Anti-Brexit demonstrators in London on June 23 this year (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

While much of the world looked on in dismay as the results of the Brexit votes rolled in two years ago last month, Jason Kenney Tweeted his congratulations to the people of Britain for “choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world.”

How’s that looking for them now?

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney as he looked back in 2016, when he was last heard bloviating about Brexit (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

With the United Kingdom roiled in chaos, edging toward a post-European recession or worse, separatism reignited in Scotland, little sympathy from the frustrated leaders of the European Union who are taking a hard line in the divorce negotiations, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative government falling apart before our eyes, I’d say not so good.

It very much sounds as if the British people, so hopeful and optimistic back in the spring of 2016 if we believed what Mr. Kenney was trying to sell us Canadians, were themselves sold a bill of goods by the far right wing of the country’s conservative movement. Now they know it and they sincerely wish they could have another go at the Brexit vote, which unfortunately for them is not likely.

A headline in the reliably conservative National Post yesterday sort of says it all: “With time running out to make a deal, Britain faces the reality of its Brexit folly.”

Justin Trudeau in Edmonton in 2015 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Two years ago, when he made his foolish comment, Mr. Kenney was running simultaneously to be the next Conservative prime minister of Canada and to engineer the double reverse hostile takeover of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives by the Wildrose Party, and then of the Wildrose by the PCs, so he could someday be premier of this province.

It seems likely he hoped for the former and, when that appeared increasingly unlikely, settled for the latter.

On the face of it, it was weird in 2016 for someone who until a few months before had been a senior minister in a government that prided itself on its trade agreements to be so delighted about the potential breakup of the EU. However, it seems likely Mr. Kenney was just playing to basest instincts of the Conservative base – no fans of the European Union because it seemed, well, too European, meaning in that context cosmopolitan and liberal.

By that time, too, the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was in full swing, with Donald Trump already chosen as the Republican candidate, so Mr. Kenney may have figured he was just cashing in on the zeitgeist. That’s probably another one for the How’d-That-Work-Out? File.

Mr. Kenney also ripped into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s observation just before the Brexit votes that “I always believed that we are stronger together” and his hopes Britain would remain in the EU.

Justin Trudeau was wrong to interfere in the British people’s internal democratic decision on EU membership,” Mr. Kenney said in a huffy Tweet, calling the PM’s remarks “a terrible, short-sighted gaffe.”

With the benefit of hindsight, of course, the prime minister’s remarks sound prime ministerial, even statesmanlike. Mr. Kenney’s rather less so.

The people of Canada are doubtless thanking the gods of politics they don’t have to listen to Mr. Kenney’s bloviations in the House of Commons. Alas, we seem to be stuck with him here in Alberta.

Well, thank God for small favours, at least he’s unlikely to commentate on Brexit any time soon!

Market-failure in action: the hound fades to grey

Speaking of Mr. Kenney, I wonder where he stands on the decision announced by Greyhound Canada yesterday to pull the plug on its rural bus service throughout Western Canada.

The end of the Greyhound (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

As a market-fundamentalist, I’m sure the leader of the United Conservative Party Opposition is dedicated to the proposition a provincially run rural bus service to link rural communities in Alberta with the province’s principal cities would be a horrible idea.

On the other hand, since market failures are a feature not a bug in the capitalist system, it’s hard to see how any for-profit corporation can provide this essential service in the current economic circumstances. In other words, like health care, provincial transportation is a service that simply can’t be provided without determined intervention by governments, and which is done best as a pure public service.

And since Mr. Kenney is the self-declared champion of rural Alberta, he’ll be hard pressed to be true to his economic dogma. What a conundrum!

Of course, as we learned in the matter of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Mr. Kenney’s principles are flexible. You simply declare the situation to be a “major market failure” and sign on with the Trudeau Government’s plan to bail out the faltering project, all the while proclaiming you could have done it sooner, better.

Oddly enough, the troubles of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which all Canadians are now on their way to owning, were probably a classic example of markets operating as they are supposed to. Like a greyhound, the pipeline project may have been a dog, and if so the market reacted appropriately.

In the case of the genuine market failure, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Kenney proves to be flexible again and demands Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP Government create a Crown corporation to operate rural bus service throughout Alberta.

Join the Conversation


  1. I wonder whether Greyhound’s announcement is nothing more than a shakedown effort, seeking public (read taxpayer) subsidy for their failing business, even though it’s a major multi-national. Their public statements about a “community funding” model would tend to lead one to that suspicion. My opinion? Let ‘em go.

