UCP leaders edge away from Rebel Media after NDP House Leader rips their cozy past with alt-right group

Posted on August 18, 2017, 3:06 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: NDP House Leader Brian Mason, one of the fiercest fighters in Premier Rachel Notley’s government, ripped into UCP leadership contenders Jason Kenney and Brian Jean yesterday for their long association with Rebel Media. Below: Mr. Kenney, Mr. Jean, media accreditation report author Heather Boyd, and Alberta Legislative Press Gallery President Dean Bennett.

Now that Alberta’s NDP Government has fiercely condemned United Conservative Party leadership candidates Jason Kenney and Brian Jean for their long and congenial association with the far-right Rebel Media organization, will Rebel commentators still be welcome at Alberta Government events?

Yesterday, NDP Government House leader and cabinet minister Brian Mason ripped into the former Progressive Conservative leader and the former Wildrose leader, front-runners in the race to lead the UCP, demanding they denounce the organization they’ve long cozied up to as a friendly conduit their former parties’ far-right base.

“People are being held accountable for their association with racist and violent groups,” said Mr. Mason, the Alberta NDP’s former leader and its most experienced and toughest fighter, at a news conference in the Legislative Building yesterday morning.

“Here in Canada and Alberta, Rebel Media has been advocating these kind of views for quite a while now,” Mr. Mason said. “It’s pretty clear where Rebel Media stands. And it’s pretty clear that Brian Jean and Jason Kenny are standing with them. … We need leaders that clearly know the difference between right and wrong. Racism and white supremacy is wrong.”

This kind of language is highly significant. It indicates Premier Rachel Notley has finally let her fiercest attack dog slip his leash.

Mr. Jean and Mr. Kenney quickly responded of course, suggesting their days of cozying up the he Rebel were then, and this is now.

“I have not appeared on The Rebel in seven months, and unless their direction changes in a significant way, I will not in the future,” Mr. Jean said in a statement.

“Sad to see a decent guy like Brian Mason stooping to NDP McCarthyite tactics,” Tweeted Mr. Kenney, who has been known to call New Democrats and others who oppose him “Communists.”

“Haven’t done an interview with them for over a year,” Mr. Kenney said in another Tweet, perhaps forgetting his Rebel appearance last September. A Youtube recording of that interview seems to have disappeared, although at the time this post was published the comments remained on Youtube.com.

One long-shot UCP leadership candidate, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, denounced Rebel Media before Mr. Mason’s remarks.

It turned out to have been a pivotal moment with political implications for Alberta last weekend when a Rebel operative stood by commenting approvingly as an armed mob of neo-Nazi and white supremacist thugs stomped through Charlottesville, Va., moments before one of them rammed a vehicle into a crowd of counter protesters, injuring more than 30 people and killing one.

In light of this, consider how good Alberta’s NDP Government would look now if it had stuck to the sound initial judgment of its media and staff advisors in February 2016 that Rebel Media was not a legitimate news organization and the alt-right web site’s personnel should be declared persona non grata at provincial government news conferences and technical briefings.

At the time, when two Rebel representatives were asked to leave two government briefings dealing with the NDP’s royalty review, almost every major mainstream news organization in Canada and conservative politicians across the country leaped to the defence of Rebel Media, piling onto Premier Notley’s government and accusing it of abusing legitimate journalists and endangering freedom of speech.

The NDP “unjustly blocked access to the legislature for journalists from Rebel Media, a conservative online news organization,” the Canadian Association of Journalists huffed in a preachy news release that got far more ink from mainstream media than an organization with 600 members deserves.

Mr. Jean, it appears, is still halfheartedly standing by that line, or at least trying to build some deniability that he’s flip-flopping if his statement about the Rebel incites some of the website’s many rabid fans among the UCP membership. “I believe strongly in the sanctity of free speech and a free press, and do not believe it is the role of elected officials to dictate who is, and is not, media,” he said in yesterday’s statement.

“The #ableg Press Gallery supports the right of journalists to provide vigorous and diverse coverage of the Alberta Legislature,” then Gallery president Darcy Henton Tweeted in 2016 in reference to Rebel Media’s right to be at the briefings.

