Last month, Premier Jason Kenney poked some fun at himself during a speech at the Alberta Municipalities convention.
Showing off some unexpected comedic chops, Kenney joked after receiving applause from the crowd that "this is clearly not a UCP caucus meeting." He also let a phone call go to voice mail before remarking, "Sorry, Justin [Trudeau], I'll call back later."
It was one of Kenney's final speeches as Alberta's premier. Perhaps he felt he has nothing left to lose in his final days on the job, as he prepares to depart as the UCP's leader on Oct. 6.
Kenney will leave behind a complicated, but mostly negative legacy as premier. He was unfortunate in that the COVID-19 pandemic erupted less than a year after his assuming office. But his handling of the provincial government's response to the virus – coupled with the province's frequent battles with the health-care and public education sectors, as well as division among the UCP caucus – will likely be remembered bitterly by many Albertans.
During the recent convention, Kenney said he always intended for his premiership to be a short-term gig – a surprising statement from someone with a decades-long political career.
Shortly after this week's Airdrie City View issue is printed, Alberta will have a new premier. It could be Danielle Smith, Travis Toews, or one of five other leadership candidates.
Smith, riding a populist wave this leadership campaign, seems the probable winner of this week's vote. Throughout her campaign, she's gained support by touting the need to stand up to the federal government, and how her Sovereignty Act is needed to protect Alberta's industry interests against Ottawa.
If UCP supporters have one thing to worry about a Smith premiership, it would be her possibly dividing conservative ranks in Alberta – something the former Wildrose Party leader has already done once before, thanks to her floor-crossing in 2014. And as the 2015 election proved, a divided conservative voter base in Alberta leads to a clear path for the NDP to gain power.
Interesting days ahead, certainly.