Canada: Alberta’s “united right” elects key Harper aide to lead new party
Riksen Stewart and Roger Jordan
9 December 2017
Jason Kenney, a former top minister in Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative government, has emerged at the head of a new formation in Alberta which unites traditional conservatives and far-right forces drawn from the religious and libertarian right. The United Conservative Party (UCP) represents a further shift to the right in Alberta politics and is a sign of mounting regional tensions within the Canadian bourgeoisie.
The UCP emerged out of the fusion of the Progressive Conservatives (PC), which until 2015 had ruled the province uninterrupted for four decades, and the ultra-rightwing Wildrose Party. Wildrose was established in 2008, bringing together former Reform Party elements, social conservatives, and disgruntled PC members.
Under conditions of the global economic crisis, Wildrose campaigned for even harsher austerity measures than those adopted by the PCs, including deep cuts to government spending and even lower corporate and income taxes for the wealthy to enhance the so-called “Alberta advantage.”
Wildrose also expressed the regionalist current within sections of big business in Western Canada. It denounced “equalization,” the system under which the federal government transfers money to provinces with lower per capita incomes so as to ensure basic equivalence in health care and other public services across the country. In practice, Alberta, due to its vibrant oil and natural gas sector, has long been a net contributor to equalization, while Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and in recent years Ontario have benefited from the federal transfers.
Kenney beat former Wildrose leader Brian Jean in the UCP leadership race. But on all…