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

Jason Kenney - March 18th, 2017. 12:00 PM


Today feels like spring in Alberta.

Today we are beginning the hard work of restoring a hope, for hard working and challenged Albertans.

Today we send a message to our fellow citizens: if they are struggling if they are going through a time of adversity, that hope and help is on the horizon.

Thank you so much to my dear friend, Rona, one of my very best friends in all my years of public service both politically and personally. I'm so proud to call Rona a friend, but I have a confession to make. I was proud to support Rona - in fact I think help to recruit her - to be the interim leader of our federal party. But I have to say I now regret doing so, because instead I wish she was ready to be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

What a great Alberta woman.

Friends Rona just reminded us of why unity is better than division. Fifteen years ago we had two federal Conservative parties who were hopelessly locked in a war of attrition. And had that war continued, the result would have been permanent Liberal governments. But Canadians told us to get over our small differences and to reunite the national conservative family. And you know who helped us to make that happen? It was people in this room. Alberta Progressive Conservatives helped to pave the path to federal Conservative unity.

Our late, great leader Ralph Klein - And boy, by the way. Do I ever miss Ralph. Don't we all miss Ralph?

Ralph was the keynote speaker at the United alternative conference that paved the way for federal Conservative unity. His effort was supported by almost every member of the Alberta PC Caucus, many of whom are with us here today. I see my friend Stockwell Day, just one of many. And Ralph said at that conference, that quote: “the united alternative already exists in my own PC party. About a third of the members are federal reformers. About a third are federal PCs. We even have a couple of federal Liberals”, he said. “And about a third have no federal affiliation.”

At the end of the day Ralph told us, “we were able to come together and to look at the big picture. I think a united conservative movement can do precisely that”. He went on to say “I urge you to not allow your deliberations this weekend to focus on what divides you, or on battles lost long ago. Your task this weekend is not to debate history, but to make history.”

Let's listen to Ralph.

Let's listen to Ralph!

Let's listen to Ralph.

Let’s not debate history this weekend. Let's make history for Alberta.

Thanks, in part, to this support of this party Stephen Harper and Peter McKay were able to bury the hatchet to move beyond bitterness and recrimination and to create the Conservative Party of Canada. They had the courage to focus on the future instead of being stuck in the past. On what united us and not on what divided us. Their unity agreement was endorsed by 95 percent of grassroots members. And together we created a free enterprise party that won three national elections, becoming the longest serving Conservative government since John McDonald in the 1900’s… - in the 1800’s.

And by the way, we’ve got almost the entire federal Conservative Caucus is here today. I think we can say to them we were a darn good government too.

That was a party… That is a party that has won, on average, two thirds of the votes and over 90 percent of the federal seats in Alberta, since its creation thirteen years ago. A party, which in October of 2015, our toughest campaign in a decade, won 29 of 34 Alberta seats, 60 percent of the popular vote. And one point two million Alberta votes. One point two million.

That's three times more the Progressive Conservatives won just five months earlier. And 400,000 more votes than were cast for PC’s and Wildrosers combined. Just think about that friends 400,000 free enterprise Albertans who came out to support the merged, unhyphenated Conservative Party of Canada who didn't bother showing up for either provincial conservative party just a few months earlier. So friends, now is a time for us to be honest with one another.

One of the reasons.

One of the reasons, we lost that election is because - let's be honest - many of the public believed that our party had grown arrogant. And arrogance happens when you stop listening to others. When you start telling them what to think.

Well I believe, I believe, those 400,000 missing conservative voters were sending us a message they were telling us that they are disenchanted with a decade of division. And so I am here with a simple message. It is at its heart a message of humility and humility means that sometimes you have to stop talking and start listening.

Three quarters of our party's voters have told pollsters consistently in the last year that they want us to bury the hatchet and to put the province ahead of party and to unite.

To ignore that, to tell them that they’re wrong, to say that it's more important to protect our party's past than to secure our people’s future would be arrogance and not humility.

So I say.

Let us take the path of humility.

