PHOTOS: Singer k.d. lang (handout photo, via CBC). Below: Jim Dinning 1.0 and Jim Dinning 6.0.

Is it just me, or is it mildly surprising that Jason Kenney turned down k.d. lang’s offer of free tickets to Calgary Pride on Sept. 3 and 4?

Mr. Kenney, of course, is the former Ottawa insider, Harper Government cabinet minister and Alberta Progressive Conservative leader who is now the front-running candidate to lead Alberta’s United Conservative Party. He is working hard to persuade Alberta’s right that he’s a real conservative, just like them. He drives a huge Dodge Ram pickup truck, Tory blue, to help make this point. He is also known to be, shall we say, weak on LGBTQ issues.

Ms. lang is the internationally renowned chanteuse, so famous she requires neither capital letters nor further introduction, who Tweeted earlier this week that, “I’ll give @jkenney free tickets if he’ll sit down and talk #lgbtqia rights with me!”

Ms. lang’s invite appears to have been made in response to a snotty response to criticism by Kenney spokesthingy Blaise Boehmer stating that the candidate hadn’t been invited to Calgary Pride, but had lots of invitations elsewhere, so he’ll therefore be RSVP’ing one or two of them, thank you very much.

But if he wanted to demonstrate that he’s a real Tory, wouldn’t the thing for Mr. Kenney to have done been to have taken the tickets … and resold them on StubHub?

OK, mean Derek Fildebrandt jokes aside, given his recent record on topics that matter to the LGBTQ community, which does get out to vote, Mr. Kenney is unlikely to be anxious to discuss his past comments on that subject with anyone in public, particularly a high profile and newsworthy member of the community like Ms. lang.

But the tone of Mr. Kenney’s response – or that of his frequently acerbic mouthpiece, at any rate – is not going to win him a lot of friends, and I’m not just talking about within the LGBTQ community. And the folks he does impress may not be the friends an aspiring provincial leader really wants to be associated with in today’s Alberta.

I know the prevailing wisdom is that Mr. Kenney is just playing to the Peanut Gallery in the conservative base and will change his tune later as required.

Additional conventional wisdom is that the NDP is so unpopular with Albertans that any conservative leader will beat them in 2019, or whenever the next general election is held.

I’m here to tell you that we’ve heard this song before, learned all the words and sung along – and things still didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, according to the pundits.

Remember Jim Prentice, the Tory saviour from Ottawa who was going to ride into Alberta in 2014, wow the locals and make the province safe for another 44 years of Progressive Conservatism?

Mr. Prentice had his strengths. He was a smart, decent man. He’d successfully played challenging supporting roles in both politics and big business. His inclinations were inclusive. Still, when you got right down to it, he wasn’t really all that likeable.

Mr. Prentice was certainly no Ralph Klein, the proverbial politician you might not agree with, but figure you’d enjoy having a beer with just the same. And he turned out to be no Rachel Notley either.

Whether or not Mr. Kenney’s all that smart, this latest Conservative saviour from Ottawa doesn’t really seem like what you’d call a decent guy, has never actually had a real job outside politics and Astro-Turfing, and sure as heck isn’t very inclusive. Perhaps more important, though, he’s far lower on the Likability Scale than Mr. Prentice ever was.

I mean, seriously, can you imagine anybody wanting to have a beer with Jason Kenney?

But Mr. Kenney is just the latest in a long list of front-running conservative candidates in Alberta – all advised by pretty much the same group of Conservative Party insiders and strategists – who don’t seem as likeable as their chief competitors for the job they’re looking for.

There was Jim Dinning, who turned out to be less likeable than Ed Stelmach.

There was Barb Higgins, who turned out to be less likeable than Naheed Nenshi, who is still mayor of Calgary.

There was Gary Mar, who turned out to be less likeable than Alison Redford – or so it seemed to most Albertans until they changed their minds, or Ms. Redford managed to change their minds for them.

There was Joan Crockatt – an incumbent Tory MP in Calgary, talk about having all the advantages! – who turned out to be far less likeable than Kent Hehr and afterward blamed her unlikely loss to the likeable Liberal on … foreign money! Please!

And there was, famously, Mr. Prentice, who turned out to be considerably less likeable than Rachel Notley, who is now the NDP premier of Alberta.

Yeah, I know, leadership isn’t just about likeability. But it’s interesting to note just the same that the strategy of the Conservative insider brain trust that backed all these candidates has essentially never changed. And that is – can’t we all agree? – the traditional popular definition of insanity.

Now we have the not-very-likeable Mr. Kenney with the insider track to knock off the somewhat-more-likeable Brian Jean, the former Wildrose leader and the main competitor to lead the UCP, for the right to do battle with the immensely likeable Ms. Notley.

