Though newly minted United Conservative Party (UCP) of Alberta leader Jason Kenney can check off “ secure UCP leadership,” he still has a long way to go if he hopes to knock the New Democrats from power.
Kenney has distanced himself and the UCP from both the Progressive Conservatives, which had a disastrous 2015 election, and the Wildrose Party, which suffered the humiliation of a failed PC/Wildrose unification in 2014 when former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and nine MLAs crossed the floor. He told rally-goers in Edmonton late last month he “ wouldn’t apologize for the mistakes of past governments,” which essentially gives the UCP a clean slate.
However, Kenney’s own controversial statements will not be so easy for the new party leader to brush off, something young voters in particular may be hesitant to forgive.
In 2015 the orange wave overtook Alberta, thanks in large part to young voters. Votes from Albertans between the ages of 18 and 24 increased 18.3 per cent to 57.1 per cent in 2015. Those numbers could prove difficult for Kenney to woo.
A recent US study suggests Millennials are altruistic, socially conscious and optimistic.
Kenney’s controversial history, in particular to perceived racist comments, opposition to gay-straight alliances and siding with Catholic educators who want to write their own sex education curriculum, may not sit well with young voters.
Kenney will have to work hard to rewrite the past to satisfy Millennials who are, in large part, more accepting of those groups Kenney appears to court with controversy.
It should be an interesting road to 2019, that’s for sure.