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Shots fired

As we prepare for the provincial election campaign to officially begin, the prediction that the parlays between the NDP and UCP parties will be less than civil is coming to light.

As we prepare for the provincial election campaign to officially begin, the prediction that the parlays between the NDP and UCP parties will be less than civil is coming to light.

Over the weekend, during a campaign fundraiser for candidate Peter Guthrie, a video of party leader Jason Kenney mocking NDP candidate Steve Durrell for his age went viral.

Kenney later said he was misinformed that Durrell was 19 – he is 29 – but that doesn't lessen the statement that suggests he believes young candidates are not suitable for office.

While experience is definitely something most people want in their candidates who will represent them in the legislative assembly, Kenney's own party has its share of youth on the ballot.

In fact, the Banff-Kannanskis UCP candidate, Miranda Rosin, who is 23-years-old, is younger than Durrell. Kenney himself was only 29 when he was first elected.

While Kenney insists that he was merely pointing out the experience gap between the NDP and UCP candidate, the statements ring hollow when considering Kenney's age entering into politics and the age of UCP candidates running in the election.

His comments may come back to haunt him in other ways too. In the last election, 22 per cent of voters were between the ages of 18 and 34. For a party looking to distance itself from the "old boys club" persona and appeal to more young people, seemingly ageist comments was probably the wrong strategy.

There was also another statement in Kenney's short remark that is reminiscent of the values that caused the destruction of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Kenney told the crowd not to laugh at Durrell's age because the NDP elected a lot of young candidates in 2015.

Wrong. Alberta voters elected them. Whether those voters regret that decision now is another argument but if the UCP wants to be successful they will have to start showing voters the respect they deserve.

Some suggest the election of the NDP was a one-off protest vote. That might be true but it won't be a one-off if Alberta voters don't see a conservative option that is better than the one they tossed four years ago.

Polls, as much as they can be believed in this era, suggest the UCP have a unbeatable lead going into the election with a popularity rating of nearly 53 per cent. Those numbers suggest a massive majority win for the UCP.

However, the type of arrogance – again reminiscent of the ousted PC Party – Kenney displayed at Guthrie's event could make the party leader the UCP's worst enemy.

While the party is polling high, Kenney's popularity is not. He only holds a lead over Rachel Notley of less than three points at 39.7 per cent. Kenney's popularity in Calgary is actually lower than the premier's despite the UCP polling higher than the NDP in that city.

Identity politics might work in some places but if the polls are any indication, Kenney better stick to bashing policy. Albertans' tolerance for jokes and age, sex, gender and race is low - and that is a good thing.