Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney says he won’t have a policy platform as he seeks the leadership of Alberta’s new United Conservative Party.
Kenney announced what he called a “grassroots guarantee” in Calgary Tuesday saying he would consult members of the new party and other Albertans before determining what promises he would campaign on as leader in the next provincial election.
“I will not be running a presidential-style campaign where I improvise some detailed platform for an election two years from now, for a brand new party before its members can even be consulted,” Kenney said.
Kenney said he will continue to express his opinions on a number of issues, but nothing will be written in stone.
“I want to repeal the carbon tax. We need to reduce the tax burden to restart our economy. We need to balance our budget. We need to fight for school choice,” said Kenney.
“My convictions have been clear. I will continue to speak about them, but I will not say to members that this will be the policy imposed by me.”
Kenney, who was the leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party, is seeking the leadership along with former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and conservative strategist Doug Schweitzer.
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Both Jean and Schweitzer have already unveiled some of their policy plans for UCP if they are successful.
“I think they’re making a mistake. In a certain sense they’re repeating the top-down style leadership that got us into this trouble in the first place,” said Kenney.
“It’s not even credible. People who are doing that right now – they don’t know how deep the debt hole is going to be in 2019 or 2020. How can you plan the budget for three years from now without the facts in front of you?”
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A political scientist from Calgary’s Mount Royal University said a lack of policy could be a risky move by Kenney.
“It remains to be seen whether this is going to pay off or not because the two opponents are being very clear about some of their policy initiatives and so voters will have a sense of what they are voting for,” said Lori Williams.
“I think he’s trying to avoid controversy by doing this – basically avoid losing votes by standing for anything and leadership is about standing for things.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman reacted to Kenney’s announcement.
“I think that that’s really disrespectful. I think that Albertans deserve to know where people who want to be the next premier stand on the issues,” she said.
“If you wait until you’re the leader to unroll what your policy positions are, I think that raises a lot of questions around trust and accountability.”
Schweitzer said any policies he has announced so far would still go to party members for debate.
“It is critical that Albertans know where their leadership candidates stand on important policy issues,” said Schweitzer. “Jason’s new grassroots guarantee is simply a sad attempt to turn this leadership race into a campaign of rhetoric over substance.”
In a statement, Jean said Alberta voters are tired of “personality-based politics.”
“I applaud Mr. Kenney’s commitment to grassroots principles, but the members need to know what the leadership candidates’ positions are,” he said. “I used the policies developed by the members as the foundation for my announcements and I will continue to do so.”
The new leader of the UCP will be chosen on Oct. 28.
-With files from Phil Heidenreich
© 2017 The Canadian Press