    If there’s a viable market for intercity bus service in Alberta, some other carrier, perhaps Red Arrow, will step into the breach. If this doesn’t happen, perhaps then it’ll be time to talk about a public model—or maybe a blended model where the private sector runs those routes that can be profitable, and the Crown covers those that aren’t but are still essential services, and set up a transfer agreement between the two. Of course, such a blended model also means that the Crown can’t cross-subsidize the money-losing routes from revenues on the profitable routes, so that might not be a smart option, but it might be more politically saleable.

  2. Transit is going in the wrong direction. If Trudeau and Notley have $$$ for pipelines and other projects that boost emissions and make climate change WORSE, why can’t govt invest in a comprehensive public transit system solution that a sustainable Canada actually needs?

    Ultimately, the loss of more sustainable options is the result of not pricing emissions properly and subsidizing the private automobile. People are forced to choose unsustainable options or stay home.

    With the purchase of Trans Mtn, the federal govt is now entrenched in the oil industry. Premier Notley appears eager to join Ottawa in the pipeline business. (When it comes to climate change, both levels of govt are clearly in a conflict of interest.)
    Public dollars for public services like transportation linking towns to cities? Don’t hold your breath.

  3. The UK and the Brexit debacle might seem very far away from Alberta, but I believe there are important lessons for us and the rest of the world from this. The first thing I think we can gather from Kenney’s enthusiastic pro Brexit tweet is he may have a distressing delusional tendency to live in the past. Perhaps in this case it comes in part from his growing up in 1970’s Ontario, where in certain places vestiges of rule Britannia were still strong.

    I think even by the mid 1960’s it was clear to many in the UK that the future was with Europe and not with the former Empire. After independence, most former colonies no longer had a political requirement to trade with the UK and were busy developing new trade relationships that made better sense, including with neighbouring and more economically powerful countries. It was for this very practical reason that despite sepia tinged nostalgia and some ideological and cultural differences the UK joined the EU in the 1970’s. However even though most of the British Conservative party supported this, a significant rump remained stuck in the past. More recently, after the Great Recession, UK Conservative Prime Minister Cameron came up with the clever idea of holding a referendum on Brexit, perhaps to distract from the damage from his own excessive austerity. Meanwhile at the same time in Canada the Harper government, of which Kenney was a part of, was making the same mistake, although fortunately the US did not, which probably helped save us from the more severe effects of austerity as felt in the UK. Cameron probably thought it would be a harmless distraction to allow a bit of scapegoating foreigners and appease the Conservative anti-EU rump, but it ended up badly, both for the country and for his political career which it ended. Now the EU seems to be standing firm, the UK finds can not cherry pick things it wants (trade with the EU) while rejecting those it does not (immigrants from some other EU countries) and no other countries seem to be rushing to sign new trade deals with the formerly “Great” Britain. The former great power seems to have overestimated its power and importance and has failed in its attempt to dictate terms to its trading partners. Financial services businesses are now steadily moving from London to the EU and British manufacturing businesses are talking about closing factories in the UK. Unless the UK can pull out of this Brexit spiral, this will likely end badly for them.

    Back to Alberta and our rural transportation situation which does present a bit of a conundrum for Kenney. It was our rural pioneers who set up co-operatives when they were not served or well served by large distant companies. They might have been free enterprise oriented, but living in harsh and difficult conditions they had to be practical and did not have the luxury of rigid ideology some of the most comfortable seem to prefer to wallow in these days. The combination of co-operatives and government ownership worked particularly well for small markets that were not well served. So too, I think the departure of Greyhound needs to cause us to think beyond the conventional mainstream rigid right wing ideological thinking that seems prevalent in Alberta. There is a reason there was a government owned bus company in neighbouring Saskatchewan and is seems like there may soon be a need to seriously consider it here too. It would be beneficial for rural Albertans, who Kenney and the UCP claim to represent. Will they see this or be blinded by rigid ideology?

    1. I don’t think that Kenney is necessarily nostalgic for the Empire due to where he grew up, not least because he spent his formative years in a small town in central Saskatchewan that appears to consist almost solely of a Catholic boarding school, rather than in Ontario. It’s always possible that central Sask is a hotbed of Orange Lodge recidivism, true. But I think that Kenney’s Catholicism would disincline him to hew too tightly to the Crown – the Queen is, after all, the head of another religion.

  4. Ok. First off, into the chaotic joke pit of what should be a serious blog? This for your patrons. Try the tabs! Critique it’s algorythmn! Now, to business! You’re a serious writer! A good if not great one! This blog is almost some dipshyte attempt at being the most aggravating pinterest link on earth! KISS! Searchable, text based commentary. Respect for commenters that you personally moderate! The Governor General’s award is yours! Currently? No joy, buddy boy!

