Jason Kenney quits his job on federal electoral reform committee – so why are we paying him, again?

Posted on September 07, 2016, 1:22 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Ride, Jason, Ride! Moving day in Ottawa. Jason Kenney’s arrangements to pack up his office and return to Alberta may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Mr. Kenney in Calgary; commentator Corey Hogan on TV.

Softly, softly, Jason Kenney has quit his job on the Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, presumably to give himself more time to run for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party and merge it with the Wildrose Opposition, whether the members of either party like it or not.

So what are we paying him for, again?

KenneyRideBy we, I mean the supposedly long-suffering Canadian taxpayers Mr. Kenney used to pretend to represent back in the day when he was a full-time provocateur for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation – which, given the organization’s normal behaviour, has been strangely passive about their favourite politician’s continued acceptance of his MP’s salary since ceasing to represent his constituents in early July after announcing his campaign to lead the PCs into oblivion.

Indeed, since the July 6 announcement, about the only thing Mr. Kenney has been doing to earn his salary has been occasional appearances as an Opposition member on the 12-member electoral reform committee, which, if you believe the federal Conservative Party’s carrying on, is dealing with the Most Important Issue confronting Canadians in the early 21st Century.

Who knew he’d already quit, and more than two weeks ago? Not very many Canadians, that’s for sure.

It may not quite be a state secret, but Mr. Kenney has been so quiet about it, you’d almost think he didn’t want anyone to know that he wasn’t doing anything at all for the Parliamentary paycheques he has continued to cash.

Nevertheless, despite having resigned from the committee on Aug. 12, no one seems to have mentioned it it except the Hill Times, the paywall-protected Ottawa insider publication that seems to have gotten the scoop last Wednesday.

According to the Hill Times’s report, Mr. Kenney “quietly gave up his spot on the key federal reform committee in the middle of August.”

CoreySitHow quietly? According to the publication, his resignation was “unbeknownst to journalists who at the time were covering testimony” to the committee on Aug. 22, and also “even unknown to at least two MPs on the busy panel” until last week.

One could argue, however, that Mr. Kenney had really, if not officially, quit his job as a committee member, and as an MP too, well before that. His last day listening to testimony to the committee was July 27, when he engaged in the usual Tory quacking about the need for a national referendum on electoral reform.

As an aside, many of us thought we’d had a referendum of sorts back on Oct. 19 last year, when Canadians decided to freshen up Parliament with a new government.

But Tories are desperate for a national referendum on electoral reform because they are confident they could turn it into a scare campaign to preserve the huge advantages they have enjoyed under the first-past-the-post system.

Political commentator Corey Hogan, a former executive director of the Alberta Liberal Party, recently organized an experiment in which 1,500 respondents were asked to answer a question about electoral reform phrased one of three different ways. It showed, Mr. Hogan wrote in his analysis, that “just by changing the words used you can have a dramatic shift in results.”

“That, ultimately, is the problem with referenda,” he wrote. “How democratic and fair is it if changing two words can swing the outcome by 15 points?”

Returning to Mr. Kenney’s taxpayer-supported retirement phase-in, since he apparently has only one source of income, one wonders what he will do to keep body and soul together once the Parliamentary paycheques stop.

One would think that would be soon, if he keeps his promise to truly resign at the start of next month, when the race he has been campaigning full time to win will actually become an official contest, with rules and everything.

Well, perhaps there will be some insights into how he does it when he releases his tax return, as he also promised to do last month.

Turning momentarily to the matter of the so-called taxpayer federation’s uncharacteristically low-key response to its former employee’s Parliamentary pogey, fairness compels me to concede that the Astro-Turf organization insists this is not so.

CTF apparatchiks such as Federal Director Aaron Wudrick disagree aggressively with my assessment, pointing in numerous Tweets to quotes mildly complaining about Mr. Kenney that have appeared in CBC and Globe and Mail stories.

Nevertheless, there has been no mention of Mr. Kenney on the CTF’s website since July 2014, when the group mentioned his role in bringing temporary foreign workers into the country to argue that Employment Insurance is too liberal, suggesting to me that CTF directors will comment on Mr. Kenney if cornered by a reporter, but aren’t about to make a federal case, as it were, of the issue.

