The Jason Syndrome: Conservative candidate melts down about Hollywood star turn in bid to derail NDP strategy that’s working

Posted on January 13, 2017, 1:25 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Conservative carbon-tax foe Jason Kenney in a screen shot taken from his recent Facebook video. Actual best experiences may not result as promised from turning on the sound. Below: Hollywood actress Jane Fonda aboard a helicopter somewhere over Fort McMurray. Just what is the pilot pointing at? Below her: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier Christy Clark (Anglican Journal photo). Not one of the four Canadian politicians illustrated with this story get Ms. Fonda’s stamp of approval.

Albert Einstein’s purported definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – has become a political cliché: Consider Jason Kenney, a man who believes so fervently in a failed strategy for developing Alberta’s resources that he bitterly rejects all other approaches as heresy – especially ones that work!

Mr. Kenney is like the guy who says the earth is flat, but always has an instant scientific explanation for why that ship just sailed over the horizon.

FondainFlightThis would be amusing were Mr. Kenney not the front-running candidate to lead Alberta’s conservatives (and therefore, unfortunately, quite possibly the rest of us as well) to market-fundamentalist nirvana. He is, so it matters.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kenney demonstrated this in a way that turned out to be mildly amusing when his Progressive Conservative leadership campaign, which nowadays looks and sounds much like a full-blown election campaign, produced a Facebook video excoriating Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government with a symbolic attack on Hollywood.

Don’t worry. Mr. Kenney has not turned into a snobby wannabe French existentialist who looks down his long nose at American culture. Au contraire!

But he obviously hoped to get a little mileage out of this week’s visit by a remarkably well preserved Jane Fonda, a legendary Hollywood Star once reviled in right-wing circles for her opposition to the Vietnam War, and more recently for her enthusiasm for environmental causes.

Ms. Fonda is not, her Alberta performance strongly suggests, enthusiastic about bitumen extraction.

Mr. Kenney’s claim, therefore, was that her continued opposition to Alberta oilsands development proves Ms. Notley’s effort to build the social license needed get approval for pipelines through other jurisdictions for Alberta’s resources doesn’t work.

Trudeau-1In the kind of sly little dig that passes for wit in conservative circles, Mr. Kenney referred to Ms. Fonda in his video as “the 1970s celebrity,” thereby reminding all of us who remember the 70s fondly that we’re not as young as we once were. Ms. Fonda is 79. Mr. Kenney is 48. The author of this piece will very soon be 65.

Ms. Notley (who is 52) has gone about seeking social license for Alberta’s energy industry, as is well known, by implementing environmental measures like the carbon tax, which Mr. Kenney has chosen to make a vociferous effort to oppose.

In recent campaign-style town hall meetings, the PC candidate has repeatedly vowed to make the first action of any government he heads repeal of the carbon levy.

Unfortunately for Mr. Kenney, the federal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 45, has put him in a box by approving, last November, two of the projects Ms. Notley and Mr. Kenney both enthusiastically support – to the apparent disgust of Ms. Fonda.

The strategic problem for Mr. Kenney is that the prime minister made it emphatically clear he never would have approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project to the West Coast without the Alberta NDP’s climate leadership program.

So Mr. Kenney, who presumably doesn’t want to risk flip-flopping on the carbon tax, which is proving to be a popular position with his base, is very anxious to make the case the whole social license thing doesn’t really work.

Notley-2“The NDP government told us that their job-killing carbon tax would produce ‘social license’ for our oil and gas products,” Mr. Kenney lectured his video viewers in a smarmy Teacher’s Pet voice. “That it would get all of these environmental organizations and celebrities to support Alberta oil and gas. And we can see that that’s not true. I mean, Jane Fonda was opposed to Alberta’s oil and gas and pipelines before the NDP carbon tax, and she remains opposed to it now!” (Emphasis added.)

This is a teensy-weensy fib by Mr. Kenney. As he well knows, Ms. Notley promised no such thing.

Like most of us, I doubt Alberta’s premier gives a fig what American celebrities say and do – unless, of course, they manage to get themselves elected President of the United States like Ronald Reagan and that other guy Mr. Kenney likes. In her eight decades of life, however, Ms. Fonda has never run for president.

