PHOTOS: A screen grab from yesterday’s video feed of Jason Kenney announcing his candidacy for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party in Calgary. Immediately behind him is Caitlyn Madliner, who has prominently figured in anti-PC campaigns. Below: The late Alberta premier Ralph Klein, defeated Conservative MP Joan Crockatt, President Richard M. Nixon and Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew, for whom Mr. Kenney’s best line of the day was written by William Safire back in 1966.

The crowd may have seemed grey and paunchy via the TV feed from Calgary, but there were plenty of fresh young faces lined up behind Jason Kenny yesterday as the 48-year-old former Harper Government cabinet minister made it official he’s about to attempt a rare double reverse hostile takeover of both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties.

This will be a neat trick if he can pull it off – sort of like Throw Mama from the Train with Mr. Kenney in both lead roles – uniting two right-wing parties that don’t particularly like or trust each other and, he hopes, thereby putting himself in a position to defeat Rachel Notley’s NDP and become premier of Alberta at the head of a Conservative restoration.

One potential pitfall along the way could turn out to be the behaviour of young people. Conservatives used to be able to count on them not to vote, but they’ve shown in a couple of dramatic recent elections they’ll do so if they think the stakes are high enough. And having had a couple of tastes of NDP and Liberal success, they probably won’t vote conservative.

This surely makes the blood run cold in the veins of the now-shut-out lobbyists and conservative insiders backing Mr. Kenney’s leadership bid, and probably explains yesterday’s stage-dressing gaggle of young people, some of them clad as working folks in a manner reminiscent of a Village People performance.

But at least one of the young conservatives lining up for Mr. Kenney illustrates another, potentially more serious, difficulty facing the Kenney campaign: how to overcome the deep distrust between big-tent PCs and their angry, aggressive Wildrose challengers who just days ago were swearing never the twain would meet.

Because the young woman just behind the candidate on the right of the TV screen yesterday has been no friend of the PCs – at least until the Wildrose-leaning Mr. Kenney and his backers came up with the scheme to take over the PCs through their planned leadership race, then leverage the Wildrose takeover of the PCs into a PC takeover of the Wildrose Party led by an unwilling Brian Jean.

Caitlyn Madliner – campus co-ordinator of the University of Calgary “Students for Liberty” club – has been a vocal and highly visible critic of the PCs.

She has ties to Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a campus firearms advocacy group, the Manning Centre, where she was an intern, and an unsuccessful boycott of Tim Hortons coffee shops brewed up after the chain pulled an advertisement for a pipeline company on its in-store screens when customers complained.

More important in terms of Mr. Kenney’s efforts, she has been involved in high-profile stunts attacking the PCs that generated publicity and resentment: Organizing a petition demanding a recall election for Danielle Smith for crossing the floor of the House to join the PC government in December 2014, and creating an excruciating rap parody in 2014 attacking the PCs in general and former premier Alison Redford in particular while she worked for the Manning Centre.

None of this seems guaranteed to win friends in PC ranks, but perhaps the prospect of a chance at the restoration of right-wing rule in Alberta is enough to overcome such hesitation.

Certainly there was no shortage of conservative politicians in evidence on the video feed, among them Conservative MP and former PC minister Ron Liepert, who has apparently buried the hatchet with Mr. Kenney after sharp words last year, former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, defeated PC MLA and minister Gordon Dirks, Con MPs Deepak Obhrai and Michelle Rempel, and defeated federal Calgary Con MP Joan Crockatt, among others.

Conservatives contacted by the media raved about the impressive quality of Mr. Kenney’s speech, although it sounded to me as if he’d torn the first half from the notebook in which he’d drafted the announcement he’d be seeking former prime minister Stephen Harper’s job.

Apparently nostalgic, Mr. Kenney made at least half a dozen references to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the right-wing Astro-Turf group with which he got his start in public life, and included a maudlin look back at the late premier Ralph Klein, author of the Kleintastrophe of the mid-1990s. “We miss you Ralph. My goodness, we miss you!”

The most memorable line of Mr. Kenney’s speech? His reference to “the nattering nabobs of negativism.” Alas, he didn’t offer any attribution for these memorable words, penned in the mid-1960s by the late New York Times columnist William Safire for U.S. Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew, also now dead.

It is a line oft quoted in this blog, written as it is for an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals. Mr. Agnew, of course, was vice-president to Richard M. Nixon, of whom Mr. Kenney always faintly reminds your blogger, and his use of the phrase was a nice tribute to the Nixon Era, which I remember vividly. Anyone who says otherwise is a hopeless, hysterical hypochondriac of history.

Mr. Kenney did give a nice shout-out to Ms. Crockatt for her work as a reporter for the Calgary Herald – where, I can assure readers, she never worked as a reporter. However, in the candidate’s defence, it is difficult to keep clear which Alberta newspaper is which nowadays.

Mr. Kenney took shots at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but – significantly, if you ask me – never mentioned Premier Notley by name.

He fumbled none of his lines but, if this was the rip-roaring political speech he was credited with giving by the Alberta punditocracy, the quality of political rhetoric in this province is sadly in decline.

