Monday, October 3, 2016

Jason Kenney visits Heritage Acres, touts conservative unity

Jason Kenney at Heritage Acres
Toni Lucas - Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney brought his "Unite the Right" campaign to Heritage Acres on Thursday September 29, touring the grounds and speaking to a small crowd of approximately 25 people.

Kenney expressed great admiration for the farm museum and the many volunteer hours that go into making it a success. He also spoke of his grandfather Herbert Martin "Mart" Kenney, a jazz and big band musician who in 1932 played during the first live coast-to-coast national broadcast, from the Waterton Lakes Prince of Wales Hotel. "He especially loved this part of Alberta." Mart Kenney in later life served as a municipal councillor in Mission, BC. Mart was also a federal Liberal nominee for York North in 1968 but failed to secure the nomination. 

Jason Kenney's political career began in the late 1980s as a member of the Young Liberals, and he was the executive assistant to Saskatchewan Liberal Party leader Ralph Goodale in 1988 before his conversion to conservative values, which led to his role as first executive director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association in 1989, and in 1990 he became president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.  Kenney was the Member of Parliament for Calgary Southeast from 1997 to 2015, and for the newly formed riding of Calgary Midnapore since the October 2015 election.  He was first elected as a member of the Reform Party first, then the Canadian Alliance, and then four more times as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).  He held a number of top-level positions during his time with the CPC before announcing his intention to return to Alberta provincial politics, which he did on July 26 of this year.  His resignation from the House of Commons became official on September 23.

Jason Kenney speaks at Heritage Acres
The PC Alberta leadership race officially began on October 1, and Kenney is hoping to secure 500 signatures for his nomination.  He is running under a "Unite the Right" banner, proposing to combine the Wildrose and PC parties in the hopes of forestalling a second term for the New Democratic Party.  
Touring Heritage Acres
Kenney spoke to the Heritage Acres crowd about his five-point unity plan, which seeks to "Elect a Progressive Conservative leader with a strong mandate to unite free-enterprise Albertans in one party", to negotiate a united free-enterprise with the Wildrose with a "Wide open debate leading to referendum of grassroots members on unity agreement", a founding convention for the proposed new united party, followed by a leadership election for that new party, all hopefully in time for Alberta's 30th general election, which is likely to be held in the spring of 2019.

Kenney expressed admiration for the Ralph Klein era of Alberta politics, saying "Ralph wasn't perfect, but who amongst us is? He was a man with a lot of common sense, and a great deal of political courage." Kenny was president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during Klein's time as Premier of  Alberta.  "His team managed to take the biggest deficit in the country and balance it, eliminate it in two years."

Kenney said that even back then he was concerned about vote splitting. "I wanted to be a voice for unity amongst free enterprise Canadians, at that time between the Reform, and Progressive Conservative Parties." Kenney was elected as a Reform Party MP in 1997 and was asked by Reform leader Preston Manning to head the the 'united alternative task force'. "I think we helped to create some of the groundwork or foundation that Stephen Harper and Peter McKay stood on in 2003 when they created the merged Conservative Party of Canada."  Kenney touted the success of that endeavour.  "We were the longest serving National Conservative Government in Canada since John A. MacDonald, in the 1900's."

"I was proud to be part of that team."

Kenney was Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism from 2008 to 2013.  He told the Heritage Acres crowd "I believe an immigration system has to have a welcoming front door, but the back door has to be locked to illegal migration." 

He was Canada's Minister of Employment and Social Development from 2013 to 2015.  He said his focus in that role was to encourage the trades, including experiential learning, vocational, and apprenticeship training. "So many young people end up encumbered by debt and degrees which are not useful in the labour market while there are all these jobs we need to fill in the trades." 

Of his brief time as Canada's Minister of Defense in 2015 he said "My dad, he was a fighter pilot, and it was a real honour for me to be the National Defense Minister, in which I deployed our military to participate in the international coalition against this so called Islamic state terrorist organization in the middle east." He also deployed Canada's military to the Ukraine to "help better train their people to cope with Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine." 

He said over the course of last winter "I met with so many Albertans who are going through some very tough times." He told anecdotal stories about people losing jobs, businesses, and homes. "They are leaving the province because we have 23% youth unemployment." He said since the NDP has come to power 100,000 people have lost their full time jobs, family incomes are down, and the province is at a record level of bankruptcies and insolvencies. "We have had a stronger economy, better employment, and a stronger fiscal situation at $20 oil than we do at $40 oil, here today."

Kenney said the NDP Government (in power for 16 months)  "...are slamming on the brakes in the midst of a recession." and was very against the carbon tax. Kenney said it represents "...billions of dollars of additional costs, in the middle of a recession." His take on the minimum wage increase was to say "Fifty percent increase, in the midst of a recession? With 23% youth unemployment? Half of the small businesses in Alberta have said they are going to be laying off people, not hiring, or cutting hours."

"I think we have a broken political system." 

"People passed a protest vote. An understandable and justifiable protest vote, but believe me, they did not expect to wake up in the morning to an majority NDP Government."

"I am the only candidate at this point with a plan for unity, and that's the only reason I'm running."

He said the Wildrose and Conservatives are already on the same page about most things.  "The two parties in the Legislature are voting together 87% of the time... Ronald Reagan used to say that somebody I disagreed with 10% of the time is a friend, not my enemy."

He also spoke to the process he believes must occur for the two parties to unite.  "We must not repeat that cynical horse trading and floor crossing that happened 18 months ago," adding it damaged both parties to no real gain. "I think we need to be open, and honest, and transparent about this in a way they were not 18 months ago. He said of the voters, "These people didn't become socialists, they were just expressing their frustration, both with the PC and the Wildrose, in part because of the floor crossing. That's my view."

"I am not here to defend that record (the Wildrose floor crossing of December 2014). I am proposing a fresh start, and a new beginning." He said that mistakes have been made in the Conservative governance in the past, however if he was in a debate with Premier Rachel Notley and she was to bring up scandals, arrogance, and expense accounts of the past, he would say "'You are right, you are right to criticize, I agree, now can we talk about the future?'  I don't have to defend any of that, and why should I?"

"I believe that if we put this together, it will attract some very talented people, who are willing to pursue that leadership. If somebody else is chosen, they would have my unreserved support."

"I believe this unity is inevitable. It is a question of when, and not if. So I say lets make the when before, and not after the next provincial election." 

"It's time to look to the future, not the past."

"It's time to focus on what unites us, and not what divides us. Because I for one, and I hope you join me in this, I am not prepared to risk a second NDP term and the consequences for the future of this province."

He said he poses the question, "What level of risk of a second NDP term is acceptable to them, and what justifies that risk?"

"We are trying to be as open and transparent as we possibly can," he said of the leadership race, promising to release information on all contributions they receive, with a proposed a limit on all funds they will accept.

Kenney encouraged people to sign up as members of the Progressive Conservative party as they have to be members for two weeks before they are eligible to vote for a new leader. He said voting may occur in mid November.

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