What Ms. Notley actually argued is that the NDP’s social license approach would have an impact on two related groups of people who really matter: Voters in other jurisdictions, and the leaders they elect.

That’s where the amusing part of this story came in. Because it couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours after Mr. Kenney posted his video than Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, proved Ms. Notley’s point.

Christy.ClarkThe Kinder-Morgan project has now met the five conditions set by her (nominally) Liberal government, Ms. Clark, 51, told reporters at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria. Among those conditions was that social license thing.

Ms. Clark is looking for some social license of her own. That’s why part of the deal includes a revenue sharing deal with Kinder Morgan to finance something called the “B.C. Clean Communities Program.”

In the decade during which Mr. Kenney was prime minister Stephen Harper’s right-hand man in Ottawa, a big kahuna in a government that made pipeline extension the sine qua non of government, the shut-up-and-do-what-we-tell-you approach never got a metre of pipeline approved by anyone. Democracy and the rule of law kept getting in the way.

Rather than acknowledge the obvious fact Premier Notley’s strategy is working and thereby have to defend his now-economically risky anti-carbon-tax policy, Mr. Kenney makes the weak case in his video that it doesn’t work. He makes a troubling case at his town halls that seeking voter social license amounts to handing a veto to people who don’t acknowledge the rule of law.

In reality, it is Mr. Kenney and his backers on the neoliberal right who refuse to acknowledge the rule of law and show contempt for democracy – which, after all, is what seeking “social license” is all about.

How frustrating for him that thanks to Ms. Notley two big steps have now been taken that would not have been possible with any likely Alberta conservative at the helm.

Since Canada remains a free society, whether Mr. Kenney approves or not there remain Canadians and foreign celebrities who will publicly oppose pipelines and bitumen development.

While conservatives would doubtless love to bulldoze such people eventually, Mr. Kenney and his political advisors presumably wish them well for the moment.

Indeed, they will likely be on their knees praying to their market-fundamentalist god for an NDP victory in May’s B.C. provincial election. After all, the B.C. wing of the NDP doesn’t share Premier Clark’s willingness to countenance a pipeline from Alberta to the Coast. Failing that, Alberta conservatives will take anything that slows down our province’s economy until they can get their paws on the power levers.

There’s nothing new about Mr. Kenney’s carbon-tax denialism. It was the timing of his video and Premier Clark’s announcement that made him look like such a prat!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

25 Comments to: The Jason Syndrome: Conservative candidate melts down about Hollywood star turn in bid to derail NDP strategy that’s working

  1. TENET

    January 13th, 2017

    Albertans should not be so sensitive about Hollywood celebrities expressing their opinions. Jet setting celebrities should play a leading role in teaching us how their home jurisdictions foul the air, take drinking water to emergency levels, and their neighborhoods are marked by violence. Yes we have a lot to learn.

    All of us have far more to fear from the stealth, feeble minded climate change deniers, especially when they threaten to influence public policy. We have even more to fear if we permit ourselves to believe that the highest offices of politics and power are immune from infiltration by fools and/or foreign despots.

    We are so vulnerable because we are so naive and illiterate: this morning, over 40% of Americans (Alabama) believe that Trump will be a “great” President. We should not be surprised that Mr. Kenney is attracting crowds, and when we underestimate men like him, we must endure the consequences.

    Reply
    • Dave

      January 13th, 2017

      You don’t think 2/5 of your fellow human beings lack good judgment? I think a drive around Calgary would demonstrate that number is a lot higher. And I think a close look at the civil engineering – the road design – in Calgary shows many of those people are in positions to do crazy things to the rest of us.

      I used to be a committed, faithful democrat, but currently aside from a few jurisdictions like California and (until Notley loses the next election) Alberta, where exactly is there evidence that the populace isn’t just a bunch of idiots?

      Reply
      • Lars

        January 13th, 2017

        You can be a committed democrat and still think that the majority of your fellow citizens are mugs.
        It’s difficult, but it’s doable.

        Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    January 13th, 2017

    Thankfully, many Albertans will not believe a thing Jason Kenney says, even if his tongue becomes notarized.

