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Alberta’s economy rose from the doldrums this week and shuffled into interesting new directions.

The announcement of a big investment by Amazon Web Services in the Calgary region and Silicon Valley tech accelerator Plug and Play establishing a beach head in the province were good news for the UCP government, which has been endlessly criticized for its inability to get off the slowing energy industry train.

The number of news conferences with Premier Jason Kenney suddenly escalated with the unpopular premier happy to finally have good news for skeptical Alberta voters.

But there’s a fly in this healing ointment.

Brian Jean, Kenney’s longtime political rival, is back with a vengeance, aggressively seeking the UCP nomination for an upcoming by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

If he wins the by-election, Jean vows, he will work to dislodge Kenney from the party leadership and seek to take his place.

The grudge between these two is positively Shakespearean.

Kenney and Jean worked together to unite the limping Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Parties into the United Conservative Party.

They wrestled each other and a couple of other wannabes for leadership of the new party. One of the alternate candidates in the race has since been seen as a paper rival designed to push Jean out in Kenney’s favour. Hard feelings over campaign irregularities still linger.

Within four months of Kenney’s leadership victory, Jean stepped down as a UCP MLA. He now claims Kenney ghosted him, making it clear he was no longer welcome. Kenney disputes that, saying he offered Jean just about any role he wanted, but Jean withdrew to take care of family matters.

For the past three years, Jean has been sitting back in his Fort McMurray home, occasionally penning a political column on his webpage about how he would tackle the political challenges of the day.

Gradually those missives became increasingly critical of Kenney until Jean openly called for the premier to step down.

The looming by-election in his home constituency gave Jean an opening to create an enormous amount of mischief for Kenney in the coming months.

Jean has already filed nomination papers with Elections Alberta for the by-election, which must be held by mid February. He is pushing hard for his fans in Fort Mac to buy UCP memberships and support his bid to run for the party.

If he is prohibited from running for the nomination (presumably by Kenney) Jean vows to run as an independent.

The tactic has Kenney backed into a corner. If UCP members in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche want Jean as their candidate Kenney is pretty well bound to accept that. Jean, who has deep Fort McMurray family roots, would have a good chance of winning the by-election even if he runs as an independent.

Kenney, who is known for his talent as a political brawler, is gearing up for the coming battle. He’s questioning Jean’s reliability, given his resignation from government in 2018 and apparent flirtations with other political partners in recent months.

“I’m not going to be distracted by somebody trying to settle scores with internal political games,” says the dismissive premier.

Jean’s campaign is very much centred on ousting Kenney before the next provincial election which must take place by spring 2023.

“Something must be done,” Jean told a news radio reporter.

“If there isn’t change, Rachel Notley will win an overwhelming majority and her second term will be much worse for Alberta than her first term.”

“Something must be done” is the catchphrase Jean is putting on all his social media appeals to UCP members. No doubt, he’ll be repeating it often right up until Kenney has to face a leadership review in the spring.

Pundits have predicted for years that the sour leadership contest that put Kenney in his current position would come back to haunt the UCP.

Alberta may be on an upswing as investment starts returning to its Covid weary economy, but its governing party is still mired in a past it just can’t seem to shake.

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.