After narrowly winning leadership review with 51.4%, Kenney decided to step down, which was right choice. With a party that divided, there was no way he could lead it going forward. However, while dumping him may help party slightly, I still stand by my prediction that Notley will win next year. There is no question Kenney for a whole variety of reasons became super unpopular and despite a strong surplus and booming economy; I believe his personal approval rating was too low that there was no way party could recover with him as leader.
That being said I believe much like federal Tories, too many in UCP are misreading the electorate. Both parties are full of a bunch of angry types who are driven more by hatred of left than any actual policies and that is not what the majority in either Alberta or Canada want. Canadians have seen this rage type politics south of the border and even if unhappy with centre-left parties; we know full well alternative is worse if party goes down this path. Much of the UCP who dumped Kenney were from right wing of party who felt he wasn’t right wing enough and wanted him to have no covid restrictions, want more fights with Ottawa if not outright separation. This may be popular in rural Alberta, but is toxic in Calgary where elections are won and lost (Edmonton is already solidly NDP). If the UCP surprises us and chooses a moderate, then maybe they have a decent chance at re-election, but knowing the make up of membership I see that as highly unlikely.
The two likely successors are Brian Jean and Danielle Smith. Of the two I believe Brian Jean would be the better choice. Smith may not be a social conservative but she is a staunch libertarian and contrary to what some think, libertarianism is not popular anywhere in Canada including Alberta. She wanted to follow Florida and leave things wide open. No one likes restrictions, but most of us hate unnecessary deaths even more and thus accepted restrictions were necessary and feel such disregard is reckless and questions her judgement. The worst of covid may or may not be over, but her position says a lot about her judgement. As such I believe Notley would have little trouble beating her in a general election.
Brian Jean is unlike Kenney fairly likeable on a personal level so I suspect if he becomes premier, he gets a bounce in polls and does poll ahead. And unlike Smith I think he might be able to beat Notley, but I still give Notley better odds. His main problem is still too rural and right wing for modern Alberta which is fairly centrist and urban. Also unlike Kenney, he is a lousy debater and I could easily see case where he is leading first half of election, but falls behind after debate. Still if UCP wants to win, he is their best choice of those declared so far. But I do believe UCP brand is damaged enough along with fact many Albertans like Notley that NDP is favoured no matter what.
Things like coal mining on eastern slopes, fight with doctors, curriculum are all things that have angered Albertans. Many claim Notley was a mistake and Albertans won’t repeat it again. But many are ignoring Alberta is a very different place than it was 25 years ago and Notley represents the new Alberta while UCP represents the old Alberta. She is centre-left not hard left and most Albertans even if not centre-left themselves don’t mind centre-left policies. In fact on most issues, Albertans aren’t a whole lot different than people in British Columbia or Ontario. Reason they vote so heavily Conservative federally is more they feel its the only party that looks out for their province, not because of ideology. Some will say her disastrous economic policies will scare people away, but most will argue economy is largely based on price of oil which no premier controls. Never mind I get a sense Albertans today are more about quality of life for average person and idea of Alberta advantage and being most pro-business province has some appeal, but not near to extent it did in past. On issues like taxes, I think most want to be competitive with rest of Canada, but I don’t think many care if competitive with US as many look at lower quality of life there and feel best not to join in race to bottom. Likewise some she is super woke, but I believe most Albertans are quite progressive on minority rights and just fine with that. Sure she will drive the hard right crazy, but most Albertans are sick and tired of them and feel they give their province a bad image unfairly. Likewise some say her being too cozy with Trudeau is a problem, but that is more a right wing talking point. Never mind Trudeau is strongly disliked in Alberta, but not hated to degree some on right think he is. While I certainly wouldn’t vote for Notley as a fiscal conservative, I think those saying she cannot win are letting their own personal bias or stereotype of province get in way and not looking at what is really happening on the ground.
Some may ask why nothing on Ontario election and that is because so far its been largely a snoozer. On June 1st I will give my final thoughts and also who I hope will win and what I think will happen. If I lived in Ontario, I would be voting for the PCs led by Doug Ford which I will give more details on then. I think a PC majority is most likely outcome but things are tight enough that a PC plurality in seats is a very real possibility. Whether Ford remains premier or NDP-Liberals form a coalition is hard to say but my guess is latter happens in that case. I think Liberals or NDP coming first in seats is very unlikely at this point as neither has gained any momentum and we are already half way through the campaign.