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Alberta Politics

It sucks to be Jason Kenney

Down in the polls, down in popularity, fighting off a caucus and party revolt and facing a vicious third wave of a global pandemic is probably not how Jason Kenney imagined he’d be spending the second anniversary of his party’s sweeping win in the April 16, 2019 election.

When he rode into the victory party in his leased blue Dodge Ram, Kenney looked like an unstoppable political force. The long-time politician imported from Ottawa to Alberta to unite the province’s two quarrelling conservative parties thumped the incumbent Alberta NDP in every region of the province, save Edmonton and a handful of districts in Calgary and Lethbridge.

To paraphrase a headline from another province, Kenney could have kicked a dog and still got elected.

But after spending two years burning through political capital and making new enemies on an almost daily basis, there is a real question whether Kenney will make it until the next election.

Factions of his caucus and party are rebelling against him, demanding the lifting of public health restrictions just as COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing in Alberta and calling for his resignation as party leader.

Despite his reputation as a workaholic and micro-manager, his government’s actions and communications in response to the pandemic have been muddled, confusing, and unclear. And now, with cases almost at the same level as Dec. 2020 and hospitalizations closing in on 600, his government appears to be unwilling to introduce new public health measures to slow the growth of the virus.

He was forced to turn tail on universally unpopular plans to privatize provincial parks and allow open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

It seems like nearly every school board in the province has rejected his government’s draft K-6 curriculum, which has been almost universally panned by parents and educators as overly politicized, American-focused, and out of date.

His government lost its bid to overturn the federal government’s carbon tax at the Supreme Court and now his Ottawa ally Erin O’Toole has now embraced his own version of the carbon tax.

And there has been almost no movement on the three big promises he so effectively honed in on in 2019: Jobs, Economy, and Pipelines. And if there has been movement, it’s been backward.

Now three years in, it looks like the one thing Kenney has been most effective in is making enemies, and, in many cases, enemies of people who would otherwise be allies.

Led by Health Minister Tyler Shandro, the Kenney government decided it was a smart idea to launch a full scale attack against Alberta’s doctors in the middle of the global pandemic.

The government only recently backed down from its attacks on doctors, but it’s clear there is very little trust or goodwill between physicians and the government, especially as long as Kenney continues to back Shandro as Health Minister.

His relationship with the truth has been questioned as well, as he has become known for embellishing stories – like the superspreader birthday party in Athabasca – or twisting anecdotes to fit his own political narratives – like the crying restaurant owners who he claimed fled socialism in Venezuela.

His job approval ratings are in the tank, his party has fallen behind the NDP in every polls since last Nov., and today Elections Alberta announced that his party raised just half the amount of money as Rachel Notley’s NDP in the first three months of 2021.

Albertans are unhappy. Party members are unhappy. UCP MLAs are unhappy. Cabinet ministers are unhappy.

A month ago, the UCP executive narrowly avoided calls from disgruntled constituency association presidents to hold a leadership review at the party’s 2021 annual meeting by preemptively scheduling a review to take place during the 2022 convention, months ahead of the expected 2023 election.

Delaying the leadership review was designed to both give Kenney time to recoup his leadership approval among the public and the party, and threaten the dissenters with a potential leadership race months before the next election. But it looks like that didn’t quell the unrest in the party. His internal critics are calling his bluff.

Multiple reports allege that Kenney threatened his caucus with calling an early election if he did not have their support, but it was so clearly an empty threat. The UCP would lose the election if it were held tomorrow and Rachel Notley would be Premier again.

Unfortunately for Kenney, the United Conservative Party he helped create is an institutional mix of former Progressive Conservatives, who do not tolerate leaders who look like they are going to lose, and Wildrosers, who just don’t want to be lead.

At this rate, Kenney might not last the summer, which he has repeatedly promised will be the “best summer in Alberta’s history.”

11 replies on “It sucks to be Jason Kenney”

Obviously this United Crazy Party has forgotten the Redford-Hancock-Prentice Era. How did that end? Goodbye and good riddance!