If you ask me, this sounds like the Tories are about to buy into Jim Dinning 6.0, the application that’s never worked properly since they got tired of Mr. Klein.

Mr. Kenney, obviously, doesn’t think he needs to be smart. But if he were smart, I’m telling you, he’d ignore his advisors and take Ms. lang up on her generous invitation … and he’d show up.

I’ll bet it’s not even too late.

Join the Conversation


  1. One fascinating aspect of all this, is the ongoing obsession amongst social conservative politicians with who people sleep with. I saw a hilarious meme on Facebook this week, which said, “If homosexuality threatens your marriage, then one of you is gay” (or words to that effect). Who are LGBTQ people hurting, to be so threatening to social conservatives? What about libertarians, who are also part of the conservative fold; aren’t they about “live and let live” and limiting state control over peoples’ lives? So what do they think about all this homophobia amongst their so-con brethren?

    It was way back in 1968 when a certain Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, who went on to become Prime Minister and sire our current PM, declared, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of our nation”, and introduced legislation repealing Criminal Code prohibitions on consensual sexual behaviours between adults. How is it that now, almost half a century later, we are still having these debates?

  2. I recall when Ms. Lang’s music was banned from the local Red Deer country and western station. Its listeners were outraged with Lang because she was a vegetarian.
    Back then very few gave two hoots about her sexual orientation and even fewer do now.

  3. Dave, just like the Alberta NDP you are consistent. You keep attacking the social outlook of the UCP. Brian Mason tried to link the UCP to the rebel. Ezra Levant is a spent force that probably less than 1% of Albertan’s give a damn about. There is no doubt that policies related to the care, support, and education of Albertan’s are important. But there is an elephant in the room. How do we pay for it? Joe Ceci gave his fiscal update that basically said the Alberta economy is growing but the price of oil is hurting our revenues. Employment has improved but revenue from personal income is still in decline, as is corporate tax revenue. In an article on the CBC website Trevor Tombe, an economist from Calgary, basically said to balance the budget revenue needs to increase and spending needs to be frozen. No doubt it is easier to talk about who is likeable in the past and present in Alberta politics. Enjoy your day 🙂

    1. Trevor Tombe also stated that, “Alberta still-despite the large deficit-has a very strong overall fiscal situation.”
      He also mentioned that “the present government has not put forward a plan on how to balance a budget without royalty revenues, but neither have the opposiition parties because it is a very difficult task for Alberta to address.”
      Perhaps there will have to be the ‘knuckling under’ after all re: a sales tax. We certainly didn’t see Brad Wall getting rid of their sales tax with regard to Saskatchewan’s increasing deficit.
      And re: corporate tax rates, I certainly do have family members from my $multmillion corporate farming family of origin who could well afford to pay a bit more tax without jeopardizing their success.

      1. The most important point you raise is that niether the present government nor the opposition parties have offered any solution other than oil royalties. This is certainly true with the NDP and UPC. The Alberta party has floated bringing in a sales tax. As far as the NDP they did not run on implementing a carbon tax but implemented one, so I would not be surprised if they get in for a second term if they introduced a sales tax without mentioning it during the campaign. You can’t run 10 billion dollar deficits forever.

        As for corporate taxes. Most farms would have far less than $500000 of taxable income and would therefore be subject to the present small business tax rate of 2%. It was 3% until the NDP lowered it supposedly to help small business flourish. After raising labour costs(minimum wage hike) and operational costs(carbon tax) I thought this was small compensation. Having said that if a business can’t pay a 3% tax rate some thing is wrong and I never agreed with cutting it to 2%. The other problem as I have stated before is that Alberta brings in roughly $4 billion a year from corporate taxes. To bring in an additional $10 billion from corporate taxes would require in theory a provincial corporate tax rate of 42%. Combined with a federal rate of 15% you would have a 57% corporate tax rate. Do you really think this would be doable? There is really no easy answers and the absence in Alberta of any real debate on this issue isn’t helping. Enjoy your day 🙂

        1. there are solution without necessity to go into unpopular taxation.
          instead of wastefully throwing around money from 10 billion, collected in carbon tax, this cash can be put in creating a new and expansion of existent value-added provincial public corporations and agressively compete with private sector.
          take a look at ATB’s artificial humbliness in comparison to private banks, whom generate billions in profit quarterly.
          look at many billions of monopolistic telcos, who’s screwing every canadians.
          why province can’t take over regional network and if don’t like to run customer service, at least can lease out to competing smaller operators and earn profit from this lease?
          look at profitability of insurance business. why province wouldn’t enter this sector as well?
          and that’s just few. there are infinite opportunities in many other fields, including natural resources, considering favorable climate for publicly or mix ownership enterprises in comparison to private.

