Alberta Politics
Some of the recent PressProgress stories that evidently got up premier-designate Jason Kenney’s nose (Photo: Screenshot of PressProgress story).

Irked by news site’s critical reports, Jason Kenney hints at retaliation as PressProgress fires back

Posted on April 24, 2019, 1:32 am
9 mins

Apparently the stenographic efforts of Postmedia’s Alberta newspapers as a virtual wing of the United Conservative Party campaign team were not enough for the victorious Jason Kenney, Alberta’s premier designate.

Journalists and publications that provided less obsequious coverage of the campaign leading up to the April 16 election will be attacked and, by the sound of it, silenced if possible.

William Aberhart, the Depression era politician who was the last Alberta Premier to try the old-fashioned way to control the media (Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta).

Buried deep in a rambling paean to Jason Kenney in Monday’s edition of the National Post, the flagship of the Postmedia newspaper chain, is a revealing attack on PressProgress.

It turns out Mr. Kenney is shocked and appalled the progressive news site broke a series of important hard news stories that detailed corruption, bigotry and extremism within UCP ranks. He is threatening to do something about it.

Meanwhile, PressProgress quickly shot back, comparing Mr. Kenney’s threats to those of Donald Trump and standing by “our fact-based, independent, reporting in Alberta.”

Have no doubt about it, the damning series of PressProgress reports were news stories, properly researched and edited, just like mainstream media used to publish.

Luckily for the premier-designate and his successful UCP campaigners, mainstream media largely ignored the PressProgress stories, or seriously underplayed them.

Nevertheless, the possibility that someone out there is disinclined to act like the tame stenographers touting the UCP line is cause for serious concern among the party’s leadership and its media cheerleaders.

Something must be done!

It’s hard to overstate the role PressProgress played in the election campaign that just concluded, and the magnitude of the challenges it presented for the UCP,” the author of the Post report observed, switching from hagiography to hand wringing.

“Many of the stories about UCP candidates that resulted in embarrassment, apologies or resignations originated on the PressProgress website and then trickled into mainstream outlets through social media,” the story continues.

A squinty-eyed U.S. President Donald Trump – is he the model for Jason Kenney’s attacks on an independent media? (Photo: Facebook).

Well, trickled is the right word. And never mind that the stories were accurate, else the lawsuits would be raining down. The Post’s scribe wants you to know PressProgress is published by the federal-NDP-leaning Broadbent Institute.

“Kenney said his civil libertarian instincts make him uneasy about the idea of media regulation,” the Post story continued, “but added, ‘having said that, it’s not a legit media outlet.’” (Emphasis added.)

And Postmedia is? Oh, give us a break!

Accusing PressProgress of functioning as a “de facto political third-party advertiser,” Mr. Kenney used his readily available Postmedia pulpit to attack this unsympathetic media operation.

“The NDP, if they can’t get mainstream media to pick up on their research, they just email it over to PressProgress to breathlessly write it up,” the Post quotes Mr. Kenney saying. (In reality, about 80 per cent of the stories PressProgress broke are said to have been leaked by Conservative insiders troubled by the ethical lapses of the crowd around Mr. Kenney. But this perception is an interesting commentary on the UCP’s cozy relationship with mainstream media in Alberta.)

Thereafter followed a predictable defence by the UCP leader of his 2017 leadership campaign’s role in the sleazy and possibly illegal “Kamikaze Mission” by another candidate, the sole purpose of which was to sink his principal rival, former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. Turns out the Kenney campaign strategists were just “sharing a few memes with another leadership candidate,” he explained.

But if that kind of sharing “constitutes a contribution, then running a full-time attack website, dumping NDP research into the campaign cycle definitely constitutes a campaign contribution,” Mr. Kenney opined. “So this is something that we will be looking at,” he warned.

Jason Kenney as he no doubt prefers to be seen and remembered (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In its statement yesterday, PressProgress described itself as “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces original reporting and analysis on important matters of public interest.

