previously an MP in the aforementioned Harper government and was the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives before a sex scandal forced him out of the job. Sneaky Patrick would be the dog catcher in Tuktoyaktuk if it meant he could be elected to be in charge of something, so why not?

George Canyon:

The Foothills County country music star has obvious longtime political aspirations. The singer resides on a ranch north of Okotoks. Canyon first ran for office in 2014 for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Bow River but pulled out of the race due to a health scare. He ran in a nomination race again for the federal Conservatives in 2019 in his native Nova Scotia but lost to Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser. The Western Standard has previously reported that Canyon wanted to unseat Kenney in a leadership review to open the door to a run of his own. He holds an appointment in the Canadian Forces as the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Is this finally his time?

W. Brett Wilson:

What would one of these lists be without an outspoken billionaire? Well, we are going to have to settle for a third-of-a-billionaire. Wilson, a Calgary investment banker, businessman and philanthropist is one of the rare fancy people in Canada who wears his politics on his sleeve. He doesn't seem all that concerned about being uninvited to exclusive parties and get-togethers for impolite remarks on social media. He is outspoken against job-killing climate policies, environmental radicals and Trudeau in general. And he loves oil and gas. But he isn't great on gun rights, a huge issue for Albertans. Are Albertans ready to have our own Twitter troublemaking rich guy in the premier's office? Can we get past the gun control issue?

Who is your “fantasy football” leader of the United Conservative Party? Unlike the CBC, we want to hear from you! Sound off in the comments below.

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