    2. Sure, Farmer, but remember that cutting spending is as much a political decision as an economic one. Specifically, what are essential services and what are nice-to-haves. We like to pretend that the answer is obvious and that we are objective about it, but nothing could be farther from the truth. We cut from the ‘fat’ from the vulnerable but not the ‘fat’ from the well-connected. For example, conservatives salivate about privatizing health care and social services but not highways. Why? Besides the fact that they would be run out of town if they expected the average middle class conservative voter to pay the real cost of the transportation system (much easier to socialize it so that we can all live an hour from work in our large houses) but business would screen bloody murder that a key component of their cost of doing business is no longer subsidized by the tax payer.

      In short, it’s easy to be gung-ho about budget cuts if you know it will primarily affect someone else (and I’m not suggesting that is your attitude, btw)

  4. The real reason the Tories lost the last election is they weren’t right wing enough. The floor crossings would have worked but for the fact that people felt duped once Prentice put forward a liberal budget. Kenney is a true conservative who will sweep the entire province much like Ralph did. Oh and Ralph was another true conservative.

    1. Not right wing enough ? Prentice’s comments ‘look in the mirror’ told Albertans that we were to blame for the state of the government. His ‘math is hard’ mobilized women. Good luck with Jason Kenney, your true conservative from the last century.

  5. Poor Jason missed a great concert. I saw kd lang’s Sunday evening show in Edmonton. The Journal called it an almost perfect evening and they werre right.

    Interestingly, most of the audience looked a lot like me; middle aged or older hetero couples. In other words, “ordinary Albertans,” the “Martha and Henry” types. Tisn’t what it used to behe audience applauded every song, laughed at all her jokes-even the sexy ones-cheered her dance moves, and poured out the love all evening long. Kenney doesn’t realize that that is who he has spurned by refusing to sit down with her. Increasingly LGBT rights are important to people outside the community, moms and dads, neighbours, friends and co-workers who care about someone who is gay.

    Alberta isn’t what it used to be. The UCP wants to rule the Alberta-that-was, but it’s gone.

  6. Sadly, David, I think it is more about likeability than we would like. Ralph Klein was a very likeable man. I really think he enjoyed mixing with the beer parlour crowd in the St. Louis after rubbing shoulders with corporate elite in the mayor’s office. Not only was Klein likeable, he felt trustworthy; he was one of us, not some slick politician. So when he told people we needed austerity, we believed him.

    I really can’t imagine anyone having the same warm feelings about Jason Kenney. They may welcome the austerity he is promising, but he doesn’t give off the same feel good vibe. Personally I think the message the blue truck sends is more of a ‘I am trying to be like you’ instead of ‘I am like you’.

    1. Klein? Likable? Only if you’re already a die-hard and ignorant conservative.
      To anyone with a lick of sense and a passing familiarity with the modern world he was just another ignorant buffoon with access to lots of money.

      1. I don’t think I’m a die-hard or ignorant conservative. I reckon most of the readers of this blog would agree with my assessment on that point. Yet I found Ralph Klein quite likeable and, yes, I have even had the proverbial beer with the man on one occasion. I thought he was a little needy, actually, odd in a person who enjoyed such power and prestige. I certainly didn’t agree with many of his policies, but this has nothing to do with his likeability, which was real and part of his undeniable political success. DJC

        1. same can apply to Ms. Notley.
          during election campaign her image “next door nice lady” in comparison to Prentice’s political aristocracy was definitely winning.
          unlike election campaign, her work in office as top regional manager very unimpressive.
          even your blog reflect this, from very hopeful optimism an year ago, it have turned into primitive heavy basher of any one, who’s not im line with NDP ideology and LGBTQ values.
          to be honest, your next upcoming topics had became so much predictable, just like on Rebel media.

        2. King Barf did a great Ike Turner impression, and like a true professional, he was able to adapt the act to different partners.. “Oops, walked into the door again. Clumsy me!”.

    2. As someone who shook Kenny’s hand when he was Minister of Employment and Social Development, I’d like to, warn my fellow Albertans that they should be careful about wishing Kenney would be their Premier, because they just might get it. Kenney is not a likeable person, and he has made a career out of exactly that. That was OK as long as he was all the way in Ottawa, but if he becomes Premier, he will be spewing his venom in Edmonton on other Albertans; believe me, it won’t be pretty. It would be like having a mean old junkyard dog and bringing it in the house to play with the kids – a bad idea from start to finish.

  7. Great column.

    Exactly my thoughts. Same old, same old.

