I like labels. I know they’re an unpopular thing in Canada today, but I like them. I think we’re too sensitive to be labelled and that has led to our aversion of labels. But labels can be helpful if we all just agree that they are flawed and cannot tell the whole story… and if we choose them carefully. Which brings me to today’s nerd cousin post.
Jason Kenney leads the UCP and they won the election last night. So how should we refer to him now? The two main terms you’ll hear are Premier-Designate and Premier-Elect (this debate can be applied in exactly the same way to Prime Ministers). One that is used to a lesser extent (in Canada anyway) is Premier-in-Waiting. But the -Designate and -Elect and -in-Waiting titles are flawed. None of them accurately describe the situation. So, which is the least flawed?
For those of you who spent eighth grade social studies trying to hide your acne, let’s begin with a quick primer (no, not that one…). Contrary to what many people believe, we do not elect the Premier. He or she is appointed. You remember that from reading my blog so religiously right? You’ll recall (I’m sure) that while we don’t elect the Premier, we elect the members of the house and they in turn appoint the Premier. But also… not really… well, I left a little thing out there.
Technically (which is the nerd cousin’s favourite word) the Premier is appointed by one person. Or, rather, one person on behalf of another person. Confused yet? Technically, after an election the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, asks the leader of the winning party to form government on her behalf. Fun fact: There’s nothing stopping the Queen from ignoring the results of the election and making this guy Premier. Or, God forbid, this guy. Well, there’s nothing to stop her other than the fact that she’s not an idiot. The Crown (as it is legally called) is bound by tradition and tradition dictates that whichever leader has the confidence of the house gets the first crack at forming government. Naturally no one has ever said no… why else would they run?
So, back to the titles. Based on the system we have, clearly the Premier-Elect title doesn’t apply. The Premier isn’t elected, he or she is appointed. So that would mean Premier-Designate is the proper term, right? No. It can’t possibly be that easy.
See, the Lieutenant-Governor doesn’t actually ask the winner to form government until right before he or she takes office at which point they immediately take the oath of office. In practice everyone needs a few days to get their ducks in a row. So, Ms. Notley stays Premier until then, and no one has designated Jason Kenney anything in any official capacity. Even the results of the election are technically not official yet.
So, Jason Kenney can’t be called Premier-Designate either. Premier-in-Waiting seems like a good term then. Truth be told, I don’t have a witty argument here. I kind of like this one. To me it describes the situation pretty well. Jason Kenney is waiting to be Premier, which is the foregone conclusion. The only problem is that no one seems to agree with me (well in Canada anyway). The press often gets to make these decisions for the rest of us and they like to use Premier-in-Waiting as a more casual term for anyone who is seeking the office.
In recent years the term Premier-Designate has become the most widely used, and it is admittedly more accurate than the -elect moniker. Someone even consulted the redoubtable Duane Bratt on Twitter and he concurred.
So, there you have it. Much like many people feel when voting, the choice is less about which option is right than about which one is less wrong. Premier-Designate it is.