Originally published in the Medicine Hat News
The United Conservative Party leadership race is shaping up to be the Seinfeld of Alberta electoral politics. That is, a race about nothing.
Instead of concrete policy proposals, the contest thus far has been more about broader themes than specific policies.
It doesn’t help that one frontrunner, former PC party leader Jason Kenney, is openly refusing to release specific planks unless he wins.
His competitors — former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, Calgary-based attorney Doug Schweitzer and former Wildrose president Jeff Callaway — have each released a smattering of policy proposals here and there, but are mostly sticking to UCP talking points.
They all want to cut taxes and balance the budget (though how they plan to do both concurrently remains a mystery), tame a purportedly out of control public sector and punish British Columbia for opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
Each candidate agrees on these themes, but has different means of addressing them, with the exception of Kenney.
Like George Costanza in the series of Seinfeld episodes when he and Jerry are pitching a sitcom to NBC, Kenney insists that the leadership show must be about nothing.
As the most recent Leader of Opposition, Brian Jean would be the show’s titular character. He’s also the most popular of the four candidates amongst Albertans, with 51 per cent saying he’s the most suitable to be leader, according to a ThinkHQ poll reported by Global News.
He and Kenney initiated the merger of their two conservative parties that sparked this race, just as Seinfeld and Larry David, on whom George is based, conceived of the sitcom.
Jean vows $2.6 billion in budget cuts, referendums on photo radar and equalization payments, and a full repeal of Notley’s carbon tax.
His wacky neighbour, the Kramer of the leadership race, is Callaway, whose signature proposal is to purchase Manitoba’s Port of Hope to get Alberta’s oil to foreign markets, given the B.C. NDP’s reluctance to allow more pipelines through its territory.
This harebrained scheme to purchase another province’s port is one the likes of which only Kramer could conceive.
Given his outspoken social progressivism, Doug Schweitzer is the Elaine of the race.
Elaine, portrayed by the now-legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won’t date someone who’s anti-abortion and Schweitzer doesn’t want to lead a party that rejects a woman’s right to choose.
But Schweitzer is no Dipper. He wants to kick B.C. out of the New West Partnership if they don’t accept Kinder Morgan and radically alter the province’s income taxation to create two flat brackets — nine per cent for those who make less than $100,000 per year and 10 per cent for those who make more than $100,000 annually.
After the first leadership debate, Jean, Kenney and Callaway rushed to social media to declare themselves the winner, as if it were a boxing match.
Schweitzer was the only one not to unilaterally declare victory, which shows good character.
In a race about nothing, that goes a long way.