I leave it to readers to decide who has it right.

Finally, anyone in the Edmonton area interested in the question of electoral reform may attend the town hall on the topic organized by Edmonton Strathcona New Democrat MP Linda Duncan Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Westbury Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.

There will be presentations from Fair Vote Canada’s Edmonton Chapter and University of Alberta political science professor Ian Urquhart.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Jason Kenney quits his job on federal electoral reform committee – so why are we paying him, again?

  1. David Khan

    September 7th, 2016

    I tweeted and Facebooked about Kenney quitting the all-important Democratic Reform Committee weeks ago!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      September 7th, 2016

      You probably deserve credit for the scoop, David. I was aware this had been mentioned on Twitter, but surely I am not the only oldster who has trouble using social media as a news service – for the simple reason that it’s designed to keep you addicted by making it easy to completely miss things if you’re not paying attention all the time. And life’s too short to read bad Tweets. (Not a reference to yours.) I doubt more than 20% of what passes by on Twitter registers with me. So I stick with the quaint notion that a story needs to be in MSM, or at least on the blogosphere, before it is really being covered.

      Reply
      • David Khan

        September 7th, 2016

        I agree David. It wasn’t my scoop, I picked it up from someone else’s post. I just tried to frame it and amplify it, apparently with poor results. Very disappointing the MSM hasn’t covered this and asked Kenney some tough questions. I hope your post has that desired result.

        Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    September 7th, 2016

    With Kenney at a net 2 per cent provincial approval rating, combined with a shortage of political supporters on the keep on truckin’ pre-leadership campaign tour, it’s obvious Kenney may have to rethink his entire employment/campaign strategy.

    With as few as 15 people showing up at his province-wide rallies and tough leadership rules in place (apparently designed to stop him), Kenney may just decide to retract his resignation promise. Should he lose his leadership bid while unemployed, he likely would have to dip into his savings or apply for EI (if he even qualified) to support himself until the 2019 provincial election. Then again, he could probably get a short-term gig with his pals at the CTF or Wildrose Party to sustain himself financially.

    Reply
  3. tom in Ontario

    September 7th, 2016

    Mr. Kenney brings a wealth of expertise as a former member of the Electoral Reform Committee. Ms. Duncan ought to send him an engraved invitation to the town hall meeting. In addition to being given a warm welcome as a sitting Alberta MP on hiatus from his duties in Ottawa, fetching cowboy hat and all, he could trumpet his vision for a better Canada under a Kenney led Tory government.

    Reply
    • Maria

      September 7th, 2016

      Not only that, Mr. Kenney would be intimately familiar with the Fair Elections Act and enlighten us about the superiority of that document.

      On another topic, I’ve been thinking that the ‘Canadian values test’ proposed by MP Kelly Leitch should be applied to politicians so that we know in advance what ‘values’ we are getting.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      September 7th, 2016

      LOL, you used the words “wealth of expertise” and Kenney in the same sentence. As near as I can tell this so-called expertise did not extend beyond being a quiet harper lapdog.

      Reply
  4. Filostrato

    September 7th, 2016

    Why, oh why, I wonder, do Kenney’s antics remind me of the Dire Straits song, “Money for Nothing”? Even if the Truck Stop tour comes to nothing and he slides back into his seat (that is a horrible visual) in Ottawa, how would the constituents who he supposedly represents at the moment take the whole ego trip?

    Meanwhile, the local Con representative has been on the committee from the start. One of his mail-outs earlier this year had the usual VERY LARGE ALL CAPITALS HEAVY BLACK lettering, screaming at the poor unfortunate who extracts it from their mailbox:

    THE LIBERAL PLAN TO RIG THE 2019 ELECTION
    AND HOW YOU (underlined) CAN STOP IT

    The answer, apparently, is to demand a vote, demand a referendum and sign the petition!

    Darn! The unfilled form is still here, retained for historical purposes. I guess I just didn’t want to be on the next robocalls list.

    Reply
  5. David Khan

    September 7th, 2016

    I’m very entertained by all the above comments! Cheers!

    Reply
  6. ronmac

    September 7th, 2016

    Maybe in any eletorial reform we should prop. representation to fill senate seats. Lots of possibilities IMHO

    Reply

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