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Andrew Scheer snatches defeat from the jaws of victory

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Image: David J. Climenhaga

Well! There's certainly no shortage of safe Conservative seats in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney could use to saddle up and ride back to Ottawa to save conservatism after Andrew Scheer's disastrous impersonation of the Conservative Party of Canada's leader ended in ignominy last night.

It takes a special talent to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory the way Scheer did -- and if we know anything about Alberta's newish Conservative premier, an Ottawa insider if ever there was one, it's that unlikely catastrophic losses like Scheer's are not part of his election night repertoire.

You would have thought almost any Conservative leader could have crushed Justin Trudeau's hopes after the prime minister's dismal performance of the past couple of years -- even Maxime Bernier!

So never let it be said that Scheer did nothing for Canada. Even though he's not admitting it, he appears to have hired Warren Kinsella, the seemingly disaffected Liberal political consultant, to "seek and destroy" Bernier and his odious nativist People's Party of Canada. That part at least worked out. Too bad for the Conservatives that Scheer himself may have suffered some collateral damage from the hire.

So how about it, Stephanie Kusie? Are you ready to step aside in Calgary Midnapore to help catapult Kenney back to his old stomping grounds on the banks of the Rideau Canal? Kenney's former Calgary riding has to be his sentimental favourite for the swift return to the nation's capital he's long been rumoured to be plotting.

There he is said to dream of becoming the Canadian prime minister whose leadership most resembles that of William Lyon Mackenzie King -- "pay rent if necessary, but don't necessarily pay rent" -- something that Liberals who are entitled to feel relieved today should nevertheless take seriously.

Kenney is as formidable a campaigner as there is, whatever you may think of his divisive politics or the ethical standards of his leadership campaign, and anyone he challenges should take the challenge seriously.

For those in Alberta who will think they will be glad to see the departing back of Kenney as he heads back to Ottawa, if in fact that's what he has in mind, I have just three words for them: Premier Jason Nixon. (History can blame him for the fallout from Thursday's Alberta budget.) So be careful what you wish for!

And for those Conservatives pleased at least that the Liberals have been reduced to a minority and all but driven out of Alberta, I have some thoughts for them too.

First, the likely elevation of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to holder of the balance of power in the Parliament of Canada does not sound like good news for that pipeline expansion project Kenney and Opposition leader Rachel Notley have persuaded Albertans is essential to our province's economic future.

You'd better start making nice with Prime Minister Trudeau, as distasteful as that may seem to you, if you want to get what you say we must have. Unless, of course, you never really believed it and just used it as a stick to beat Trudeau. In which case, I suppose, carry on.

Second, how does the phrase "Independent Senator Paula Simons, Liberal minister of the Crown," sound to you? It sounds fine to me, by the way, and a happy development for a fine journalist who just months ago was trapped toiling for the wretched Postmedia chain -- which surely the prime minister will now stop considering subsidizing with our tax dollars!

Don't like the sound of that, well, how about Minister Heather McPherson in the coalition government? Less likely, I grant you, but not impossible. McPherson was the only non-Conservative member still standing last night in Alberta. She was elected for Singh's New Democrats in Edmonton Strathcona, despite another Mainstreet Research poll that apparently wasn't exactly as advertised.

Or how about the self-fulfilling Conservative prophesy: Ambassador Rachel Notley? (If it happens, just remember where you heard it first.)

As this is written, Scheer's concession speech is still awaited. I wonder if he'll declare a moral victory?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga

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