Brian Jean delivers Trump-ish speech to party convention
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean seemed to be channelling his inner Donald Trump Friday night in his speech to the provincial political party’s annual general meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer.
He didn’t talk about building a wall but there was plenty of talk about “corruption,” “out-of-touch elites” and “disastrous” government policies. And he painted a picture of Canada as bleak as that of Trump’s United States.
“When we look across the province in our communities, we see crime skyrocketing and poverty increasing,” said Jean. “We see a growing number of young people being trafficked into a sex trade against their will. We see dangerous drugs like fentanyl and other opioids killing Canadans and ripping families apart. This must stop. And we continue to see the rights of criminals put above the rights of victims.”
And the culprit, of course, is the NDP government.
“Since the NDP has taken power, our unemployment rate has nearly doubled,” said Jean. “They’ve waged a war on business, taxed companies out of existence and sent jobs out of province and out of country.”
It was a speech so filled with conservative red meat Jean should have delivered it wearing a butcher’s apron.
Unlike Trump, he didn’t actually promise to make Canada great again. But he came close, talking about how his caucus colleagues “will help bring Canada back to a place of unparalleled greatness.”
The path back to greatness, said Jean, lies in electing a Wildrose government to “rip up the disastrous policies the NDP have put in place.”
His party members are set to debate a litany of resolutions on the convention floor Saturday. They include directing a Wildrose government to repeal the NDP carbon tax, reinstate the provincial flat income tax, and revoke Bill 6, the NDP’s farm safety legislation that sparked a series of protests by farmers on the front steps of the legislature a year ago.
With a few exceptions, a Wildrose government would dismantle pretty much everything the NDP government has managed to do so far.
But a Wildrose government is not a sure thing, of course, not only because the party might not win the 2019 provincial election – but there might not be a Wildrose party a year from now.
That’s the elephant in the room at this convention.
And the elephant has a name: Jason Kenney. The former federal MP from Calgary is running in the Progressive Conservative leadership race with the express intent of merging the PCs and Wildrose into a new conservative party (with Kenney as leader).
Jean addressed the elephant obliquely in his speech, pointing out the Wildrose “led the charge to bring all conservatives together” late last year.
“We had coffee, we had pub nights, but friends the PC party officially voted no to even talking,” said Jean. “That party still remains confused about its values, its principles and what it stands for.”
That’s true. The PCs are in an existential battle for their identity. Their leadership race will become a debate over whether they should rebuild their party alone or blow themselves up and rebuild in partnership with the Wildrose.
It is not a debate the Wildrose can ignore, no matter how much Jean would like to.
“Let’s not put the future of our province at risk waiting for the PC party to figure out what they do or don’t believe in,” said Jean.
When he said “our province” he also meant “our party” and when he said that he really meant “my leadership.”
However, in some ways Jean doesn’t have any choice but to wait to see what happens next.
The Wildrose members can debate policy and pass resolutions this weekend — but any decisions they make now could disappear in a puff of smoke next year if Kenney wins the PC leadership and convinces Wildrose members to join forces with him in a new party.
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