A file photo of MP and former conservative minister Jason Kenney. Kenney announced that he will be stepping away from federal politics to seek the Progressive Conservative party leadership in Alberta. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Jason Kenney’s exit leaves hole in conservative Ottawa

  • July 11, 2016

OTTAWA – Jason Kenney’s decision to exit federal politics leaves a gaping hole in the Conservative leadership race for socially conservative Tories hoping for a strong standard bearer.

But social conservatives say they remain hopeful other good socially conservative candidates will run.

“The good news is there are still two possible social conservative leadership hopefuls,” said Campaign Life political strategist Jack Fonseca. 

Former Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer, a Catholic and presently MP for Regina—Qu’Appelle, is considering running as is MP Brad Trost, an evangelical Christian who represents the Saskatoon riding and is serving his fifth term in Parliament.

Kenney, a former cabinet minister who held several major portfolios including immigration and defense, was seen as one of the most formidable potential candidates. Instead, the devout Catholic and pro-life MP with, according to Campaign Life Coalition, a perfect voting record on life and family issues, has decided to run for the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party leadership in Alberta, with the goal of uniting the PCs with the Wildrose Party.

“I think Jason Kenney will be an asset wherever he runs,” said Campaign Life’s Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg. “He has an over-arching human side to himself that brings out the best in politics. He has more substance than Trudeau’s style and he’s clearly proven he’s able to handle difficult portfolios. He has a history of bringing people together.”

Brownrigg also said Kenney brings tremendous charisma to politics.

“I think he saw that he didn’t have much opportunity federally because he’d be another white male from Alberta,” said REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt. “I think he saw the end of the tunnel being blocked off for him federally.” 

Landolt agrees with many Ottawa pundits who think Kenney may have exited the federal scene because he anticipates the Conservatives will spend a long time in opposition. “He’s no fool politically,” said Landolt. Right now Trudeau is at 60 per cent of the popular vote.”

Fonseca said he believed Trost might be even stronger than Kenney or Scheer because he voted against changing the Conservative Party policy’s support for traditional marriage at the recent policy convention in Vancouver, while both Kenney and Scheer voted for the change. 

“It came as quite a shock (Kenney) had distanced himself from traditional marriage,” Fonseca said. “I’m no longer sure we can count on him being a pro-family candidate. However, hopefully his pro-life principles continue to be strong and he can do some good at the provincial level in Alberta.” 

Both Fonseca and Landolt said social conservatives make up about 40 per cent of the Conservative Party. 

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