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When Jason Kenney returned to Alberta from his excellent adventure campaigning for the Conservatives in Ontario, he felt the need to post a seven and a half minute video on social media for his fans back home.

After all, there are some natural questions to be asked by provincial taxpayers about why the premier of Alberta is spending quite so much time working for his federal counterparts.

Doesn't Ontario have its own Conservative premier to help boost Andrew Scheer's fortunes?  That's another entirely different column.

Doesn't Alberta have plenty of issues to keep Kenney busy in the province?  Why yes.  In fact, he returned to immediately plunge into the fall legislature sitting, which promises to be both busy and rancorous.

But Kenney argues in his mini-movie that he was representing Alberta even while appearing at partisan federal Conservative events, fighting to prevent the most desperate of federal election outcomes — a Frankenstein coalition of Liberals, NDP and Greens.

"If the Trudeau government is re-elected it will be a bleak day for Alberta's economic future," he tells his audience.

He lists off all the ways he promoted Alberta as a crucial economic partner in Ontario about how the province contributes spinoff jobs across the country and equalization payments for hard luck provinces.

But of course, he also talked a whole lot about many other issues, including national immigration policies and gun crime in Ontario and what a great guy Andrew Scheer is.

He managed to cram 23 events over 18 constituencies into two and a half days.

In all the media photos from Ontario, Kenney is clearly relaxed and happy to be on the hustings.  That's his natural home, feeling the love from the party faithful, and not so long ago the federal party was his party.  And some observers still suggest the national arena is his natural arena.

Back in Edmonton, Kenney is earnestly committing to continue his undoing of the previous NDP administration, with plans to bring in between 14 and 17 bills, many of them rewriting of NDP initiatives.  And he plans to plough through his agenda without too much opposition delay.  The government is bringing in a bill to shut down the possibility of legislature filibusters, an NDP tactic that drove the UCP crazy in the spring session.  Glad-handing in a community arena till all hours is one thing, but listening to provincial politicians drone on through the night is another.

While the legislature is sitting through the waning days of the federal campaign, the big UCP whammy won't land until after Oct. 21.  The provincial budget, due on Oct. 24, is expected to be relatively brutal in terms of belt tightening.

But for the next couple of weeks, it will not be surprising if Kenney manages to sneak in a speech or two in the legislature with a strident anti-Trudeau theme.  And he may well pop up at few federal CPC events and rallies around Alberta.

The blending of federal and provincial politics isn't new to Alberta.  Peter Lougheed played a towering role on the national stage.  But the partisan merging of purpose happening at the moment does seem a bit over the top.

And therein lies the issue that may work to Alberta's disadvantage after Oct. 21.  Already Justin Trudeau has Kenney in his crosshairs.  During the recent federal leaders debate, Trudeau singled out Kenney and Ontario premier Doug Ford for doing nothing on the climate change file.

If Trudeau wins, and particularly if he ends up helming a minority government shored up by the NDP and the Greens, Kenney's antagonism during the election won't be a recipe for collegial relations between the two leaders.

Kenney has transcended the role of Scheer's provincial ally and slipped over into an unofficial right hand man position.

When Kenney first made the move from Ottawa to Edmonton, pundits mused that his ultimate goal is to eventually return to the federal arena, possibly as Conservative leader.  His activities during the election haven't dispelled that notion.

In the meantime he is employing his prodigious political energy for both the federal and provincial parties.  If at some point Alberta voters feel they are getting short shrift from that split focus, Kenney will have to choose just where his heart lies.

Photo Credit: Maclean's

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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If federal politicians vying for votes every four years is inevitable, then so too is the seductive siren song of strategic voting.

For left-leaning Canadians whose least-preferred election outcome is a Conservative majority government, voting for anyone other than the Liberals is purported to be an act of tremendous danger.   Thanks to Canada's archaic election system, voting NDP or Green is said to counter-intuitively benefit the Conservatives instead by "splitting" the centre-left vote.  Our plurality election system pressures Canadians to vote for the least-worst of the two largest political parties, rather than their actual favourite.

The mantra of having to vote Liberal to defeat the Conservatives is such a persuasive trope in Canadian politics that many New Democrat MPs lost their seats in 2015 when a flood of young and first-time voters were determined to defeat Stephen Harper's government.  Re-electing incumbent NDP MPs and sending the New Democrat Official Opposition into government would have been the most logical option that year for the centre-left, yet many low-information voters naively believed the oft-repeated Liberal talking point that somehow only the (then third-place) Grits wielded the ability to remove Harper from power.

