Jason Kenney: Get to know him in four fast facts
Jason Kenney, the MP for Calgary Midnapore, will seek the leadership of the Alberta PCs.
Published Wednesday, July 6, 2016 1:25PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 6, 2016 2:30PM EDT
Conservative MP Jason Kenney announced today that he's seeking the leadership of the Alberta PCs, with a plan to unite them with the Wildrose party. The MP for Calgary Midnapore has long been considered a top contender for the federal Conservative leadership, but is taking himself out of the running with the move to enter provincial politics.
As he enters a new phase of his political career, here are four things to know about Kenney.
1. He's had a long career in federal politics.
Kenney was first elected in 1997 as a Reform Party MP, three days after his 29th birthday. Before that, he worked as the president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an organization that advocates for smaller government and lower taxes. Kenney has won six elections since then - every federal election in which he's run.
2. He's a fundraising and organizing powerhouse.
Kenney is widely acknowledged to have been most of the reason the Conservatives did so well among new Canadians. He believed many newly-arrived citizens held conservative beliefs that jibed with Conservative Party policies, and he spent years building links with those communities. He and his riding association have been huge draws for financial contributions over the years, allowing him to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to other riding associations and to the Conservative Fund of Canada, the party's fundraising arm.
3. He stumbled after changing files.
As the minister of citizenship and immigration, Kenney was one of the strongest at the cabinet table. He held the file for five years and was already familiar with some of the issues after serving as secretary of state for multiculturalism. At a time when many ministers avoided the media, Kenney would take questions for an hour or more about his file. He was similarly strong after moving to employment and social development, where one of his highest-profile files was that of temporary foreign workers, which has some cross-over with immigration. But, once he became defence minister, Kenney sometimes stumbled. At one point, he said Canada and the U.S. were the only countries conducting airstrikes in Syria capable of dropping smart bombs. He later apologized and blamed an incorrect briefing by defence officials. He was also criticized for a delay in releasing the estimated cost of that air mission over Iraq and Syria.
4. He's a social conservative who will campaign as a centrist.
Kenney holds a philosophy degree from the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school. He voted in favour of a 2012 motion to study when life begins, which was widely seen as being a move to reopen the debate on abortion, and he voted against legalizing gay marriage in 2005 (as did most of his Conservative colleagues, and some Liberal MPs). But Kenney's focus in Alberta will be on uniting Albertans against the NDP, rather than on uniting the right, according to a source close to him. That will capitalize on voters who don't want the NDP in government in the province but who wouldn't consider themselves part of "the right" as a movement.