    Postmedia’s tendentious attempts to manufacture consent for Kennedy are becoming conspicuously apparent as article after article appears in their sprawling Alberta newspaper empire. This biased coverage of Kenney, at the risk of covering of other PC leadership contenders, sends a powerful message to voters, other candidates and opposition parties.

    If the round, mound of sound wants to take Albertans “back to the future”, invoking Ralph Klein’s political philosophies, he likely will have an uphill battle with progressive voters who rallied behind Rachel Notley and the NDP. It’s “buyer beware” when it comes to the policies of Jason Kenney and the new alt-right.

    Reply
  3. political ranger

    January 13th, 2017

    Yes, conservatives of all stripes but especially Alberta PC’s, including harper, are today, nut jobs. And the ‘more’ PC they are the fruitier and nuttier they are. So it’s amusing, in a horrifyingly fatalistic way, to watch Kenney drive these wackos off the road.
    But. I think it’s a big mistake to think that the incompetence and frankly, craziness of these people makes the NDP leadership right, or competent, or even correct in their judgement. It’s completely fallacious, an utter denial of all the evidence, to say that Notley has social license to build her pipelines. She has gotten the PM and Christy to sign on but that hasn’t translated into public support.
    No one knows why these 2 granted approval because the facts haven’t changed. There are all kinds of questions around the political fortunes of all 3 political leaders tied to this pipeline, and other pipelines. But the economic, and social, facts haven’t changed. The facts are all completely non-supportive of additional petro-infrastructure development, especially Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway.
    Notley and her gang have finally stepped onto the right path but they are not going to go anywhere on it by cheer-leading for a dying , corrupt and toxic industry. If these people want to build a 21rst century energy economy there is plenty to do and they have begun. Supporting past errors is not one of them.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 13th, 2017

      Ranger: While I am not a complete fan of every aspect of NDP policy, and I certainly have doubts similar to yours about the strategies they have adopted, I think this is quite unfair. However flawed their strategy, the Notley Government is trying to manage a transition to a cleaner economy, and to do so in a way that does not destroy Alberta, which is stuck with an economy heavily dependent on one industry – a product both of circumstance and past bad management. The political right hereabouts is just engaged in magical thinking in which nothing will ever change and we can make the world bend to our will. You, I would suggest, engage in another kind of magical thinking, in which any compromise is evidence of corruption, and in which we can change to a better way of doing business with the snap of a finger. If I may be so bold, such an approach would be an excellent way to get the worst sort of conservatives elected. Then again – thanks to our political traditions in Alberta – we may only have the worst sort of conservatives here. DJC

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        January 13th, 2017

        I read a very interesting article in the National Post which goes back to when Trudeau was first elected and the behind the scenes timelines involved in the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It is very interesting and quite obvious that both Trudeau and Notley knew for quite a long period of time before the announcement that it would be approved. Anybody who realistically looks at Canada’s exports can conclude that energy exports are really at present our only opportunity for growth. The increases to the costs of manufacturing in Ontario have eliminated jobs that even with a lower Canadian dollar show little chance of returning.

        As for Christy Clark it appears that both Kinder Morgan and the Federal government have finally thrown enough money her way to get her approval. This mythical “social license” that both Trudeau and Notley constantly talk about is really a mutual admiration society between the different levels of government. Those opposed before the carbon tax are still opposed today.

        As for your comment about Alberta having the worst conservatives. I am personally very fiscally conservative but I am also smart enough to realize that in a modern society we need to support our social programs that help our least fortunate and provide health care to all. As I have said before the only political party in Alberta that comes close to having the most realistic solutions is the Alberta Party but come next election I will support the party who looks most likely to remove the NDP from power, if that is Jason Kenney than that is who I will vote for.

        Reply
        • Expat Albertan

          January 13th, 2017

          That just might be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

          Reply
        • Val

          January 13th, 2017

          yeap, not many choices and with new trainwreck president down the south seems will be even lesser.

          Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      January 15th, 2017

      The Notley government is in favour of pipelines to “tidewater” because it was their only hope of being elected to do all of the other things they wanted to do. Being pro-pipelines amounts to a litmus test in Alberta politics, because the jobs of so many Alberta residents are so dependent on the oil & gas industry; had they come out against them, as I’m sure many long-time Party activists (especially those sympathetic to the Leapers at the federal level, of whom there are many) might have preferred, they would not have had a snowball’s chance in hell of electing a single MLA. So, what do they do? They try to come out with a pro-pipeline policy that is also pro-environment, a difficult balancing act to be sure.