Now friends... Friends, I honestly understand that there are many here who have profound anxieties about the prospect of unity. I respect them. I respect their voices, their hard work, their volunteer devotion to this party, just as I respect the great legacy of the PC party that helped to build modern Alberta. And that is why I am not seeking today, a mandate to impose change on this party. To the contrary I am seeking a mandate to empower every member of this part,y whether they support the concept of unity or not, by empowering every single grassroots member to make this decision through a democratic referendum, because this critical decision about our province's future is too important to be made by a leader, a caucus or a board or even the good people in this room. It must be made by tens of thousands of grassroots Progressive Conservatives.

And I hope and expect that in that referendum campaign those who oppose the idea of unity will offer their opinion, will participate in that debate and reflect it in their vote.

But please do not deny the right of our grassroots members to decide our future together.

So, let’s be clear what I am proposing.

Nothing less and nothing more than re-uniting the coalition that existed in this party for the better part of four decades, that gave good government to Alberta for four decades, before the coalition split in two. Between two parties that are voting together 90 percent of the time. For each other's amendments nearly 100 percent of the time and who do not disagree on a single major issue in Alberta politics today.

You know this reminds me of what Ronald Reagan used to say. He said that, “a person who agrees with me 80 percent of the time is an ally, not a 20 percent enemy.”

And Ed Koch, the great colorful New York Mayor Ed Koch put it perhaps more colorfully. He said, “If you agree with me on 9 of 12 issues vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.”

Or as St. Augustine of Hippo said “in essential things unity, in non-essential things diversity and in all things charity.”

Friends what we are talking about...

What we are talking about is a big, broad, tolerant, diverse, free-enterprise coalition. A big tent, not a pup tent.

The kind of coalition-

It- It has to be bigger. It only starts with bringing together progressive- current Progressive Conservatives and the former Progressive Conservatives that we call Wildrosers.

It only starts with that. But it has to be bigger than that.

We must reach out with intention and purposefully. To new Canadians, new Albertans, to young, to union members, who may have voted NDP in the past, but are disenchanted with a government that is jeopardizing their jobs. We need to reach out to fiscally conservative liberals, to the urban and rural Albertans, to people of all backgrounds and walks of life. I know something about this, because for 10 years I had the privilege of leading that effort for the Conservative Party of Canada that managed to double our support amongst new Canadians.

I am talking about a contemporary version of the Lougheed or Klein coaltion. A provincial version of the Conservative Party of Canada. Or an Alberta version of the B.C. Liberal Party. - I don't like the name so much.

Or the party led by the Premier who is standing up for Alberta, Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party.

And this coalition, this coalition of unity must be a party that is animated by a conservatism of the heart. A conservative coalition that understands our number one focus is to help people develop their God given potential; to be a voice for the underdogs of our society. For those who live at the margins. We must be the party that speaks to and for single moms and people who are struggling to get into the labor market. For our First Nations people. For new Albertans who are struggling to integrate. We must be their champion.

Now, some amongst us say that there's not enough time to do this in the twenty seven months that rest between now and the May 2019 election. My response is this: We've managed to put together the unhyphenated Conservative Party of Canada in 10 months and we did that across 10 provinces, 3 territories, 2 houses of parliament, 2 official languages, 10 times more people.

If we can do that in 10 months, we can do it in Alberta!

And then, then there are some that tell us. it's too complicated, there's too many risks and too many challenges and obstacles, and I say to them: Since when did we Albertans look for excuses not to do something important?

This is the “can do” province. This is the “can do” province. This is the province where if you see an obstacle we figure out a way to overcome it. And that’s what we’re going to do in a re-united Alberta.

And so friends, Albertans are counting on us. Our future is counting on us. In this week's NDP budget they have mortgaged our future 70 billion dollars in debt. And we owe it to future generations to get this right starting today, because united we will get Alberta back on the right track.

United we will restore this great province as a beacon of hope and opportunity for generations to come.

United we will struggle and united we will emerge as in the words of our province’s motto “strong and free!”

Thank you very much. God bless you all and God bless Alberta!