Alberta Politics
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the Liberal Party of Canada national convention in Halifax (Photo: Twitter).

Tory canoe and Trudeau too* – Liberals take advantage of Jason Kenney’s ‘Canada is broken’ Tweet

Posted on April 22, 2018, 2:42 am
8 mins

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney’s now famous “Canada is broken” Tweet a week ago may turn out to have been the symbolic starting point of the 2019 federal election campaign.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his federal Liberals were quick to jump on the opportunity they were handed by the former federal Conservative cabinet minister, who is still strongly associated in the minds of Canadians with the government of Stephen Harper.

“Canada is the best country in the world. There is not a single country on Earth that wouldn’t trade their problems for ours. I love this country down to my bones, and I will defend it and our values against anyone who says it’s broken,” Mr. Trudeau told the closing session of his party’s national convention in Halifax yesterday.

Alberta Opposition Leader and former Harper Government cabinet minister Jason Kenney.

Mr. Kenney’s April 15 Tweet contained a link to a characteristically tendentious Calgary Herald story that complained B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan was “still blocking Trans Mountain” after his meeting in Ottawa to discuss the pipeline impasse with the PM and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

So what Mr. Kenney presumably meant was not so much that “Canada is broken” as “Canada must be broken because the oil industry isn’t getting its way.” (People elsewhere in Canada might be inclined to paraphrase my paraphrase as “Canada must be broken because Alberta isn’t getting its way.” In Mr. Kenney’s mind, and the minds of many other Alberta politicians, though, that’s pretty much the same thing.)

In other words, Mr. Kenney is unhappy that we still have a rule book in Canada that more or less applies to everybody – including Alberta politicians and the oil industry when the government of British Columbia talks about going to court to protect the province’s environment from the risks posed by a pipeline carrying large amounts of diluted bitumen.

It’s ironic that Mr. Kenney – not to mention many of his opponents in Premier Notley’s NDP government – use the phrase “rule of law” to express their anger at the fact Canada is still a country that abides by the rule of law, as this situation illustrates. After all, if Alberta’s case on pipeline expansion project proposed by Kinder Morgan Inc. of Texas is the constitutional slam-dunk everyone insists it is, Alberta will get its way soon enough. But not until it can be dealt with in the courts – as befits a country governed under the rule of law.

Federal Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Alas for impatient legislators on both sides of the aisle in Edmonton and Ottawa and Kinder Morgan’s owners in Houston, jingling the change in their pockets, that means we’re going to have to wait for the courts to rule on it. And the wheels of justice grind slowly. Still, that’s hardly evidence the country is broken. Au contraire!

Saying Canada is broken may play in Ponoka. I am sure that is Mr. Kenney’s educated bet. Since he’s not a politician to be underestimated, I don’t know that I’d want to bet against him. But in Penticton, Pembroke or Pointe-Claire? … Probably not so much!

I’m guessing most Canadians will react to this as Mr. Trudeau is guessing they will. That is, they will see Mr. Kenney’s remark as maybe not exactly unpatriotic, but leaning that way. And, if you think about the things Mr. Kenney likely had in mind when he passed that epigrammatic judgment, they may conclude it’s verging on un-Canadian, too.

It also sounded whiny, self-righteous and over the top, as we Albertans tend to be when we’re not getting our way, so that makes it easier to attack in most parts of the country without offending other Canadians, who are generally fair minded about situations like this.

Finally, the fact this comment was made by a social conservative activist closely associated with the worst aspects of the Harper Government allows the Liberals to remind Canadians of what so many of us didn’t like about the decade of Conservative rule in Ottawa. That makes it easy to paint Andrew Scheer, the putative leader of the federal Conservatives, in the same dark colours.

We can now see the Liberals setting up a national campaign that is about 50 per cent Sunny Ways and 50 per cent Beware the Dog. For this, Mr. Kenney looks better for the role of the dog than the smilingly vacuous Mr. Scheer.

But from Mr. Scheer to Mr. Kenney to the glowering visage of Mr. Harper is a short, straight line. It will be easy for Mr. Trudeau to connect those dots in the minds of voters.

As the prime minister said: “The current Leader of the Opposition introduced himself to Canadians a year ago as ‘Stephen Harper with a smile.’ It may be Andrew Scheer’s smile. But it’s still Stephen Harper’s party… The same policies, the same politics of fear and division. If anything, they’ve been emboldened by successful campaigns elsewhere in the world to divide people against one another.”

Mr. Trudeau can now use Mr. Kenney as a metaphorical club with which to beat Mr. Scheer. This may not hurt Mr. Kenney in Alberta, but it sure as heck won’t help Mr. Scheer most other places.

And why not? As has been argued here before, Mr. Kenney still can’t let go of his past role as a federal big shot. If he can’t keep his oar out of the national pond while he campaigns in Alberta, his friends and admirers in Ottawa shouldn’t complain if somebody tries to ensure the waves he makes tip the Tory canoe!

Canada is broken? Not yet, it’s not.

*NOTE: With apologies for the headline to William Henry Harrison and John Tyler.

11 Comments to: Tory canoe and Trudeau too* – Liberals take advantage of Jason Kenney’s ‘Canada is broken’ Tweet

  1. J.E. Molnar

    April 22nd, 2018

    With his “Canada is broken” mantra you almost expect Jason Kenney to begin parroting Donald Trump and obnoxiously declare any day now: “We’re gonna build a pipeline and we’re gonna to make B.C. pay for it.”

    The constant blare of Kenney’s dystopian demagoguery allows him a natural segue to trumpet his incessant rants over perceived Western alienation. As Climenhaga noted, those untethered rants play to his base and further provide the federal Liberals an opportunity to play the “federalist” card. You have to wonder if Kenney really knows or thinks about what he’s doing or saying. Why do his pompous bloviations always sound like “back-to-the-future” politics from yesterday’s man?