None of this may matter at this stage of the game, though, if there are no strong PC candidates to oppose Mr. Kenney. Only one thing is for certain: it will be interesting to watch this strange campaign unfold.

+ + +

Jason Kenney’s Parliamentary web page used to link to partisan Alberta site

Should Jason Kenney be linking to his Progressive Conservative campaign page from his taxpayer-supported MP’s page on the Parliament of Canada website?

The taxpayer funded Parliamentary site, administered by the office of the Speaker of Parliament,  directs readers to Mr. Kenney’s website. But the link has been changed to take them to his partisan “United the Right” site instead.

Surely this violates Parliamentary rules and is an inappropriate use of taxpayer’s subsidies, which are intended to assist the legitimate work of MPs.

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  1. When will Kenney stop suckling on the public teat and finally test the private sector employment waters? What is he a afraid if?

    1. Most of those CTF guys think working on wingnut welfare gives them insight into how the business world works. Speaking personally, as someone who’s spent twenty years trying to make capitalism at least slightly rational, they live in a complete fantasy land.

      1. Interestingly enough, there is a story in the CBC about how the CTF is actually calling out Kenney for not stepping down as an MP while he is running provincially. For his part, Kenney claims he has several issues to see through that affect his constituents. I guess we should at least hand it to the CTF for being consistent, but the cynical side of me says that they wanted to get out ahead of potential claims of hypocrisy before the inevitible media attention on Kenney’s past as CTF head starts shining a light their way.

  2. Oh look, it’s Skippy’s little brother to the left. None of them look totally convinced….

  3. Edit please.

    When will Kenney stop suckling on the public teat and finally test the private sector employment waters?

    What is he afraid of?

    I should never type without my glasses. D’oh!

  4. The PC’s of old in Alberta were bad government because, mainly, they were incompetent and ignorant. Many have said that the MLA’s of by-gone days were good and well-intentioned. Perhaps there is a case to made for many of them and I’ll not argue the point.
    However, the brand of conservative that this Kenny a-hole is selling is dangerous, divisive and diabolical. He is nothing short of another harper fascist. We just got rid of that particular odious despot and will spend the next decade undoing all his undemocratic and frankly, unintelligent policies. We don’t need another fat little f$%k-up running around ruining the country by carving it up for his stupid and selfish friends.
    He says the NDP is an ‘accidental gov’t’. He says that ” … a second NDP term, … would be catastrophic to the province of Alberta”. He is trying to unite the right by dividing the people of this province.
    His idea of gov’t is ‘his way or the hiway’. He has no intention of building a province for all, only for his ‘kind’.
    In this he is no different than ISIS or the Taliban.
    Hopefully, the people of Alberta will treat him as such.

    1. “…..he is no different than ISIS or the Taliban ” seriously?! PR you occasionally make useful contributions to this site. Not with this one. I am very surprised none of your “Progressive” friends have called you out with such a ludicrous statement.

      1. I was reading something today and I couldn’t help but think of that whole pack of lying bastards, from Klein to harper to Kenny, Regan, Thatcher and Bush, all princelings and sycophants of some Ayn Rand fantasy:
        “That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.”
        – Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (2003)

        You may profess incredulity Frank, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand idly by while these criminals get another chance to blow up hospitals, burn libraries and shutter scientific knowledge, sack the economy for the benefit of their friends, incite and inflame wars all around the globe and trash the only Earth we have.
        They will not take no for an answer, they will not compromise, they will not listen to sensible arguments and they have absolutely no use for knowledge. It’s all ideology, all the time.

        In that they are precisely and exactly like ISIS and the Taliban. Trust an Afghani author to recognize these kind of people. We can’t tolerate them; they have to go.

        1. Word.

          You do not exaggerate. Kenny is a very dangerous authoritarian true believer.

          Further, he’s obvious tool of a very obvious and very far-reaching conspiracy, that survives only because it’s considered impolite to name it.

  5. The rules for electing a new leader have changed. It’s no longer one vote per PC member as in the past. The leadership convention will be contested by delegates chosen at the constituency level. The hope is Kenney and his sycophant supporters can infiltrate those associations and land the number of required votes (delegates) at the convention to secure his nomination. Given the spectre of tired, angry, old, white retreads schlepping for Kenney on the hustings, it means he has a better-than- expected chance at winning the PC nomination. Let’s hope he has some “severely normal” competition, to prevent that calamity from occurring.

  6. Politics aside, maybe it’s time we have a guy named Jason as premier. I don’t think we ever had one before, anywhere in Canada. Lots of Jacks and Johns, but never a Jason. Or a Justin. That is until last October when the voters threw out a Steve and elected Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.

    I don’t think we had a Ralph as premier either until Albertans elected Ralph Klien in the 90’s. Now once again we have a chance to lead the way by electing a Jason. Come on Alberta, you can do it.

  7. How does Ms. Madlener square her libertarian values with Mr. Kenney’s social conservatism? Wait. Kenney will disavow his principles to win the prize just like Madlener apparently has.

