Never mind the Ottawa bashing, Jason Kenney launches bid to lead UCP pitching coded woo to religious right

Posted on July 30, 2017, 1:55 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Jason Kenney makes it official he’s running to lead Alberta’s United Conservative Party at Edmonton’s Italian Cultural Centre yesterday (Photo: Radio Canada). Below: NDP Premier Rachel Notley and Education Minister David Eggen.

How soon before Jason Kenney makes permitting the teaching of “creation science” in Alberta schools a formal promise to the religious social conservative base whose votes he needs to lead the United Conservative Party?

Don’t laugh. It seems like we’re already halfway there. And Mr. Kenney only officially announced his UCP leadership campaign at a north Edmonton community hall yesterday morning!

Let’s connect the dots:

Dot No. 1: The former Harper Government cabinet minister told 500 or so supporters at the Italian Cultural Centre that the outline of Alberta Education’s new Social Studies curriculum is “riddled with politically correct themes like oppression and colonialism and climate change.”

Who knew climate science is merely politically correct spin?

The answer to that rhetorical question, of course, is that Mr. Kenney “knew,” as do many of the conspiratorially minded folk on the Western Canadian right who fervently challenge climate science as inconvenient propaganda cooked up by socialists in lab coats.

Never mind that the science is pretty hard to challenge on, you know, scientific grounds, or that the planned curriculum changes are a project of an Education Department review not NDP policy. Education Minister David Eggen, a teacher by profession, obviously has bought into the curriculum review, so for good or ill the government now owns it.

Dot No. 2: As he has repeatedly since returning from Ottawa to save Alberta from itself, Mr. Kenney again attacked the NDP Government of Rachel Notley yesterday for “undermining parental authority” in education.

This is a coded reference to his opposition to the law passed by the Progressive Conservative government of Jim Prentice in 2014 requiring schools receiving public funds, which they essentially all do, to permit students to form gay-straight alliances and meet on school property if they see the need.

The NDP has tried to enforce the law in the face of defiant resistance by some religious schools, and Mr. Kenney has tried to frame that government response to this open law breaking as an assault on the rights of parents and religious freedom. He has also controversially advocated outing students who join such clubs to their parents.

So by raising this again as a plank that remains tightly wedged into his platform, Mr. Kenney is signalling to his supporters on the religious right that his opposition to student rights and province-wide educational standards has not softened. Moreover, he is doing precisely what he accuses the NDP of doing: arguing that in education ideology must trump scientific and historical facts.

Whether he was trying to have it both ways or just wanted to walk back something he had blurted out to a friendly audience, when Mr. Kenney said of climate science and colonialism, “not that those things shouldn’t be taught, but they shouldn’t be exclusively taught as virtually the only subjects,” he was trotting out an argument familiar to the religious right. To wit: You can teach evolution, as long as you have to teach “creation science” and other such shibboleths of the religious right as well.

This may seem like a reach today. But it’s a straight line and not a particularly long one from Dot No. 1 to Dot No. 2.

With the UCP leadership race bound to get rough – and with other candidates already moving to exploit Mr. Kenney’s perceived weakness on LGBTQ rights – is it really implausible we’ll see this social conservative Ottawa insider double down and throw another juicy bone to the religious right?

He’s been using climate change denial, vows to repeal NDP climate policies and pitches to the religious right for months to raise money and win support. So why not?

As for Mr. Kenney’s key theme yesterday – the one the mainstream media concentrated on – he excoriated the NDP and Premier Notley for being too close to the Liberal federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. That was accompanied by the usual snide socks-and-selfie jokes from the stout and aging former enfant terrible of the social conservative scene.

With the Alberta economy widely reported to be on the rebound, thereby weakening one of Mr. Kenney’s best talking points, this doesn’t seem like a half bad strategy – although getting along with Ottawa has worked for the NDP and Alberta better than the hostility of past conservative governments ever did.

Conservative politicians will continue to poormouth the Alberta economy and pray for a few more months of hard times, of course. Still, they are right to recognize distrust of Ottawa is bred in the bone in Alberta.

So, even though Conservatives from Alberta ran the place for a decade and grew comfortable amid the fleshpots of the National Capital Region, promising more conflict and less conciliation with Ottawa can be counted on to strike a chord with plenty of Alberta voters.

Anyway, bashing Ottawa and its “elites” is a formula that’s worked well for Mr. Kenney for nigh on a quarter century now – at least half of which he’s been a resident of Ottawa and a charter member of its elite.

