Bell: Kenney’s plan to woo ethnic voters to help him save his job

Back to his days of Minister for Curry in a Hurry:
This is getting to be serious business.
I hear Rishi Nagar on West of Centre, a CBC podcast.When he talks about Premier Jason Kenney courting voters from cultural communities in northeast Calgary in a bid to keep his job it gets me curious.

I decide to give the political deep thinker a call. Nagar also happens to be a heck of a nice guy who knows his stuff.

Nagar is the news director at RED FM, a multicultural radio station in Calgary.

The questions come easily

How many people in northeast Calgary filled out membership forms for Kenney’s United Conservative Party?

Folks who snagged a membership by this past Saturday can register to vote Yes or No next month on the premier’s fate. As many as 20,000 across the province may register. It is an astounding number.

So what is the educated guess, the ballpark number?

Who better to ask than a man who attended a half-dozen Kenney events in the city’s northeast?

He says around 2,000-plus signed up for the premier

The premier. The citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism minister in his previous life in Ottawa.

His job back then was to win new Canadians to the federal Conservative side. Kenney was tagged with a nickname by an MP. The Minister for Curry in a Hurry.

As the premier scrounges for votes in the upcoming vote on his leadership, Nagar mentions organizers from different communities reaching out to their people “to fill the membership form for Mr. Kenney.”

He mentions Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims. He mentions Muslims from Pakistan and Muslims from Lebanon and Muslims from South Africa.

In every event there are forms filled out and collected in groups of 50. The memberships add up, the promises to vote for Kenney.Kenney is a very frequent visitor to the city’s northeast. The premier even goes to very small gatherings, as small as 15 people.

“He’s very happy,” says Nagar, of the premier.

Local members of the legislature, serving under the banner of Kenney’s United Conservatives, are at the back of the room.

It could be Rajan Sawhney or Mickey Amery or Peter Singh.

Nagar cannot say, and nobody knows, how many with UCP memberships will actually vote in Red Deer.

Of course if the UCP decides to have voting in Calgary as well as Red Deer it will be much more convenient.

Ditto if they decide to allow in-person voting in the capital city.

“Mr. Kenney is targeting minority communities here in Calgary. He must be doing the same thing in Edmonton,” adds NagarThe Kenney pitch is first and foremost the fear of the NDP.

Then the fear of breaking up the United Conservatives, an uneasy marriage of convenience with former Wildrosers and former PC types intent on seeing the NDP defeated last election.

Then there’s Kenney on the economy coming out of COVID, pledging to make communities “happy and flourishing.”

Kenney talks a lot about the economy.

The man from RED FM says there is not one single question on the premier’s past comments on the spread of COVID in northeast Calgary or on the issue of hail insurance after the huge storm.

Nagar says just before the Alberta government budget Kenney was “absolutely unpopular.”

After the budget things started changing. He started showing up.

There is “one interesting feature” mentioned. The desire to get a picture with Kenney.

“Whenever there is a photo-op with the premier they forget everything. A picture is important. If I have a picture with Jason Kenney I will hang it in my family room.”

Such is the sentiment.

“There is a lineup for the pictures.”

Nagar says the members Kenney is signing up may not be the deciding factor in his survival but it is big support for him to win.

The premier’s people know they’re in a fight.

They know his approval is nothing to write home about and they don’t talk about it.

They know polls show most Albertans aren’t happy with him.

They emphasize how the UCP could squeak out a win against the NDP, not pointing to the fact some of that UCP vote may come from those who expect Kenney could be gone after his party’s leadership vote

But when the premier is in Calgary’s northeast he is one happy camper

“You can see his tone and language when he departs. He’s super-happy. He’s very confident. His gait is changed. His way of talking changes after seeing all these people.”

Source: Bell: Kenney’s plan to woo ethnic voters to help him save his job

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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