PHOTOS: Alberta Opposition leader Jason Kenney at a recent get-together with his former boss, Stephen Harper (Photo: Grabbed from Mr. Kenney’s Facebook page). And guess who Mr. Kenney was attacking on his Facebook page last night? See below. Also below: Sir Charles Tupper and Calgary NDP MLA Graham Sucha. 

Jason Kenney is a highly unusual figure in Canadian political history, a full-time federal politician who is also a full-time provincial politician.

In fairness, it may be marginally more accurate nowadays to describe the leader of Alberta’s Opposition United Conservative Party and MLA for Calgary-Lougheed as a full-time provincial politician who is also a full-time federal politician.

Regardless of the order of his priorities, though, the former Calgary MP and senior federal Conservative cabinet minister once touted as prime minister Stephen Harper’s likely replacement is now campaigning full-time both to unseat NDP Premier Rachel Notley and become the premier of Alberta, and on behalf of his federal party to unseat Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and restore the Conservative Party of Canada to power in Ottawa.

Politicians who have made the switch from provincial to federal politics, like the late provincial NDP leaders Tommy Douglas and Dave Barrett, or from federal to provincial politics, like the late Alberta premier Jim Prentice and former Alberta Opposition leader Brian Jean, are not all that unusual. But politicians who operate at once on both levels, as Mr. Kenney clearly does, are rare.

Not only does Mr. Kenney apparently continue to consult regularly with Mr. Harper to plot a Conservative Restoration in Ottawa, but under his leadership of the Opposition in Alberta there is no light whatsoever between the provincial UCP and the federal CPC nominally led by the hapless, hopeless, and soon to be eminently replaceable Andrew Scheer.

This sets the UCP dramatically apart from most Canadian provincial parties, including Ms. Notley’s Alberta NDP. The Alberta Dippers are now clearly uncomfortable with the federal NDP and in a state of open warfare with the party of the same name that now leads the province of British Columbia next door.

Notwithstanding what one would expect his priority to be, Mr. Kenney seems to attack Prime Minister Trudeau more often than he assails Premier Notley. If nothing else, this level of interest suggests strongly his mind is still preoccupied with federal politics.

Mr. Kenney’s gaslighting of his main enemies sometimes gets so tangled up it leads to unintentionally hilarious dissonance in his messaging.

“Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax will take tens of billions of dollars out of the pockets of consumers, raise the cost of everything, & kill jobs,” he (or his Twitter bot) Tweeted in 2016, one of myriad Kenney Tweets on this topic.

“The Trudeau carbon tax will hit Alberta families hard,” he Tweeted in another example last year. “And rather than standing up against the Ottawa Liberals’ plans, the Alberta NDP Government is cheering them on.”

“There is no *federal* carbon tax. That’s NDP spin,” he Tweeted on Tuesday, however. The explanation that followed did not entirely clarify his reasoning, which presumably depends on the fact the feds won’t start collecting the tax till later this year, and only then if provinces don’t tax carbon at the same rate. You can read the Tweet and the Trudeau Government’s explanation of the federal carbon tax for yourselves.

The CBC’s Michelle Bellefontaine responded to that last one sharply: “The *federal* carbon tax of $40 a tonne comes into effect in 2021 no matter who wins the next provincial election,” she stated.

An obviously frustrated Emma Graney, Postmedia’s Legislature reporter in Edmonton, Tweeted back: “If there’s no federal carbon tax, what’s the ‘Trudeau carbon tax’ you keep talking about? … Weird you’d call that ‘NDP spin’ when you’re the one saying it. UNLESS… WAIT… ARE YOU A NEW DEMOCRAT?!? SCOOP!!”

This unusual rejoinder for a mainstream journalist set off a raucous discussion on the social media platform. Graham Sucha, NDP MLA for Calgary-Shaw, which shares some territory with Mr. Kenney’s old Calgary Midnapore federal riding, weighed in: “Wait, are you saying I’m not the first New Democrat elected in Midnapore?” General hilarity ensued.

I doubt such sniping by mainstream journalists will last for long. Their jobs depend on access to people like Mr. Kenney, and their bosses are typically hypersensitive about anything that smacks of criticism of the UCP.

Still, the momentary outburst illustrates the complexity of simultaneous campaigning at the federal and provincial levels in a federation in which voters historically often prefer a certain amount of creative conflict between levels of government.

Some readers will take this simply to mean Mr. Kenney cannot be depended upon to tell the truth. But while it sometimes seems as if his relationship with facts is fairly casual, he is no Donald Trump.

His real problem is that he is a full-on, lifetime career politician. He has never in his life done anything but politics, unless you count his stint leading anti-tax organizations – a political gig if ever there was one! And while we can’t know with certainty what’s in Mr. Kenney’s heart, it’s reasonable to suspect he still harbours long-term federal ambitions.

Why wouldn’t he dream of being the first provincial premier since Sir Charles Tupper to transition into a prime minister, and the first ever to do it successfully? (Sir Charles, alert followers of Canadian political history will recall, managed to be prime minister for only 69 days in 1896 without actually being elected to Parliament at the time, after being pre-Confederation premier of the Colony of Nova Scotia for barely more than three years. There hasn’t been another one since.)

To achieve that goal, of course, Mr. Kenney would need to be elected as premier first. But it’s fair to say that Jason, Janus like, is simultaneously focusing on both jurisdictions right now!

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  1. David, you are very well read/educated.. I didn’t know what the Janus in this article referred to until I did an internet search for ‘janus’.

    A first class newsman!

