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With Brad Wall out, is Rachel Notley now the Real Leader of Western Canada?

Brad Wall, Saturday in Saskatoon

Yesterday, the Canadian Prairies bade farewell to Brad Wall, the Grumpiest Conservative On the Great Plains and, according to Jason Kenney, "the real leader of Western Canada."

Tomorrow, Kenney will be formally sworn in as the new Grumpiest Conservative On the Great Plains and, who knows, we may soon be hearing dissatisfied conservatives in Wall's former jurisdiction calling Kenney the real leader of Western Canada. That will depend on how Wall’s replacement works out, presumably.

In the mean time, though, it looks very much as if Western Canada will be without a real conservative leader, at any rate, for a full day! (Explanation to follow.) And today's the day, people, so enjoy!

Wall is the former premier of Saskatchewan, and what a delight it is to be able to refer to him that way. Leastways, Wall will be the former premier by the time the time you read this, even if he technically remains Saskatchewan's top political dawg until his successor is sworn in.

Wall spent his last half hour or so as leader of the misnamed Saskatchewan Party -- which really ought to have been called the United Conservative Party of Saskatchewan and probably would have been if there hadn't been a Devine intervention that caused the word "conservative" to fall into disrepute in the province to the east -- lambasting the Alberta NDP.

Well, any old port in a storm, I guess. The Saskatchewan economy is reputedly no great shakes right now and the Licence Plate War's been called off, so what's an angry about-to-be-ex premier to do for his Saskatoon swansong except trot out obscure references or orange shag carpets, lava lamps and churches. (What's Wall got against churches, anyway? And did he miss it that shag carpets and orange upholstery are both back in style?) But the Saskatchewan Party's got a plan, Wall insisted in a speech the admiring media characterized as a tub-thumper.

Presumably he figured it was safe to stick with a formula that's worked for him since 2015, when Rachel Notley's NDP was elected in Alberta. Anyway, he won't be around to answer questions in the halls of the Legislature in Regina if Alberta’s economy continues to get better and Saskatchewan's continues to get worse.

For the thumbnail summary of his speech, Wall apparently returned to the theme of a speech he gave a decade ago, about the time he became premier: Hope Beats Fear. You know, try like hell to make Saskatchewanians fear the NDP and hope like hell that works another time.

Wall was not replaced by just any Larry or Curly, by the way. Rather, the Saskatchewan Party chose a Moe. Scott Moe, to be precise, the MLA for Rosthern-Shellbrook and, until he announced he was running for leader, Saskatchewan's environment minister. Don't ask me for the scoop about the guy, though -- this blog is about Alberta politics!

Speaking of which, Kenney having handily won a by-election in the Calgary-Lougheed Riding last month, the United Conservative Party of Alberta Leader will be sworn in as Opposition leader in a short ceremony at the Alberta Legislature tomorrow afternoon.

Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Lois Mitchell will administer the oath of office to Kenney at 2:30 p.m. in the chamber of the Alberta Legislature. A huge throng of mainstream media functionaries will be on hand to celebrate the occasion, not one of them wearing sneakers or jeans, which according to the Speaker's Office are verboten.

Getting back to the question of whom the real real leader of Western Canada is, that's actually quite hard to answer with any confidence. At the moment at least there's a tie between the NDP and conservatives operating under a variety of names for the actual number of premiers, New Democrats in British Columbia and Alberta and conservatives in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

If you go by seniority, Notley, sworn in on May 24, 2015, is clearly now the Real Leader of Western Canada. She will no doubt be discussing this with her ministers at their cabinet retreat in Banff this week.

Certainly it's not John Horgan, NDP Premier of British Columbia, who only got the job on July 18 last year after being propped up by the Green Party. And by all accounts, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister (sworn in on May 3, 2016) spends so much time in Costa Rica and New Mexico that he hardly counts as the top guy at home even when he returns from his trips uninjured. Moe, of course, hasn't even been sworn in yet.

Seniority is presumably not what Kenney had in mind when he bestowed the title of Real Leader of Western Canada on Wall. That said, we've not heard much about the concept from him since Wall declared trade war on Alberta constructions workers and was soon thereafter outmaneuvered by the Alberta NDP.

Meanwhile, now that he's actually got a seat in the Legislature, Kenney will have his hands full trying to best Notley in Parliamentary debate and ensure his caucus's bozo-eruption-prone former Wildrose Party members behave themselves.

Both tasks will be difficult, although Kenney may be just the man to succeed at the latter. Indeed, it is said here he has already had some success. Notwithstanding his House Leader's recent admission he once fired an employee who complained to him about being sexually harassed on the job by a contractor, at least there have been no lame comparisons made by UCP MLAs between "foreign dictator oil" and "ethical Alberta bitumen" since Kenney emerged victorious as UCP Leader.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Facebook

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