      Without this pro-pipeline stance, we might have seen either the PCs re-elected yet again, or even worse, the Wildrose might
      have won government, and that would have been a frightening prospect indeed. Along with pipelines, we might have seen:
      – vicious slash & burn funding cuts to education and health care
      – backpedalling on human rights issues for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community
      – rampant privatization of government services
      – gutting of environmental protection in all areas of public policy and serious prioritization of an extreme corporatist agenda
      – attacks on the rights of working people to go home safe from their jobs, and to organize to bargain collectively with their employers for a better life

      Instead we get a moderate, centrist to slightly left-of-centre government that seeks to improve worker safety, and extends workplace safety laws to the agricultural industry; makes our schools more inclusive; protects client-facing public services such as health care even in a time of severe fiscal constraints; seeks to counter the business cycle by investing in public infrastructure during an economic downturn, saving taxpayer dollars in the process as a result of lower bids in a.construction marketplace facing less competition for contracts from the private sector… oh, and advocating for pipeline construction while also putting a price on carbon, something the PCs never did and the Wildrose would never do.

      Reply
  4. Dave

    January 13th, 2017

    Maybe conservatives don’t actually care about the economy. They just like the image of “ramming pipelines through” and unless they get to do that none of this counts.

    If you were charitable you would say the Cons thinking was about “process” and not “pathology.”

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 13th, 2017

      I have often had this thought: Part of the joy of policy making for authoritarian conservatives is the pleasure of making people do what they don’t want to do. They want to stuff that pipeline right up British Columbia’s nose. DJC

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        January 13th, 2017

        Both of you Daves are playing with some interesting Freudian imagery… it gives me a whole new understanding of conservative motivation.

        Reply
        • Northern Loon

          January 14th, 2017

          Interesting that conservative politicians could only dream about ‘ramming pipelines’ through. I guess they couldn’t find the right dose of viagra to enable them to force their fantasy on the public.

          So is fantasizing as bad as acting it out? Perhaps some of the ‘we need more jails’ crowd could respond.

          Reply
      • Tim

        January 13th, 2017

        The problem is Conservatives Federally need the support of BC too(or at least some support from BC). If the CPC stuff pipeline up British Columbia’s nose they might very well lose every BC seat they have. Plus if they put in a unilingual English speaker as leader which a considerable portion of the hard right of the party wants they can kiss any support in Quebec away too. Once you get blown out in both BC and QC it becomes VERY difficult for the Conservatives to take power in Ottawa perhaps even impossible short of winning ridings in places like Downtown Toronto.

        Reply
      • Tim

        January 13th, 2017

        Also along these lines I recommend anyone who has not to listen to David’s podcast from a month ago with the Sinister Minister Faust. I do think it is very telling in that since Trump’s election both the Alberta PC’s and the Federal Conservatives as parties have lost the self control they used to have in favor of Trumpism. One of the problems though they have going forward is it is unclear how popular Trumpism will remain in the US by the time of the next Alberta or Federal Canadian elections.

        Reply
  5. brett

    January 13th, 2017

    The issue is that this is embarrassing for Kenney, and for the federal and provincial Conservative parties.

    Harper was in office for ten plus years. We hear of Alberta Conservative Governments.

    Did we get even ONE pipeline to tide water during their tenure? Notwithstanding all their beating of chests and blowing their respective horns about how they worked for Western Canada and the oil industry.

    Not One. How do they explain this record? Between Notley and Trudeau we had agreement and approval for the expansion of Kinder Morgan in 18 months.

    Kenney can continue to wax poetic. My read of the industry in Alberta is they are not only very happy with these Governments, but also pleased, surprised, and quietly supportive. The latter is the real thorn in Mr. Kenney’s side. His concern is that this support will slowly migrate over to the public at large.

    This is entirely about Jason Kenney and his friends. It is not about Alberta or Albertans.

