Alberta Politics
Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As Edmonton and Ottawa awake to Jason Kenney’s (un)diplomatic funny business, stuff starts hitting the fan

Posted on September 19, 2018, 1:16 am
11 mins

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney and two of his MLAs are running around India again today acting as if they are representatives of the governments of both Canada and Alberta.

Officials of the provincial government in Edmonton and the federal government in Ottawa appear to have been so nonplussed by the United Conservative Party leader’s overseas shenanigans that it took them a few days to react.

Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney in a snap from his 2018 holiday photo album (Photo: Facebook).

Now that the nature of Mr. Kenney’s activities abroad are starting to sink in – not to mention the sneaky and arrogant way he informed the Alberta Government about the details of his plans after he had departed – the official reaction is taking on a sharper tone.

It would not be surprising if it gets harsher still as the overseas dog and pony show ginned up by Mr. Kenney, UCP Energy Critic Prasad Panda and Trade Critic Devin Dreeshen continues, at least if there are more Tweets from Indian officials who have either been led to believe Mr. Kenney is a minister of the Crown or are co-operating with the charade.

“Kenney’s never shared his trade policy with Albertans,” Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous told reporters at the Legislature yesterday afternoon as the antics of the three UCP amigos began to appear on social media and in Indian publications. “Is that arrogant, or is that dishonest?”

“We’ve already seen he’s letting Indian Government officials believe he’s a minister representing the Alberta Government. Is that arrogant, and dishonest?

“And he’s presenting himself to the Indian Government as the next premier of Alberta. Without giving voters the chance to decide. Is that not arrogant and dishonest?”

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Considering the amount of trade that we do with India,” Mr. Bilous went on, “he has the potential to cause a lot of confusion.”

As a consequence, the minister added, “we’ve directed our Alberta trade office to do damage control, correcting the record wherever we can. So they will be doing follow-up conversations with all of the officials that Mr. Kenney meets.”

Mr. Bilous also referenced Mr. Kenney’s statements about international relations – a responsibility of the federal government the Opposition leader is no longer a part of, and which is now led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Mr. Kenney’s making statements about international relationships with Iran, and he’s making statements about Canadian political leaders,” Mr. Bilous said. “Now, he might miss his old job in Ottawa, or maybe he’s auditioning for a new job in Ottawa, but whatever he’s up to, he’s putting his own interests first, and not the interest of Alberta.”

Such activities by the leader of a sub-national opposition party are unprecedented, Mr. Bilous noted. “What’s a concern is if he is speaking on behalf of the government of Alberta, or if there is confusion around his role or his position. For Mr. Kenney to be commenting on Canada’s position on international relations … that’s outside of his jurisdiction to speak on behalf of the Government of Canada.”

Having bigger fish to fry in Washington just now, neither Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland nor Global Affairs Canada have yet responded directly to Mr. Kenney’s activities, although one expects they may soon have to. As Mr. Bilous pointed out to the media, no one really knows what Mr. Kenney is saying or what, if anything, he told federal officials about his trip.

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason a decade ago when he was Alberta NDP leader visiting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Alberta officials say Mr. Kenney contacted the government on Wednesday last week to inform it of the upcoming trip. He had a conversation that day with Minister Bilous in which he promised to send an itinerary immediately that would show whom he would be meeting, and when.

The itinerary, however, didn’t show up until late Friday, after the three UCPers had already left the country. No one in either Canadian government knows who in India issued the invitation to the three, or if they invited themselves.

Mr. Kenney did tell Mr. Bilous in their phone conversation that it was important for him and his MLAs to visit India because he’ll be forming a government next spring – something that could happen, but illustrating a degree of arrogance that goes somewhat beyond even traditional Alberta Conservative levels of entitlement!

Regardless, with the itinerary finally in hand, the Alberta government sent copies to Global Affairs Canada and Minister Freeland’s office. An official in Edmonton said there is no indication either was aware of Mr. Kenney’s specific plans before that.

“At the moment, his office is as the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and he doesn’t speak on behalf of the Government of Alberta and he doesn’t speak on behalf of the Government of Canada,” Mr. Bilous said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose far-right Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is a leading light in the International Democrat Union led by former Canadian PM Stephen Harper (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

“We’re not about to let this visit of Mr. Kenney’s potentially damage the Government of Alberta’s … relationship with India,” the minister added. “That’s why our Alberta office will be following up with every single person that Mr. Kenney meets with in order to clarify our position, our priorities, and also to clarify Mr. Kenney’s authority with which he is attempting to speak.”

Earlier yesterday, NDP Transportation Minister and former leader Brian Mason suggested to reporters the UCP trio is breaking the rules of the Legislature by using party funds to pay for a trip in which they are conducting business as elected officials. He said he is considering filing a complaint with the Ethics Commissioner about Mr. Kenney’s activities.

“He’s either there on an approved trip as the leader of the Official Opposition, in which case he’s not entitled … to take outside money, to be funded by partisan donations, or he’s going there as a private individual and not doing government business,” Mr. Mason was quoted as saying in a CBC report. “He can’t have it both ways.”

Recalling his own visit with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a decade ago, Mr. Mason described how he sought the permission of the Speaker to make the visit to study the state’s royalty regime, and how only as a result of that approval was he permitted to represent himself as an Alberta MLA while in Alaska.

