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EDITORIAL: Kenney never stood much of a chance

United Conservatives' big tent proves too much for premier to overcome.
NEWS-Kenny Leadership Vote Results RK 4730WEB
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to supporters after leadership review results were announced at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on May 18.

Last week’s leadership review effectively ended the Jason Kenney era, a snapshot of Alberta politics that might well have been doomed from the outset. 

Given the sheer scope of the tent that Kenney has been leading since the United Conservative Party was created, it seemed like last Wednesday’s announcement was almost an inevitability. That's not to say the premier was blameless for his own downfall by any means, but there’s no question the deck was stacked against him from the outset. 

The merger of convenience that created the United Conservatives was successful in its initial goal, knocking off Rachel Notley and the NDP, but its long-term prospects were always going to be far dimmer given the disparate views under the new-look tent. These philosophical differences made finding consensus darn near impossible and put Kenney, or any other leader for that matter, in an untenable situation. 

Throw the highly charged COVID-19 pandemic into the mix and it laid bare the difference in ideologies that Kenney had to somehow try to balance as he formed public health policy. Despite often being late to the table with restrictions compared to other parts of the country, the premier was pilloried by those from within his own party for needlessly curtailing their rights. 

As much as Kenney was criticized for a top-down approach to governing, he could also be faulted for allowing caucus dissent, permitting those who disagreed to speak their minds, presumably in a bid to show he was heeding all voices. Again, it was impossible to bridge divides as such discourse only served to fan the flames. 

Would-be successors are already starting to line up, seduced by the power but seemingly oblivious to the insurmountable challenges that await. It’s hard envisioning any of them having much better luck. 

Now on his way out, Jason Kenney will be remembered for a lot of things during a tumultuous three-plus years in office, but perhaps history will ultimately conclude that he never stood much of a chance.