    1. First-class newsman? I don’t know about that, Dave. I was taught (on the job) that news stories should be written to about a Grade 5 level. Personally, I prefer to judiciously weed my blog’s readership from time to time, through the use of big words. Thankfully, I have no editor to make me stop. DJCV

  2. Just to validate the premise Climenhaga proffers, Kenney has sent a letter — dated March 29 — to Justin Trudeau requesting Trudeau appoint an Alberta “elected” Senator-in-waiting, caused by the vacancy due to the recent retirement of Claudette Tardif (Alberta Liberal Senator). Discounting the fact that the request is illegitimate on several levels, Kenney chooses to do the bidding of Andrew Scheer, who as everyone knows, represents conservatives at the federal level.

    This bogus request by Kenney doesn’t meet the smell test, given the Act to allow Senators-in-waiting expired in December 2016. Add to the fact that the election for Alberta’s Senators-in-waiting was held in 2012 one begins to see the idiocy of Kenney’s claim. Just to validate Climenhaga’s proposition further, check out Kenney’s recent Tweets — it’s a smorgasbord of federal and provincial rantings that boggle one’s mind.

  3. What is the political upside for Jason Kenney to attack Justin Trudeau? It appears he is going after the vote of Albertans who do not like Trudeau, but who are not yet in Kenney’s support base. That can’t be a large number of people. Meanwhile he is hardly setting the stage for a good working relationship with our prime minister if he becomes premier.

    1. Good heavens, why would Jason want a “good working relationship” with Little Pierre? More likely he’s trying to reprise Ralph Klein’s old tactics and start a fight with the evil Liberals in Ottawa. Albertans love to hate anybody east of Manitoba. Still, with luck ol’ Two-Face won’t try to resuscitate the “National Energy Policy” boogey–or was it a Program? I forget. I’m surprised he hasn’t made more noise about equalization payments. Maybe he’s having too much fun pushing the carbon-tax button and watching his base turn red in the face….

    2. Provincial politicians have been fighting against Federal politicians since 1867. To suggest Jason Kenney is somehow unique in this regard is to really bury one’s head in the sand. Mr. Climenhaga knows better. Dave is just as frustrated like the rest of us that winter won’t go away, and he can’t stop the leftward spinning that this blog has descended to in recent years.

  4. I suppose it’s obvious, isn’t? Kenney on carbon taxes is mostly about fomenting and leading opposition to carbon taxes/climate plans (fed’s or prov’s) which con’s across Canada judge to be key means by which Kenney/UCP and conservative parties across Canada can defeat federal Lib’s and AB NDP in 2019.

    Doug Ford already has his ON con’s campaigning against Wynne’s carbon pricing/climate plan…

    So my guess… leading conservatives on the hard right probably already are game-planning that successful politics led by Kenney and Ford to eliminate carbon taxes/pricing, will get them back in power and some expect it will help Kenney become PM.

  5. Very interesting observations. I agree it is sometimes not clear whether Janus, or I suppose I should say Jason, sees himself as more as the leader of the Alberta Opposition or the Federal one. Perhaps he is fighting a two front war – one which he is advancing on the Eastern front right now, but not on the western one. Maybe he is more a student of politics and history, but I do see some Napoleonic traits in him, he should consider two front wars do not necessarily go well in the end.

    I agree that Kenney probably still has significant unsatisfied aspirations of national leadership. Sadly for him, he had to settle for Alberta because that was the best option available for him at the time. It may be unfair, but I think some Federal Conservatives were reluctant to embrace him a leader, in part because this Napoleon has no Josephine or children. While Scheer may have his weaknesses, he could at least present a picture of a smiling spouse and a bunch of cute children behind him. All Kenney could present was a picture of nice looking young men around him, which would be even more disconcerting for some Conservatives, if they were not reassured they came from nice respectable bible colleges, well perhaps some of them anyways.

    In any event, I do have to wonder about Kenney’s divided loyalties. Campaigning to lead Alberta is not the same a campaigning to lead Canada. I also have to wonder if he is secretly hoping the Federal Conservatives will have a coup against Scheer before the next election, like the Ontario did against their leader, so he can swoop in to claim his rightful prize. I suppose its a real long shot, but politics seems full of unexpected surprises these days. In the past, Alberta leaders like Lougheed were courted to lead their Federal party too, but they were not so power hungry and clearly understood where their loyalties were, as did the voters of Canada.

    We seem to have a long history of not making former Provincial Premiers into Prime Ministers. Therefore, perhaps Kenney’s best shot at becoming Federal Conservative leader is to fail at quest to become Alberta Premier. Unfortunately, that would also tarnish his image as being a political winner and make him less appealing to the Federal Conservatives. However, while losing in Alberta would only seriously wound his Federal aspirations, winning would probably kill them. I suppose this is a tough situation for a two faced Janus that has his eyes on both sides, on the look out for the best opportunity.

  6. The nattering class is shrinking in support. Imagine that, attacking Jason Kenney because he looks to both the past and the future to help Albertans chart a course for the present. Attempts to insult him by reference to the Roman god Janus simply exposes Climengha’s shallow understanding of mythology. Janus was a respected and honored god because of his ability to use knowledge of the past and it’s implications for the future. Just like Jason Kenney.

    1. Good one, George! You really gave the old Wikipedia a workout that time, eh? Worth every penny. I love the image of Jason fondly looking back to a time when women were chattel, barefoot, pregnant and stuck in the kitchen AND looking forward to a brighter future when women are chattel, barefoot, definitely pregnant and stuck in the kitchen. And if that doesn’t work out, you can always organize another Kudatah.

  7. You know, Dave, it would be very interesting to compare JK’s tactics now to Preston Manning’s efforts 30+ years ago setting up the Reform Party. I think there’s a real effort on JK’s part to avoid Manning’s mistakes. Certainly I see the faux-populist frontage disguising the doing-it-my-way actions much of the time.

    Conservatism will not be a positive force again until it eliminates the Reform plague from its genetic code.

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