    Reply
    • Farmer B

      January 13th, 2017

      If you look at historical timelines and I am doing this from memory so I could be wrong but as I remember it the only pipeline to tidewater that had completed the NEB approval process during Harper’s tenure was Northern Gateway. I believe Kinder Morgan was still in NEB hearings and Energy East hadn’t even progressed to the NEB hearing process yet. Where Harper made his biggest error in judgement was backing Keystone XL. Obama played politics with this approval, pretending he was concerned about pipeline construction and the environment while under his time in office over 19000 km of pipelines were completed in the US and oil production was basically doubled. The point I am making is the only pipeline proposal that existed that he could have approved was Northern Gateway and I believe he decided to wait until after the election to do so, an election he lost. So you can carry on about the conservatives failures in pipeline approvals but it is hard to approve what doesn’t exist.

      Reply
  6. January 13th, 2017

    It’s a nonsensical outrage machine.
    Did you catch Jason Kenney’s tweet yesterday blaming the carbon tax for a crematorium changing an extra $100 to cremate someone? If he would have read beyond the headline before tweeting, he would have seen that it was the crematorium, not the carbon tax, that caused the extra charge.

    https://twitter.com/a_picazo/status/819778513506963457

    Reply
    • Val

      January 13th, 2017

      sorry to burst your pink bubble but that’s exactly the carbon tax, which gives opportunity for businesses to gouge consumers tenfold for extra bucks, considering what impact this tax has on their activity.
      it’s call – left hand doesn’t know what right hand is doing. smart legislator could foresee such consequences and at same time may introduce sort of consumer protection legislation. unfortunately seems we don’t have smart and from election to election have only choice to elect lesser stupidity.
      nevertheless be prepared for rises on everything, including banks, insurers, telcos and so on, even if these ones have minimal impact of carbon tax, if any at all.

      Reply
      • Northern Loon

        January 14th, 2017

        And your bubble is also burst as the crematorium has reduced the extra charge to $10.00 after admitting they misplaced a decimal. Meanwhile it appears the actual charge should be closer to $1.00

        Reply
        • Val

          January 14th, 2017

          sure, but only after got slapped.
          plenty didn’t yet got a chance to “admit they misplaced a decimal” and more to come.

          Reply
  7. ronmac

    January 13th, 2017

    Oil sands supporters should stop piddling about and take a page out of the Jane Fonda playbook and pose with anti-aircraft batteries. The message being implied is next time celebrity environmentalists and the like hellbent on bad-mouthing oil sands development will be shot out of the sky once they enter Alberta airspace.

    Some may recall Jane Fonda visiting North Vietnam in 1972 and posing in an anti-aircraft battery as a protest against the US bombing campaign which was reaching its height.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xclByDDEmVo

    Reply
    • Val

      January 14th, 2017

      never been able to grasp people’s obsession by celebs.
      once, person got celebrity status, the all following motivations behind their “social” activities is nothing but a desperate fight to keep floating at any cost and don’t drown into oblivion. particularly “secondhands” ones.

      Reply
  8. David

    January 16th, 2017

    Mr. Kenney is being his usual disingenuous self if he suggests that a goal of a carbon tax was to get Jane Fonda’s support. I doubt the Government of Alberta needs the support of or really cares that much about Jane Fonda’s positions on the oilsands. It does want and need support from the Federal government, support from BC and other provinces would be nice too.

    Mr. Kenney has got it easy now. The economy is Alberta is still struggling, but by the time the PC leadership is resolved, recovering oil prices may start to lead to an economic recovery. If Alberta jobs start to recover, his economic diatribe against the NDP will start to sound silly. At some point in time he will also have to come up with a credible position on climate change that does not make him sound like a climate change denier or ignorer.

    He is currently running for the leadership of a party, which has no leader and of which most prominent cabinet ministers lost in the last election. However, the other party he wants to take over has a leader in place and those supporters that stayed with it after the previous failed merger probably have some significant aversion to the PC’s.

    He could end up being a right wing leader of a centrist party and if that happens many of the more moderate PC’s may flee, leaving him with an even more diminished party. The great right hope may end up being the great right flop.

    Perhaps in the end he will go back to Ottawa to work for the federal Conservative party in some capacity, as he has good skills in organizing and reaching out to multi cultural communities they actually need. It may turn out that as the saying goes, he was “just visiting” Alberta.

    Reply

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