Setting up for a nasty campaign

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Election.

Come the next provincial election Jason Kenney will be cast as being right of Adolf Hitler while Rachel Notley will be portrayed as dimmer than Daffy Duck.

Neither caricature will be remotely true of course, but such is the divisiveness of politics and society these days that these imaginary roles will be relentlessly foisted upon each of them by the other.

Which eventually sticks most in Albertans’ minds will determine who lands the top job once the smear campaigns are done and the ballots mercifully counted.

One thing’s certain; it is on course to be the nastiest political campaign ever in Alberta. Following the harrowing two years of economic struggle we’ve experienced – indeed, we’re still trying to shake it off  – there is bound to be a bloodletting. Hopefully it will remain of the figurative kind.

So, let’s look ahead to the likely scripts to see where the body blows will be delivered. And, if any of this seems a little outlandish, just ask yourself: ‘whatever happened to that fellow with the funny hair who used to host The Apprentice?’

Kenney’s weak spot will be deemed his perceived stand on social issues. Not his actual stance, of course, that being almost irrelevant in the mudslinging game, but the made-up mantle he can be tarred with so it sticks in the minds of voters.

Now in reality Kenney was once deemed the ‘curry-in-a-hurry’ politician for the ferocious effort he put forth trying to turn around the time-honored affinity many visible minorities have shown the federal Liberal party. In no small part that hard work paid off and helped secure his boss and fellow Calgarian ten years in the prime minister’s chair.

Still, in the eyes of the NDP he looks as though he might seem not to care for such people – after all he’s a middle-aged, white Tory – and that’s hopefully good enough. That’s why the whole gender identity in our schools issue is so high up on the legislative agenda. Potentially embarrassing the new UCP boss is much more important than the confused kids now caught in the middle of these political shenanigans.

Throw enough mud with accusations he’s a knuckle-dragging throwback to an age when gays were deemed a threat to civilization itself and perhaps enough will stick.

And then there’s Notley. The truth is she was dealt the worst possible hand after taking power, thanks to the accompanying precipitous drop in energy prices. No doubt we’d still be running deficits even if oil were $100-a-barrel as the wish list of a party that had never tasted power in Alberta was head-scratchingly long, but this additional and sudden $6-billion royalty hole in the provincial budget wasn’t her fault. Yet the fallout resulting in the ludicrous amount we’re now borrowing is Rachel’s weak spot, alongside the stubbornly high unemployment rate.

Kenney understands this only too well. He’ll use it at every opportunity – that Notley’s out of her depth and has drowned the province in debt while playing nice with the rest of a country only too happy to take our money while balking at allowing Alberta crude to cross their lands. It will never be spoken aloud but the message will be there – she’s a woman and therefore too soft to stand up for Alberta.

This is nasty stuff but watch it play and tell me I’m wrong in 18 months.

Meanwhile the real issue of how to continue funding the lifestyles, both personal and public, we enjoy in this amazing province that’s so tied to a resource under short, medium and long-term threat will never be seriously debated.

May the best smear win.

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About Author

Chris Nelson is a long-time journalist. His columns on Alberta politics appear monthly.