    1. You know, I’ve always wondered this myself. Libertarians and social conservatives should be natural enemies and yet we see odd things like Ron and Rand Paul in the U.S. who, despite being the libertarian kings, are staunchly anti-abortion (even Ayn Rand was pro-choice). The only person who has given a reasonably good explanation is the American political scientist Corey Robin; libertarians and social conservatives both have this overwhelming need for patriarchal control and god forbid that the government interfere with it.

    2. “Scratch a libertarian, find a fascist”

      Gordon F*tch, USENET, talk.politics.misc, c1990.

  8. Wasn’t Agnew’s “Nattering Nabobs” speechwritier Pat Buchanan? I thought it was Pat who was fond of alliteration. Safire seemed far too responsible a wordsmith to come up with something like that.

  9. I also object to the fawning, unapologetic wall-to-wall coverage of his announcement by the CBC, which aired his entire speech “live & in colour” (to use a phrasing that harkens back once again to the Nixon-Agnew era), and also dominated their Twitter feed. Can we expect the candidacy announcements of all of Mr Kenney’s opponents in the PC leadership race, such as (potentially, of course) Sandra Jensen, Thomas Lukaszuk, Richard Starke, or Ric McIver, to receive this same level of nationwide coverage? I sincerely doubt it.

    For years, hard-core conservatives have hurled charges that the CBC has a left-wing bias. Maybe, maybe, that might have been true once upon a time. But in recent years, even decades, nothing has been further from the truth. The CBC has political commentators like Andrew Coyne and Rex Murphy as the leading counter-examples to that accusation. And we see with this coverage of the decision of an extreme right-wing nut job to leave federal politics, where it is clear Canadians have moved on, and jump into the provincial arena in Alberta, that the evidence is much more suggestive that the CBC’s biases are more in tune with the corporatist private-sector MSM to which they are supposed to offer a differing perspective.

    Kind of makes one wonder, why do we still have a CBC at all, if all they are going to do is parrot the same tripe as CTV & Global?


  10. Kenney knows how to pick his sources. Nowadays it’s the profoundly corrupt Agnew; in days of yore it was the anti-Semite Belloc (eminently quotable, it must be said – “I am a sundial/ Ordinary words/ Cannot express/ my thoughts on birds”.)

  11. In many ways Mr. Kenny is a very odd choice to unite the Conservatives of Alberta. Unlike the premier, he was not born in Alberta and has also spent less time here than Wildrose leader Brian Jean. I always find it fascinating how the right wing Ontario types gravitate to Alberta and they can sometimes convince rural Albertans they actually know something about their communities, when really they have mostly seen them from a seat of an airplane flying from Calgary to Ottawa.

    As far as I can tell, Mr. Kenny has never worked in the private sector or had experience in the financial area and the federal government he was a part of ran mostly deficits, so I am not sure how he can really appeal to fiscal conservatives. As far as I can tell he has no spouse or children, so I am also not sure how he would really appeal to family values conservatives. He never seemed close to the Alberta PC’s, yet now has recently purchased a membership and is running to be their leader, but still wants to liquidate their party.

    He seems to have flip flopped on the issue of immigration, for years having spent much of his time courting the votes of the ethnic communities in the lower mainland and the Greater Toronto area, only recently tightening up the rules on temporary foreign workers just before the federal Conservatives lost power.

    He is indeed a candidate with many contradictions. which some might see as opportunistic. He probably decided that it was unlikely the federal Conservatives would win the next election and even if they did Canada would not be enthusiastic about having a Prime Minister again from the same city as Stephen Harper. Therefore, he decided like Jim Prentice before him, that the more likely path to power was in Alberta as a stepping stone to the Prime Minister ship, although it is considerably less sure now than when Prentice decided to follow it.

    At least, perhaps this will give him a chance to visit some of the rural Alberta communities he spent much of his time flying over in the past, but the people who live there might be wary of someone from outside who is promising to be the savior of the Conservatives here.

  12. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation isn’t very happy with L’il Jason, however deep his nostalgia for his days with them is. They think he should not be drawing a salary while lusting after Alberta PC leadership. For once (gasp!), I agree with them.

    And that line-up for the least surprising event of the summer, the Jason Declaration, was a little spooky. Apart from the Anne-Coulter-in-training young woman – Coulter was best buds with Ezrant, wasn’t she? – the other three in the Kenney backdrop looked related to each other. When I saw them, the opening bars of the banjo bit in “Deliverance” came immediately to mind, completely unbidden.

    The idea of a young conservative fills me with despair for humankind, as if the brain had already started to turn to concrete in the late teens. Where do you go from there?

    Isn’t there someone else from that area who’s collecting a salary for doing basically nothing while he awaits his move to Con bagman in the fall, when he’ll announce the resignation of his Calgary MP seat? Darn! What’s his name again?

  13. Singing:

    If ever it should happen that I run the USA
    I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list
    Of those ignorant offenders whom I’d like to put away
    And who never would be missed, who never would be missed.

    This was a Mad Magazine parody of the Mikado, sung by cartoon Spiro T Agnew.

    Kenney, the sad slob, is captive to culture resentments that were both ludicrous and tiresome before he was even born.

    What is wrong with these people?

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