    1. Before I can take you seriously, you should learn to both spell and construct sentences properly. It must be bewildering for you trying to make sense of grown-up discussion.

      You’re like the Grade 5 kids at the bottom of the class trying to upset the kids who actually paid attention. Bereft of knowledge, distrustful of anyone who can think, you now throw a pile of useless taunts at the grown-ups

      Your link to Nitwitz of America proves my point. All the jealous dunderheads come together there and try to help out the strugglers in their futile attempts to be logical rightwingers. Guess what? It does not work, and you’re the living proof.

        1. Bill; I have self deported to the fourth grade where not only am I excellent, I am the tallest! Thank you for the astoundingly good advice! I didn’t know you cared. Unfortunately, I still have an electronic device. It’s like the license to insert a disgusting verb before your name. I can’t do it, for reasons I don’t understand. Maybe you’ll teach me what I need to know in fifth grade?

        2. Bill; I have self deported to the fourth grade where not only am I excellent, I am the tallest! Thank you for the astoundingly good advice! I didn’t know you cared. Unfortunately, I still have an electronic device. It’s like the license to insert a disgusting verb before your name. I can’t do it, for reasons I don’t understand. Maybe you’ll teach me what I need to know in fifth grade? For you and pedants everywhere!

        3. A sentence? 30 days? 6 months? 10 years? Life? “Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;
          Who, though they cannot answer my distress,
          Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,
          For that they will not intercept my tale:
          When I do weep, they humbly at my feet
          Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;
          And, were they but attired in grave weeds,
          Rome could afford no tribune like to these.”

        4. You are missing an opportunity that comes once in a life time. I know you want some kind of crap that age bestows! Fuck that man! We’re in the fracking thick of it! Our lil’ chillun’ might not survive! Saddle up! Catholic! At least build a home for those who choose to take the last arrow!

        5. You are a really great human. Bonus! An excellent writer! Good lord thank you! Now, down to business! Us, we, the grade 4’s? We need you! We need you to clamber to a greater visibility! Our anarchic and juvenile ID will never achieve what a true and conscience bound observer can. Old is the new young! Take energy where you find it. Might you outlast Andrew Coyne? My vote? Yes!

  5. Just the other week I read about Greyhound both Canada and US, which have been subsidiaries of a Scottish company since 2007, because of my interest in Greyhound Australia (an entirely separate homegrown outfit). The latest US and Canadian Greyhound owner is headquartered in the oil capital of Aberdeen – it is an approx C$8 billion a year company called FirstGroup plc.

    First Group is a company that grew out of Thatcher’s privatization of the UK transport industry. It also runs a portion of the run down old British Rail, the current shambolic totality of which shows what happens when privateers run an essential service. No insight, minimal investment, and about zero hope of introducing advanced rail concepts.

    With no real Canadian or US ties, it’s a case of an absentee landlord gazing at only the bottom line of one small part of their empire. So exit a large part of Greyhound Canada. First Group also run a great many yellow school bus services where the business is dependable and presumably consistently profitable. Like Alberta, as well as Ontario.

    The company has tentacles everywhere. It operates many bus services in BC as well as Ontario and Quebec. Googling FirstGroup and following the links will give some idea of its scope.

    Is there any other Western country so completely owned by foreigners as Canada? And dead man Ford and Kenney The Brain are gung-ho for more business, flogging off what remains of our birthright.

  6. I am somewhat surprised that the British Government did no beat a path to his door to consult with Kenney on the negotiations given his apparent expertise in international economics.

  7. If I interpret your one statement correctly you believe the government buying the Trans Mountain pipeline is a result of the failure of the market, really? The federal government bought the pipeline in an attempt to save face and the pipeline after it bungled the approval process. Justin Trudeau obviously believes there are more votes and he has a better chance of re-election if the pipeline goes through.

    As for Greyhound, I am perplexed as to why this is an essential service. I have lived in the country all my life and never road on a Greyhound bus. I have certainly used it’s freight services but they have become less convenient over time. 25 years ago the nearest freight depot was 20 kms away, today the nearest depot is 60 kms away. As for the government providing a rural bus service, absolutely ludicrous! I think if there are certain isolated communities that can show the requirement of a bus service then the government should create a subsidization scale based on the remoteness of the community. Creating a whole new arm of government which owns the buses, the depots and employs all the workers is a non starter with me.

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