Jason Kenney is a long-time politician who has been a member of numerous federal and provincial parties throughout his career which began in the mid 1990s. Throughout his time in office, Kenney has held several prominent positions including Minister of National Defence while serving in the Conservative Caucus under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Despite the Conservative Party losing the past election in 2015, Kenney overwhelmingly won his riding with over 60% of the total votes.
What's the Situation?
With such a long and successful career in politics, its no surprise that Kenney has remained a significant member of the Conservative party, particularly after the resignation of Steven Harper. In fact, many have long suspected that Kenney would run for, and be successful at, achieving the federal Conservative Party leadership. That was until today anyways... It's expected that Kenney will announce later this morning that he will in fact be leaving federal politics and run instead for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.
While the exact explanation will likely become clearer after hearing Kenney's announcement later today, his move comes as a bit of a shock nonetheless. I found myself wondering why someone in his position would turn up an opportunity to likely lead the Official Opposition into the next election. However, upon examining the political landscape a little further it becomes a more obvious why Kenney has made this decision.
When taking into consideration current polling and the economic situation, it would appear that Kenney is playing it safe by abandoning the federal Conservatives. Since coming to power in the 2015 election, the Trudeau government has maintained solid approval ratings, a trend that will likely continue. At the same time the Conservative Party is still recovering from a poor election run and the loss of its long-standing leader. The party is in serious need of a revamp and so even if Kenney were to win a leadership race he would first need to contend with the uncertainty within the party before even thinking about running against a popular Prime Minister.
On the other hand, the NDP in Alberta have seen very low approval ratings in recent months and are dealing with the fallout associated with low oil prices. While oil prices are beyond the control of the province, many residents appear to be blaming the government for the economic downturn and are counting the days until they can vote out the NDP. The government does have until 2019 to turn things around but at this rate things still aren't looking good. On the contrary, this is good news for the Progressive Conservative Party which had seen 12 straight majority governments prior to the election upset in 2015. Those who once voted Conservative only to recently switch to NDP looking for something better are now probably thinking things weren't so bad before and will be more likely to return to their old voting ways next election.
With all things considered, Kenney has little to lose and a lot to gain in this situation. If he can achieve the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives he stands a much greater chance of forming a government in Alberta than he does at the federal level. Likewise, Kenney is buying more time for the federal Conservatives to get their act together should he ever wish to come back to run for Prime Minister later on. Yes things could change in the coming years but as it stands now Kenney would be making a poor choice not to run for the leadership of the PCPA. Will he be successful? This becomes the next question up for discussion but I think he stands a very good chance at not only becoming the leader of the party but also becoming the next Premier of Alberta.