When Kenny had to resort to gutter tactics to win the leadership the first chapter was written and this was entirely predictable then. Massaging huge egos is a worthless endeavour and endless. Hopefully Albertans will become wiser over the ensuing two year circus. Even the religious fanatics and liberty freaks will doubt their enthusiasm when the fat lady sings.

Dennis Holowach: Even Ralph Klein’s tenure as premier of Alberta, had to finally come to an end. It should have been sooner. I can’t understand why Albertans were so deceived by him. I know people who were. Perhaps Albertans will see that the UCP weren’t good after all. Some of us figured that out to begin with, but others refused to listen. They had earplugs in. There is a very different contrast to conservatives, like Peter Lougheed, and what we have been getting, including with Ralph Klein, or the UCP.

Peter Lougheed was a gentleman. He would shake hands with any ordinary Albertan. He was a very nice person.

I think what Kenney is demonstrating is that while he is unquestionably good at politics, he’s lousy at governing. He steam-rolled the PC-WRP merger to get himself the Premiership, but he’s clearly out of his depth when it comes to using it.

If you define politics as getting in over your head, then I agree. Otherwise no! A worthy politician would realize that when you play in the gutter you should except to get dirty. Once you’re there only the sewer awaits. Begging for mercy is futile.

Jason Kenney has been on the wrong side of almost every issue affecting AB over the last two years. Without any moral compass, and without any real understanding of the values Albertans hold dear, he will continue to wreak havoc on all of us until we get rid of him. Likely, he will need to be pushed out because, without a conscience he is not capable of figuring this out on his own.

While I agree with your sentiment, who, when and how will he be pushed out is the central question. It is apparent from the leadership race that his quest for power overrides all. Already the blame is being placed on Dr. Hinshaw to appease the “freedom” faction and more will come, all at the expense of ALL Albertans and their health. Survival of the premiership will be the only priority unfortunately. It is critical to starve the UCP of funds until it is forced to push Kenny out. Without deliberate action, the ensuing 2 years might be the worst of our lives.

Dennis Holowach: I think you said it! I have to add that if the first two years of the UCP were horrible, the next two years will be even worse. The UCP will do so much damage that our collective heads will be spinning as to how we will fix it all. The pompous leader, with an over inflated ego, will just be enjoying a very good political pension, while Albertans will continue to suffer.

“without any real understanding of the values Albertans hold dear”
This, I think, nails it.

So much fun has been poked at Jason Kenney for living in his mother’s basement, I think the origin of that issue has been forgotten. While an MP, Jason Kenney spent so little time in Alberta that he didn’t bother to keep an apartment here; thus he had to list his mother’s address in order to (fraudulently) qualify for a second housing allowance MPs need since they have to live in both their home ridings and Ottawa.

As a result, it appears that Jason thinks the stereotypes he hears about Albertans is what Allbertans are all about. Consequently he thinks he looks like an Albertan simply by driving a pick-up. Personally I am offended by his oversimplification of our residents.

Good call, Catherine.

Kenney has shown an astonishing ability to reach exactly the wrong conclusions from the facts on the ground. I’ve said often that he’s using classic Republican tactics–but Lord, Lord, how could anyone be so out of touch with reality?

The most frightening thing about the grass-roots revolt against “The Leader” is that they feel Kenney hasn’t gone far ENOUGH. The ranting among the far-right against even minimal public-health measures is baffling. Kenney has somehow managed to enrage a very vocal minority of “I-know-my-rights” types, while angering everyone else by not following professional advice to keep Covid transmission under something like control. Hence the third wave, and soon a lockdown–because our hospitals will be overwhelmed, worse than the first time.

Then there’s the other stuff–jobs disappearing, not being created; Keystone XL is dead (despite promises to revive it, zombie-like) and Kenney lost over $1B on a bad bet; the economy is still in the tank after the last oil-price war in 2019, plus the global slowdown from Covid. Fill in your favourite example of Kenney stupidity, e.g. the War Room vs. Bigfoot Family, or the war on doctors.

Jason Kenney is likely the only premier Alberta ever had, who simultaneously angered both the Left and the Right. Absent an economic miracle (in Oilberduh, it’s always about the economy) Kenney is one-and-done.

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