Jason Kenney addresses delegates at the PC Alberta leadership convention in Calgary on Friday, March 17, one day prior to being elected the party’s new leader.
“Today, it is springtime in Alberta,” announced Jason Kenney, newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, to the nearly 1,500 attendees gathered for the party’s leadership convention March 18 in Calgary.
Kenney’s sweeping victory was quickly celebrated by the release of cascading blue and orange balloons from the ceiling of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre amid a chorus of “Kenney! Kenney!”
Kenney, a former member of Stephen Harper’s cabinet, won handily with 75 per cent of the ballots while PC MLA Richard Starke finished second with 22 per cent and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson finished third.
In his victory speech, Kenney pledged to repeal each element of NDP legislation to date, starting with the carbon tax.
Among the education-related legislation introduced by the NDP government since taking power in 2015 are a bill aimed at reducing school fees by 25 per cent, a school lunch pilot program and a commitment to fund student enrolment growth.
Kenney said that when government does “sensible things” he will support it “but when you try to rewrite our school curriculum in secret … we will fight you every step of the way.” Kenney has been on record saying that he believes parents should be engaged in the curriculum reform process more so than teachers.
He is also a supporter of school choice and formal student assessment.
Kenney’s win throws in doubt the future of a party that held power for more than 40 years before losing to the NDP in the 2015 provincial election. Kenney ran on a platform of dismantling the PC party, merging with the Wildrose, and forming a new political entity.
“It won’t be simple and it certainly won’t be quick,” said Starke, Kenney’s leadership opponent.
Despite this, Kenney met with Wildrose leader Brian Jean and the two spoke afterward of being of a like mind about working together to unseat the NDP during the next provincial election, which is two years away.
“Today is the beginning of the end of this disastrous socialist government,” Kenney said during his victory speech.
He said the PC party has “decided to work with all Albertans to take our province back.”
Kenney emphasized that the party has chosen change and with this comes a message to struggling Albertans — “we are going to ensure that there’s a government on your side.”
Invoking the memory of Ralph Klein, Kenney said it was time now to “stop arguing about history and instead, to make history.”