So far, Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer have also both officially reached for the UCP brass ring, and “liberty conservative” Derek Fildebrandt, the inveterate, intemperate Tweeter and libertarian nut, continues to dip his toe without quite jumping.

27 Comments to: Never mind the Ottawa bashing, Jason Kenney launches bid to lead UCP pitching coded woo to religious right

  1. J.E. Molnar

    July 30th, 2017

    So far the three unimaginative UCP leadership candidates are all offering up boilerplate red meat rhetoric and talking points — devoid of details as usual. Where’s the beef?

    If these candidates ever decide to throwdown against each other, there will be nothing to differentiate their platforms, other than the same stale and regurgitated laughing points they all seem to embrace. It’s as though all of them are saying, “Jump off the cliff and trust me to catch you in my net.”

    Until the three demagogic amigos start mansplaining how their policies will differ from those of Rachel Notley’s and the NDP, they are just retreaded conservative blowhards who will capture the fancy of only the entrenched far right sycophants they pander to.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 30th, 2017

      Hope you’re right. But, historically, “low bridging” … revealing no policies at all and just spewing rhetoric … has worked well for many politicians. DJC

      Reply
  2. July 30th, 2017

    Jason Kenney is not the least bit interested in standing up for what is right or for what he truly believes. We will never know.

    Jason Kenney only stands up for, and leads us to believe, only those views that he believes will lead him to electoral victory. The far right was disappointed with Harper They will disappointed with Kenney because their expectations on social policy legislation will not be met. A document called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will get in their way. Kenney may position and bluster, but this is a hard truth that he prefers to ignore. Much like those insincere politicians and faith leaders during the gay marriage debate.

    He is truly the living definition of ‘an empty suit’.

    Reply
  3. Simon Renouf

    July 30th, 2017

    Kenney’s words: “riddled with politically correct themes like oppression and colonialism and climate change” should come back to haunt him. I think they will.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 30th, 2017

      One can only hope! DJC

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 1st, 2017

      How?

      The MSM in AB, and in general have a right-wing bias. If they ever report something that embarrasses Kenney, it’ll be by accident.

      Reply
  4. ronmac

    July 30th, 2017

    In the top photo they look like one big unhappy family, don’t they?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 1st, 2017

      Yes, or poorly paid bystanders.

      Reply
  5. Kris

    July 30th, 2017

    Global climate change is not caused by humans. We have oral and written record of the climate changing globally back and forth from hot to cold and back again for centuries.the most likely driver of climate change would be the sun and its activity. A lot of sensible people know this. Most (but not all) of those people are considered conservatives. Mr. Kenney (who I wouldn’t support for other reasons) is trying to get the vote of the sensible person.

    Reply
    • Lars

      July 30th, 2017

      A lot of sensible people know nothing of the sort. They also know that humanity’s contribution to the carbon dioxide levels of the atmosphere over the past two centuries have overtaken the natural drivers of climatic variability and are forcing the world to warm at an unprecedented rate. These people aren’t conservatives, who seem to cleave pretty tightly these days to the necessity of evaluating scientific findings by political criteria. Sort of like the Soviet Central Committee did. Instead these sensible people are scientists who have spent their careers studying the heat balance of the atmosphere and the oceans. Whose opinions on this matter are worth more?

      Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      July 30th, 2017

      Global climate change has gone on for millions of years, but at a very slow pace that allowed species to adapt (through a mechanism called “evolution”, although I would hazard a guess that you reject that as well); global mean temperatures changed very slowly, over many millennia. However, the climate is now changing very fast, on the time scale of a human lifetime, far faster than species can adapt to it, and that very rapid change is human-caused. As for Mr Kenney, he is no dummy, and I suspect he doesn’t actually believe climate change is a hoax, only that his voters believe it.

      Reply
      • Paula Evans

        August 1st, 2017

        Enjoyed that!

        Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 1st, 2017

      LOL!

      You used the words Kenney and sensible person in the same sentence.

      Sensible people don’t vote WR, or UCP, especially in Alberta.

      That’s how Notley’s NDP got elected with a strong majority. I guess math is hard for RWNJ’s too.

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        August 1st, 2017

        First poll taken since the Wildrose and PC’s voted for the UCP puts the support for the UCP at 57% and the NDP at 29%, I guess there isn’t very many sensible people in Alberta Athabascan 🙂

        Reply
        • Athabascan

          August 2nd, 2017

          I put my money on real election results and not biased polls commissioned by RWNJ’s to advance their selfish hateful agenda.

