Jason Kenney's First Speech at the 2017 PC Leadership Convention

Jason Kenney - March 17th, 2017. 6:30 PM.


Thank you.

Thank you ladies and gentleman. 

Thank you fellow Albertans. 

Thank-you, Bianca and happy St. patrick’s day everybody. 

I can feel the energy in this room and this energy is going to help us get this province back on track. 

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, let me tell you an Irish tale.

In 1912, a poor Irish family left County Kildare

Like so many before them, they had little more than a dream. 

They crossed an ocean, and then a continent, to begin a new life at a place strangely called Medicine Hat, in the new province of Alberta. 

Like most Irish families, it was a matriarchy, headed by a formidable woman named Kate O’Callaghan. (A name as Irish as our formidable President Katherine O’Neill). 

Kate’s husband, Kate’s husband Robert promptly went into business, starting his own blacksmith shop. There, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan, they carved out a new life for their ten children, including my grandmother Rosetta.

Just three years later, duty called. 

My great grandfather Robert and two of his sons enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. One hundred years ago next month, these three brave Irish Canadian men joined their comrades to storm Vimy Ridge in the battle that made Canada a nation.  One of my great uncles, John, made the ultimate sacrifice that day, never to return to the new life he had begun in Medicine Hat. 

I tell you the story of my grandmother’s family, because in many ways there’s is the story of Alberta. People who have been drawn from every corner of the Earth to this land of fresh starts and new beginnings, of this place of hope and opportunity, where people can dream as big as our endless prairie skies.

But also a place where opportunity does not come without adversity, and where we give to one another in a spirit of service and of community, just as my Great Uncle gave his all. 

From the aboriginal people who were the first to create communities in this rugged environment; 

Aux canadiens francais courageux: les Oblates, les voyageurs, les Métis; 

To the Mounties who brought the rule of law;

To the fur traders from Lebanon’s Bekka Valley, who built the first mosque in Canada;

To the men in sheepskin coats from the steppes of Ukraine who cleared tough land and dotted it with their onion-domed Churches,

To the English ranchers and American oilmen, 

To our newest Albertans, like Bianca and her family – 

All of them - All of us - together have built one of the most prosperous and generous societies in all of human history! 

You see, Alberta is not a random collection of people. It’s not an accident of history. 

Alberta is an idea.

An idea of a place animated by hard work and enterprise. 

By the creative power of economic freedom, thrift and personal responsibility. 

A place where how hard you work and how you treat others matters infinitely more than who your father was, where you came from, how you pray, or who you love. 

A compassionate society that understands wealth cannot be redistributed to the least fortunate unless that wealth is created through hard work in the first place. 

Friends, we gather here tonight because that idea of Alberta is under assault. 

It is being damaged every day by an ideological government that takes its inspiration from the failed theories of socialism: by a resentment of success, a distrust of enterprise, a mistaken belief that a powerful state is a greater force for good than strong families and free women and men. 

But don’t get me wrong. 

The New Democrats aren’t bad people.  They just have bad ideas. 

We must treat the Premier and her team with respect and respect for their public service. 

And when they go low, we must go high.

When they appeal to fear, as they did in yesterday’s budget, we will appeal to hope. 

When they call their opponents “sewer rats” or “xenophobic,” we will not respond in kind. 

Because Albertans deserve better than that. 

At the same time, we must acknowledge that so many of our fellow Albertans are hurting. 

200,000 of whom are out of work. 

100,000 of whom lost full time jobs since the NDP came to office. 

Thousands of small businesses - the unsung heroes of our economy - who are barely hanging on. 

Young people leaving our province, and all of it because of a government that is making a bad situation much worse by increasing taxes on everything that moves, from incomes to businesses, property, soon on payrolls.

 And recently the single largest tax in increase in our province’s history the multi-billion dollar carbon tax that they did not mention in the last election, which is all economic pain and no environmental gain. 

So friends, this is driving billions of dollars of capital out of our province, and making the situation much worse than it needs to be.

To sum it up, a grandmother from Calgary Loreen Forrest said in the Herald yesterday: 

“It’s so disheartening to see the direction our province has gone. And I can’t see it change until we get a new government in. It seems that everything that comes out from this government is harmful to Albertans.”

You know what? Lorreen is right. 

It won’t change until we get a new government in. 

And that responsibility falls on those of us  in this room, representing tens of thousands of PC members, and millions of severely normal Albertans who are sending us a clear message. 

They are telling us that it is time to end a decade of division. 

It is time to focus on what you unites us and not on what divides us, it is time to park the egos, the brands, the labels and the resentments. 

It is time to put Alberta first. 

It is time that we reunite the divided conservative movement. 

Wildrose members are not enemies, they are former Progressive Conservatives who together gave good government to this province for 4 decades we need to re-create the unity that we lost and the unity that still have at the federal level. 

And we need to do so by empowering our grassroots members, trusting them to make the ultimate decision. 

I’ll talk to you more about this tomorrow, but fundamentally the question is this: who decides? A leader, a party executive or tens of thousands of grassroots members? 

I say let them decide, put them in charge of our future and if we work hard I am confident that our best days lie ahead. 

That we will renew the promise of Alberta as this land that is strong and free. A beacon of hope for generations to come. 

Thank you very much.