    One huge difference is that there is far less content, far more blustering, and the insincerity is far more evident than any of his predecessors.

    Oh well, if Kenney does not make it his skills might be better suited to used car sales…..before the shake up at AMVIC! Not certain how he would fare in that vocation now given the changes that changes that are being implemented.

  8. If you changed the Party discussed in the story to Alberta Liberals, it would be a perfect description of the last 20 years.

  9. On the other hand Kenny turning down free tickets to KD Lang may be based on something completely different.

    A year or so my daughter was a big fan of Ed Sheeran. Yet when Sheraan was in town a couple weeks back I asked her if she was excited. Surprizingly, she was quite blase about it. Apparently Sheeran is so mainstream now it’s not longer “cool” to be a fan.

    In the same way, Kenny may not wanting anythng to contaminate his “rebel personna” by attending a perfomance so mainstream that it could be perceived as being only a few steps away from becomig a Las Vegas act.

    Rebel is the new cool.

  10. I think it is a good time to make comparisons between Kenney and his Alberta PC predecessors. In many ways they are very different. First, he seems to lack the pleasantness and likeability of several of them. While likeability is not essential to get elected – it didn’t stop Nixon or Harper, not having it is a big handicap. Most politicians do seem to have some ability to relate to and engage with even those citizens they do not agree with. Second, Kenney also has an almost reactionary emphasis on social conservatism that none of the PC predecessors had. Yes, many supported “traditional” values in their times, but it was not the hill for them to die on when they sensed society was ready to move forward.

    However, in one odd way he does have something in common with some of his less successful PC predecessors. He appears to be running a front runners campaign – avoid the media, avoid debate or controversy as much as possible and of course avoid anyone who has a different view than his. In a way he is living in a 1950’s bubble – his “campaign” bubble, so I am not surprised he has until now avoided all Pride Parades (they have been happening in Alberta for over 30 years now, so its not like it is something very recent) and is now avoiding kd lang.

    I think he avoids it because it makes him uncomfortable. I suppose there is some element, perhaps more in some parts of rural Alberta, that plays to well, but for many other Albertans his uncomfortableness is making us uncomfortable.

    I can’t help but think – WWRD (what would Ralph do?) in this situation if he were still around. I think he would have relished and accepted the challenge from kd and attended – probably with the stipulation he get a free drink or two (with or without alcohol, depending on how he felt at the time), enjoyed the show and engaged in a lively debate. I am not saying kd would have competely changed his mind, but she would make him think about his positions and perhaps modify them.

    Kenney drives around in that big fancy truck, like he is trying so hard to impress us, invoking past “greatness”. However, it’s too bad that Kenney is in many ways a lesser person than all those PC leaders before him.

  11. A wonderfully cogent expose on the politically ephemeral but vitally important element of “likeability.” Perhaps Kenney takes the term “double down” to be more about direction than effort.

  12. After being on rhe oppsosing side at the PC leaderdhip convention, I did the honourable act and congratulated Jason Kenney on his leadership victory. However, after a few moments in talking to him, I got this an uneasy feeling that the man has an attitude of take no prisoners approach to his opponents and you are with me or against me outlook. The actions from him since March, have only confirmed that this guy is shallow and only cares about himself and his goals. I think many people think that maybe this guy should not be Premier.

    On a side note, where in the world is Derrick Fildebrandt or now known as Fildhispockets? Does he not tweet anymore? Is he now camera shy?

  13. We find many of Jason Kenney’s musing to be insulting.

    Why? Because we feel he insults our intelligence by assuming that we would believe his nonsense.

    We did not just fall off the pumpkin truck. His comments may be fine for the East Rubber Boot, Alberta riding but not for the vast majority of Albertans. I think he believes that Albertans are lacking when it comes to their individual and collective BS meters.

  14. My guess is that if Kenney ever becomes Premier he will run the show just like Harper.

    MLA’s will be forbidden to speak in the Legislature unless and until their speach/comments are thoroughly vetted by the unelected acolytes in the Premier’s Office. Same with media interviews.

    Absolute, blind loyalty will be rewarded with cabinet posts, committee positions, and promises of subsequent appointments. An MLA who disagrees publicly with anything will dealt with severely. No room for individual, independent thinking or criticism. You will either be for him or agin him….zero middle ground. Kenny and his staff will do all the thinking for the elected members. After all they know best….and you do want to be re-elected don’t you?

    I suspect this would be Kenney’s view of democracy/populism. It is not about the Party, Albertans or anything/anyone else. It is all about Jason Kenney. Attaining power, exercising power, and holding on to power.

    That is what we do want. Had this with Harper-for a little too long.

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