The CBC story also noted how despite his frequent criticism of NDP tax policies, Mr. Kenney has been boasting to Indian media about the province’s low tax rates. “I think he should add on a line that says, ‘Thank you, Premier Notley and the government of Alberta in ensuring that Alberta continues to be the most competitive jurisdiction in Canada and one of the most competitive in the world’,” Mr. Bilous observed in yesterday afternoon’s scrum.

“Mr. Kenney is saying one thing to Albertans and another to an international audience,” Mr. Bilous noted.

Albertans should now stand by for all of Postmedia’s anti-NDP Alberta political columnists – which is all four of them – to pen stories in the next 24 hours defending Mr. Kenney’s activities in India.

And Canadians can expect this entire production to be repeated next month when federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer makes his own unauthorized nine-day trip to India.

Mr. Scheer has not yet released an itinerary, but what do you want to bet many of the officials he meets will be the same ones met by Mr. Kenney, associated with the far-right Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (which translates as Indian People’s Party).

It is only a coincidence, presumably, that the BJP is a member of the Munich-based International Democrat Union headed by Stephen Harper, who as Conservative prime minister included both Mr. Kenney and Mr. Scheer among his acolytes.

8 Comments to: As Edmonton and Ottawa awake to Jason Kenney’s (un)diplomatic funny business, stuff starts hitting the fan

  1. tom in ontario

    September 19th, 2018

    One photo we won’t see is Jason stuffing his face Stampede style with Alberta beefburgers in the presence of his new found Hindu pals.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    September 19th, 2018

    Who does Kenney think he is John Kerry? At least in the US there is the Logan act. I remember some blogger bringing up the need for a Canadian Logan act, he might have been on to something there. It also makes us look really bad on a global level and undermines those that have been elected to represent us.

    Interesting that Devin MAGA Dreeshan is on the trip given the outcry over Kerry’s activities by that crowd.

    Reply
    • Alain Pascal

      September 20th, 2018

      exactly.

      Reply
  3. ronmac

    September 19th, 2018

    Maybe a new protocol should be established in these matters. Visiting opposition politicians should only be allowed to meet with opposition politicians of the host countries. So when a visitor proudly proclaims they will soon be forming the next government, the host can counter, “What a coincidence! We also will be forming the next government!”

    In this way, both parties will be getting a leg up in any future negotiations in their capacity as government officials.

    Reply
  4. Albertan

    September 19th, 2018

    Unfortunately, this type of ‘shadiness’ is supported by Kenney’s/Harper’s/ Ford’s/Trump’s base-style. I am very familiar with this sort of thing being raised in a right wing, capitalist, calvinist, so-called christian Alberta family….anything to ‘win’ and ‘make a buck.’
    One can only imagine the pissing and moaning if the NDP, in opposition, would pull off this sort of thing….wait, they’re too polite, respectful, nice, or whatever…..
    Perhaps it’s more: “Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running a different race,” a more respectful race? Perhaps, this skulldug right wing style of politics needs to play out with hard lessons learned just as the 40 + years of bungle by the AB Conservatives, the obvious removal of Harper in 2015 and the now, obvious dinosaur politics going on in Ontario and the USA.

    Reply
    • Alain Pascal

      September 20th, 2018

      Anything to ‘win’, that is exactly their attitude, there is no morality in it.

      Reply
  5. Alain Pascal

    September 20th, 2018

    It is called misrepresentation both at federal and provincial level, it is a felony, someone should press charges.

    Reply
  6. David

    September 25th, 2018

    This whole thing seems rather odd, maybe this is something only insiders understand or could explain, first – starting with what is it about Kenney, the middle aged white guy and his affinity for India and other south east asian voting blocks?

    Second, trips abroad tend to be more a Federal thing than a provincial thing. There are so many things that Kenney does that seem to go beyond provincial politics – did he not get the memo that he is no longer a Federal cabinet minister and the Federal government he was part of was soundly defeated several years ago? I sense he is living in the past, perhaps he wants to make Canada great again or something like that. Perhaps Kenney is like the Norma Desmond of Alberta politics and we are all unwitting extras in his version of Sunset Boulevard and his plans for a big comeback.

    Third, most of the out of country travel done by provincial officials is usually done by you know, government officials. Mr. Kenney is currently, as Premier Notley correctly pointed out, the Minister of Nothing. Now I know that the Conservatives liked to make fun of the Prime Minister and his trip to India that seemed a bit directionless but had nice costumes. However, I don’t think Kenney could conduct much if any real business as Minister of Nothing and his costume of choice – western business attire, might appeal more to Conservative voters, but at its root isn’t Kenney’s trip similar to what the Conservatives criticized Trudeau for – a trip even more about nothing, but with more conventional costumes to appeal to the voters back home.

    The fourth and oddest thing about Kenney’s trip is all the nice things he had to say about Alberta and its economy while there. This seems to be quite a change from his doom and gloom/the sky is falling message he has peddled for quite a while back home. Maybe Kenney has come to a somewhat belated realization that things are not so bad or that sunny ways are more appealing to voters than dour and dark ways.

    Anyways, I suppose there will be a bit of clean up work for the Alberta government to explain to all those Indian people that Kenney met that they were talking to the Minister of Nothing. If the Prime Minister’s somewhat odd trip to India didn’t totally confuse the people of India, this latest visit by the Minister of Nothing is sure to do so. Maybe the best move now is for Canadian politicians to resist the urge to visit India for a while, particularly those that have no real business there.

    Reply

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