          Reply
  6. Ron

    July 30th, 2017

    The 95% vote in both parties says to me that the folks-who-voted* will now vote for Kenny and the other folks running against him will stay in only for ego, position or both. Slam dunk. (*the-die-hards?)

    As you mention, it is a little embarrassing that the Socialist-regime has presided over a return to the top of the economic heap:
    “Alberta to lead country in economic growth in 2017: Conference Board of Canada …’The forecast for Alberta is bright, but is improving from a weak starting point’ ” (weak starting point was Prentice regime, btw)
    and if (god forbid)
    the new KM line gets started this Sept as they claim, a Kenny-led UCP might not be a slam dunk in 2019.

    Reply
  7. Jim

    July 30th, 2017

    I wonder if Kenney would like the teaching of how western nations, particularly NATO, overthrew secular governments in north Africa and the middle east? Causing a huge influx of migrants into Europe as well as the genocide of the Christian populations in these areas. Interventions that he supported along with Jean showing a lack of considering the consequences of their actions normally reserved for 2 year olds. I am sure the so called religious right will fall in line behind this clown, going on about the war on Christians but supporting someone who supported actions that lead to it. The NDP should stick to the economy and let these guys hang themselves, there is so much material too bad the MSM doesn’t write about it.

    Reply
  8. SPRANCH

    July 30th, 2017

    It isn’t “politically correct” to say Canada was once a British colony, it’s historically correct. Should we gloss over this part of history because it offends Jason Kenney? THAT sounds like “political correctness” to me! And this willingness to ignore atrocities committed in our country’s name is only a hairbreadth away from outright denying they ever happened. If we are to understand the world we’re living in today, we must guard ourselves against such historical revisionism. We need to ask ourselves, do we want the youth of Alberta to be brought up to be flag-waving jingos, completely ignorant of history, or responsible, socially aware citizens? Of course, I’m sure Kenney would prefer the former, as they’re more likely to vote conservative, but that’s no basis for any kind of society I’d want to live in. We need to be teaching kids real history, not nationalistic propaganda, and often that means acknowledging the uglier episodes in the past of the so-called “greatest nation on earth”, and if that’s not politically correct enough for the right-wing snowflakes out there, well, they’ll just have to get over it.

    Reply
  9. jerrymacgp

    July 30th, 2017

    One interesting facet of this leadership race, is the insistence that this new party, the UCP, will be a grassroots, bottom-up party, à la Wildrose, and policy will be developed by party members at a founding policy convention some time in 2018. But here we have leadership candidates coming out with policy positions right now, as though the choice of party leader will determine what their policies will be. Doesn’t sound very bottom-up to me.

    Perhaps they would have been better off scheduling their founding policy convention first, before holding a leadership race … but that wasn’t in the JK agenda, was it?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 1st, 2017

      There’s a leadership race?

      It’s more like a coronation for Kenney.

      Reply
  10. Farmer B

    July 31st, 2017

    Polls show that Brian Jean would have a better result in a general election than Jason Kenney so why is so much energy spent attacking Jason Kenney? It certainly appears he is going after the socially conservative voter, are there enough of them for him to win?

    As for economic growth. British Columbia for the last few years has had the highest provincial growth and balanced budgets. In Alberta our economy contracted over 6% over 2 years, it was bound to recover with the price of oil regardless of who was in power. Now the NDP are in power in BC, it will be interesting to watch their economic performance. LNG developement is done for now, will the site C damn be shelved as well?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      August 1st, 2017

      You’ve succeeded in showing us the man crush you have for Brian Jean. It doesn’t matter, because when the dust settles, he will end up as Kenney’s lap dog.

      There is no way Kenney and his gang will allow Jean to lead this frankenparty. If it requires dirty voting tricks, lies, bullying and innuendos so be it.

      When it happens, there will be no sympathy for Jean, because it was his decision to step into it.

      Reply
  11. Joy

    July 31st, 2017

    Hi Thanks for the article.
    But please provide captions when you show photos.
    Rachel Notley I know.
    Who is the smiling fair-haired man in the next photo????

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 31st, 2017

      Joy: One of the flaws with my blog’s current WordPress “theme” – that is, the appearance of the website – is that it is hard to set up captions under photos that are placed in the text. This is something I hope to fix in an upcoming redesign of the site. In the mean time, I always place a group photo caption at the top of the story, in bold type, saying who is in each of the photos below. In this case, the smiling, fair-haired man is Education Minister David Eggen.

      Reply
  12. Kale

    August 1st, 2017

    How long before we want to start calling kids comrades and teaching them to be ashamed of modernity..oh wait

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)