“I wouldn’t have believed even the NDP were capable of such anti-free speech behaviour,” wrote Postmedia political commentator Lorne Gunter. “It is very dangerous in a free society to give politicians, bureaucrats or government lawyers the power to determine who is and isn’t a journalist. … Imagine the news you’ll get if Notley and her staff decide who can and can’t do the reporting.” Later that year, Mr. Gunter took part in a Rebel Media cruise in the Caribbean.

One would think the authors of such screeds would blush with shame in light of what has now become clear about Rebel Media.

Regardless, in 2016, the NDP Government lost its nerve and quickly capitulated to the onslaught of attacks from prominent journalists and right-wing federal and provincial politicians.

It hired former Canadian Press Western Canadian Bureau Chief Heather Boyd to review procedures for media accreditation at government events and immediately accepted all of her recommendations, which included handing over the job of deciding who is legitimately media to the Alberta Legislative Press Gallery.

If, as the Gallery claimed, it could not afford to play that role, Ms. Boyd recommended, the government should give serious thought to supporting a secretariat through which Legislature staff could assist the Gallery with daily events.

So what has actually happened? That is not yet entirely clear.

Ms. Boyd said yesterday she is unaware if anything has happened beyond the government accepting the recommendations made in her report.

A spokesperson for the Premier’s Office, Shannon Greer, noted that the government had accepted Ms. Boyd’s recommendation and referred questions about the procedures now in place to the president of the Press Gallery.

Gallery President Dean Bennett is on vacation and has not responded to a query. Mr. Henton has also not yet responded.

However, government officials have confirmed the province quietly stopped vetting media accreditation after the February 2016 brouhaha and has never since said anyone should not be allowed to attend a news conference, scrum or lockup. Federal officials have, however, at joint federal-provincial events.

There is no evidence a planned meeting between the Speaker’s office and the Gallery to discuss a protocol for accreditation ever took place, and there is no evidence that the Press Gallery is prepared to take on that role.

The president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, said yesterday the CAJ Board is now considering whether it will continue to demand Rebel representatives are treated as journalists.

12 Comments to: UCP leaders edge away from Rebel Media after NDP House Leader rips their cozy past with alt-right group

  1. Gyor

    August 18th, 2017

    I support Premier Rachel Notley, but the NDP is in the wrong, I know the Rebel has lied about and shit on her government, but let the Rebel self destruct on its own, as it clearly is.

    And talking to the Rebel doesn’t mean you endorse all their stupidity.

    Reply
  2. August 18th, 2017

    A story appeared briefly on the CBC (Edmonton?) website a few weeks ago with another bit of bad news for the Rebel, which I was sure would have gotten more attention. I apologize for my sketchy details, but here goes.

    You may recall last winter there was a rally at the legislature. I think it was about women’s rights, but it was largely a backlash to the election of Donald Trump, and the way he treated women. Anyway, during this rally, a Rebel representative made a real pest of herself with one protester. When the protester initially found out that the woman with the camera was from the Rebel, he raised both middle fingers and responded sharply. Sensing she had a ‘live one’, the Rebel staffer kept bugging him for more comment; meanwhile the protester tried to back away and told her to leave him alone. Finally, out of frustration, he swatted at her and the camera, making her excitedly (and I think delightedly) exclaim that he had just assaulted her.

    Rebel had what they wanted. Video evidence of the assault and the protester’s photo. They posted both on their site and offered a reward ($1,000?) for information. The protester turned himself into the police.

    Anyway, the CBC story a few weeks ago reported on the outcome of the trial. The victim of the assault didn’t even bother showing up to see justice done. Prosecution and defense had already completed a plea bargain; the protester would plead guilty and get a one year conditional sentence (whatever that is); I think there was some community service involved as well. The judge, however, reduced the sentence to 3 months, citing “the egregious behaviour of the plaintiff,” and also made it easier for the protester to do his community service.

    I apologize for the vagueness of this post, and some of the details may be off a bit, but the reduction from 12 months to 3 because of the plaintiff’s behaviour is accurate.

    Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    August 18th, 2017

    “We’re creating jobs. We’re cutting school fees. We’re freezing tuition. The members opposite just want to keep jacking those things up. We’re focused on hard hats. They’re spending a lot of time with sewer rats.”

    In case anyone forgets, Sarah Hoffman called The Rebel media “sewer rats” in the Alberta legislature, when they were constantly hanging with the Wildrose Party. To no one’s surprise, she has clearly been both vindicated and validated.

    So why we’re Jean, Kenney, Derek Fildebrandt (with direct Rebel reports from his Edmonton Airbnb rental) and Drew Barnes (a video as earlier as Aug.4, 2017) involved with this hate site for so long in the first place? Their feigned attempt to denounce a long-established relationship and pattern of political cohabitation is total obfuscation to avoid being painted as long-time supporters and comrades in arms. While Jean says he won’t be involved with the Rebel media in the future, unless there is a significant change in editorial direction, he’s not completely ruling out returning at some point in the future. Sad.

    Sarah Hoffman definitely got it right the first time — “sewer rats”.

    Reply
  4. MAGGIE

    August 18th, 2017

    Kenney and Jean are like rats from a sinking ship. I am sure it was “principled” behaviour like this that J. F. Kennedy had in mind when he wrote ‘Profiles in Courage’.

    Kenney and Jean’s newly found discomfort with their association with Rebel Media is to be savoured. Did it never occur to them that cozying up to lies, hatred and intolerance might come with consequences?

    Kenney and Jean have shown themselves to be mere opportunists, not leaders.

    Reply
    • J.E. Molnar

      August 18th, 2017

      Speaking of ships Maggie, CBC comedian Mark Critch said it best when he remarked about this year’s Rebel cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line being cancellation, “First time I’ve seen a ship deserting the rats.” LOL

      Reply
  5. tom in ontario

    August 18th, 2017

    “‘Haven’t done an interview with them in over a year’, Mr. Kenney said in another Tweet.”
    Youtube posted his shining face on September 6, 2016. So he has trouble reading a calendar. The poor guy is under a lot of pressure what with filling up his pickup truck and calling people communists. Can’t you just give him a break?

    Reply
  6. August 18th, 2017

    You know the George Carlin line. The US is a country founded by a group of slave owners who came together and proclaimed “All men are created equal.” They should be tearing down statues of George Washitngton.

    It’s been fascinating to watch the blowback from Chartlotteville this week. These white Supremists/Nazis are at best a fringe group with little political power. They may be emboldened a little lately with Trump in office but they are still a fringe group. As a group only pedophiles have less power.

    While there may be little tolereance for Nazis on the streets of America they’ve rolled out the welcome mat in Washington.

    http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/john-mccain-and-paul-ryan-hold-good-meeting-veteran-ukrainian-nazi-demagogue-andriy

    Less you think Nazis are only welcome south of the 48th:

    http://rabble.ca/babble/news-rest-us/liberals-brought-nazi-vets-to-canada-glorifying-ukrainian-canadian-veterans-ounu

    Reply
  7. Val Jobson

    August 18th, 2017

    The Sept 2016 interview is available at your link now, I just checked; what a load of dishonest hogwash.

    There is also this one from August 6, 2016:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M0I4P80oGo

    Conservative politicians are going to avoid talking to Rebel Media now, and this means they can’t just lie their asses off any more, but will have to be careful when speaking with the professional media. Poor babies.

    Reply
  8. brett

    August 19th, 2017

    I cannot imagine any well informed, clear thinking voters even bothering with Rebel Media or the likes of Ezra Levant. It has more in common with media such as National Equirer any of those other rags at the grocery store check out stand. Purely for entertainment.

    Unless of course you are a rabid supporter of a political party and accept everything you hear for them and their supporters as having a semblance of truth or reality.

    Bottom line….Jason Kenney will associate himself with any person or any group that he feel will help him get elected. That seems to be his only requirement. And he will say anything and do anything to get elected. It is the only job he knows.

    Reply

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