    • Bob Raynard

      April 22nd, 2018

      Picking up on your lineof thought, JE, if Canada is broken maybe Jason will start promising to ‘Make Canada Great Again’. A ball cap will go great with the pick-up.

  2. April 22nd, 2018

    “Canada is broken.” vs.
    “Make America Great Again.”

    Not much of a difference.

  3. Jerrymacgp

    April 23rd, 2018

    Of course, Canada is not “broken”. The most pressing concerns with TMX are, first, that the wheels of justice grind too slowly for even a successful court case for K-M, i.e. one which green-lights construction, will probably be too late for the Notley government. You can bet that opponents in BC will appeal, and appeal again, until it eventually gets before the nine robed Supremes in Ottawa, the ones that just last week refused to “free the beer”. This will mean no construction until long after the 2019 Alberta election, which is seriously at risk of rendering the Notley-led NDP a one-mandate government.

    The second is that this ongoing uncertainty makes the project economically non-viable for its private industry proponent. The BC government hasn’t even really done anything yet that can be challenged in the courts, they have just threatened, mused, and issued press releases, behaviour that an Edmonton-based pundit described as “passive-aggressive”. The way this seems to be evolving, what the courts eventually decide is actually irrelevant: the pipeline will never get built, because it is no longer a good investment risk.

    So, there it is. We are now virtually guaranteed to be facing the grim prospect of a Jason Kenney government in a bit more than a year from now. Say goodbye to the carbon tax, to farm worker safety, to the $15 minimum wage. I hope Messrs Horgan and Weaver are happy.

    • Rocky

      April 23rd, 2018

      I doubt getting a pipeline or not will actually make much difference to Ms. Notley’s chances, one way or the other. Regardless, it’s not Weaver’s or Horgan’s job to look out for the Alberta NDP or even the Alberta voter. Their job is to look out for B.C., and they seem to be taking it seriously.

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      April 23rd, 2018

      “This will mean no construction until long after the 2019 Alberta election, which is seriously at risk of rendering the Notley-led NDP a one-mandate government.”

      Why does anyone think that building a pipeline gives Notley a shot at winning the next election? Not so long ago, right-wingers (now united) were chanting “Lock her up!” Why would conservatives abandon the UCP?
      Right-wingers wouldn’t vote NDP even if Notley built a billion pipelines.

  4. David

    April 23rd, 2018

    The dour and bitter Mr. Kenney makes the smiling Mr. Scheer and even Mr. Harper look relatively cheerful in comparisson. Perhaps even Federal Conservatives found him a bit of a downer, in addition to not having a spouse and children to lead the sometimes still family values focused party. Perhaps some of Mr. Kenney’s bitterness comes from being passed over by his own Federal party for Mr. Scheer.

    I get his comment was made in an environment of some current frustration in Alberta, so it may not be received as badly in Ponoka as in Halifax. However, despite the current frustrations, Albertans are generally proud of Canada and are optimistic. Sure we have had differences with Ottawa over the years, but Lougheed, Getty or most Alberta premiers would have never been so negative. I think it will be the type of comment that will not age well and will portray Kenney in a less flattering way than he wants.

    Kenney may have unintentionally handed Trudeau the best line for his re-election campaign. If that turns out to be the case it may be Kenney in the end who will seem like the broken one.

  5. Ian B Calderwood

    April 23rd, 2018

    Of course Jason Kenney thinks Canada is broken. For two reasons. First, because the Conservatives lost badly in the last election.

    Second, because Jason Kenney is not Prime Mininster.

    Those are the two conditions that Kenney would require in order to claim that Canada is not broken. Ego extraordinaire!

  6. Scotty on Denman

    April 23rd, 2018

    As a British Columbian I should clarify that we are concerned about the risks of carrying large amounts of dilbit on supertankers, not pipelines per se (Left Coasters are opposed to pipelines only insofar as TMX would supply a several-fold increase of super tanker traffic through our busy inside waters).

    Lord, I hate that term, “broken.” It’s so tea-baggy imitative, so aping, and so “I’m-right-so-everybody-else-must-be-wrong.” It’s so base —in the demagogic sense—when used to rile a corralled “base” of partisan support —in the al Qaeda sense (Arabic for “the base”).

    In this instance the gaff potential of Kenney’s apish tweet demonstrates, once again, that he’s preaching to his base, but with little concern that his colleague and current leader of the battered, chimeric, neo-right, nominal Conservative party will probably be unable to avoid stepping right in this turd on the road to next year’s tag-team elections. The only other Canadian citizens I hear using this stupid term these days are pro-reppers for whom not electing their preferred candidate is proof enough that the electoral system, the province, politics and/or the entire nation is “broken.” It is a species of sour grapes.

    I think the term “broke” is more accurate.

  7. Bill Malcolm

    April 24th, 2018

    “government of British Columbia talks about going to court to protect the province’s environment from the risks posed by a pipeline carrying large amounts of diluted bitumen.”

    Huh, I was under the impression that BC wanted a court case to decide the jurisdiction/rights of provinces on environmental matters vis a vis the feds. Which is a more general thing than merely the KM pipeline expansion. Isn’t it Alberta trying to argue the specific and trying to drag BC down to that level? If I’m correct then even the author has bought into the Notley argument by using the words I quoted.

    Here is what Horgan said:

    “Premier John Horgan said his New Democrat government’s reference case will be filed in B.C.’s Court of Appeal by April 30 and it will seek to clarify the province’s rights to protect its coast and economy from an oil products spill.

    He said the reference case could have implications in provincial-federal relations that go beyond the current dispute.”


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