Four years later, the same arguments are being peddled to the centre-left: if you want to keep Andrew Scheer from becoming prime minister, you must vote Liberal.  Progressives are instructed that voting NDP or Green is not "worth the risk" of inadvertently handing power to the Conservatives.  Left-wing Canadians are pressured to vote Liberal "just this once" to prevent their worst scenario from coming true.

Such vote-pressuring tactics threaten progressives into becoming wilful hostages of a political party they don't genuinely support.  But upon greater reflection, arguments that centre-left Canadians must vote Liberal are logically suspect for several reasons.

First, Liberals construct a narrative of needing progressive votes to vanquish an immediate danger, when in reality the monster is present every election.  The threat of a Conservative majority government is not unique to 2019 it exists every time Canadians head to the ballot box.  As already mentioned, centre-left voters are advised to vote Liberal "just this once" to keep out the current Tory threat.  But unless the Conservatives miraculously decide to sit out the next federal election, they will be back again to contest 2023 and all subsequent elections.  Asking progressives to vote Liberal "just this once" is a disingenuous charade in which the party pretends it didn't previously ask people to vote for them "once".  The plea is based upon the hope that voters suffer from either ignorance or collective amnesia, as well as a myopic view of politics.  In actuality, the request is for progressives to keep the Liberals in power indefinitely, as the spurious claim of "just this once" is predictably trotted out every election.

Second, why should progressive Canadians reward the Liberals indefinitely because of a flawed election system, especially knowing that the party promised to adopt a better voting system but cynically chose not to?  The threat of a Conservative "false-majority" government in which the Tories are awarded most of the seats in Parliament despite only earning a plurality of the vote will never cease until Canada emulates countries such as New Zealand by dumping first-past-the-post elections.

Voting strategically every four years is akin to ingesting pain killers to dull the ache of a dental cavity: it does not resolve the underlying problem.  Strategic voting is merely a temporary means of working around a defective election system; only by incorporating the popular vote into how we assign House of Commons seats can Canadians ever become liberated from the cynical burden of voting for someone they don't actually support.  Without electoral reform, voters will be condemned to a future of perpetual pressure to vote for the least-worst of two dominant forces, with Canada's party system remaining uncomfortably similar to our southern neighbours.

Given that the Liberals reneged on their 2015 promise to deliver electoral reform, the only way Canada will acquire a superior voting system is either by electing a hung parliament in which more than one political party wields power, or by electing an NDP or Green majority government.  In reality, this would most likely be accomplished in 2019 by the Liberals winning a plurality (less than a majority) of seats, with the NDP and/or Greens subsequently extracting concessions from the Liberals.  Progressive voters would be wise to appreciate that delivering the Liberals a majority government would instead guarantee another four years of delays to electoral reform.  Conversely, the more NDP and Green MPs that are elected, the greater the leverage they will have in policy negotiations on matters such as fixing Canada's voting system.

Even Tory voters would benefit from a proportional voting system, and may wish to entertain voting for a party that supports electoral reform if they're not enamoured with the options this election and crave more choice in the future.  Under proportional elections there would be greater competition as vote-splitting would largely disappear, preventing a party taken over by populists (Ford) or ideologues (Scheer) from having a monopoly of the political right.  Red Tories could create their own sensible collective rather than be forced to choose between voting for a right-wing party gone astray, the Liberals or not voting at all.  Likewise, if right-leaning voters detest the "corruption" and arrogance of the Liberals, why would they wish to maintain a voting system that artificially inflates Liberal support through strategic voting?

Third, progressive Canadians will never get the government they want until they vote for it.  Arguably the greatest "vote-splitting" threat for the left is when centre-left voters split off to prop up the Liberals out of fear.  How many more MPs would the NDP and Greens elect if left-wing voters all opted for their favourite option?  Progressives were previously told that the NDP would never be able to finish better than third place in a federal election, yet the party became Official Opposition in 2011.  Heck, if the NDP can form a majority government in Alberta, the party and its supporters should strive for nothing less federally.

And really, how many more years can progressives afford to re-elect centrists to incrementally dither on such vital issues as climate change, social equity, housing affordability and public transit?

Canada will only elect a progressive government if left-wing Canadians have the courage to vote according to their convictions.  There is admittedly an inherent risk in this action, given our flawed voting system.  But if progressive voters remain a hostage to fear indefinitely, the best government they can ever hope for is a centrist one.  Left-wing voters should ask themselves which is the greater risk: electing an occasional Conservative government, or never electing a truly progressive government.

Photo Credit: CBC News

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.