“The work of PressProgress – across a range of critical issues – has been cited as a reliable source by every major news outlet in Canada,” the statement continued. “Politicians often feel, as Mr. Kenney clearly does, that media have been unfair to them. Nobody in public office is immune from scrutiny, especially from the independent media.

“What’s not OK, as Donald Trump does on a daily basis, is threatening the media with retaliation. This is corrosive to public debate and to democracy itself.”

“We stand by our fact-based, independent, reporting in Alberta leading up to and during the 2019 Provincial Election,” PressProgress said. “Our investigative news stories about Jason Kenney’s leadership scandal helped bring to light allegations that are now under RCMP investigation. Our diligent research into candidates led to some being held accountable for deeply troubling comments and actions. Our well-researched fact checks of the UCP’s platform uncovered significant discrepancies.

“The ability for independent media to freely report on elections, as well as other areas of public interest and concern, must be upheld,” the PressProgress statement concluded.

One can never tell, but it’s unlikely Mr. Kenney’s bluster will amount to much in this case. The last time an Alberta government tried to control the media, the Lieutenant Governor refused to sign the bill. That was in 1937, well before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Well, perhaps Mr. Kenney will tear a leaf from the book of Premier William Aberhart and try to install an official censor in the PressProgress office in Ottawa.

Still, it’s worth noting, if it wasn’t already obvious, that what the Post called Mr. Kenney’s “civil libertarian instincts” don’t seem to extend to free expression and a free media when it’s not convenient to him.

As predicted in this space yesterday, Mr. Kenney is likely to prove to be a fund-raising bonanza for progressive and environmental organizations, charitable or otherwise.

By last night, PressProgress had sent a fund-raising email to its supporters noting Mr. Kenney’s attack and vowing not to take his “Trump-style move” lying down. “We will defend our journalistic freedom, because we are publishing stories Canadian need to know,” the email said, exhorting contributions to the PressProgress Journalism Defence Fund it set up yesterday morning.

11 Comments to: Irked by news site’s critical reports, Jason Kenney hints at retaliation as PressProgress fires back

  1. tom in ontario

    April 24th, 2019

    Jason’s hitmen and PressProgress officials could meet where he spent so many happy hours, his mom’s basement where they work out their differences over milk and chocolate chip cookies. The scolds at Postmedia might even cover it, if Kenney gives the OK.

    Reply
  2. ronmac

    April 24th, 2019

    Ironically, the recent federal budget is proposing a $500 million tax relief program spread over the next five years to support support struggling news gathering organizations. The feds outlined a complex set of criteria and it seems only large established brands like the National Post, the Toronto Star etc can take advantage while small web based alternative news sites like Press Progress operating on the margins are not eligible.

    Reply
  3. Simon Renouf

    April 24th, 2019

    Great post as always DC. I think you’re hobby is about to turn into a full-time avocation.

    I loved this quote: “. . . news stories that detailed corruption, bigotry and extremism within UCP ranks. He [Kenney] is threatening to do something about it.”

    Really? He’s finally going to do something about the corruption, bigotry and extremism within UCP ranks? Sorry, no. He’s going to do something about anyone reporting on the corruption, bigotry and extremism within UCP ranks.

    Reply
  4. Athabascan

    April 24th, 2019

    Remember folks, you voted for this – and more.

    Any day now we will be forced by law to place a sticker on our licence plates praising our beloved leader Kenney and rejecting the Carbon pricing. Those who don’t comply will be fined.

    Think it can’t happen? Check out Doug Ford’s Ontario.

    Reply
  5. Sid

    April 24th, 2019

    We should judge these media outlets based on their past journalistic balance and factual accuracy rather than prejudging them based on who controls them but I am curious. Who are the people behind PressProgress and Post Media?

    Reply
  6. Chris

    April 24th, 2019

    Calling Press Progress a “News Outlet” is a complete farce. Post Media may be biased, but there is a difference between bias and whatever Press Progress is. They are the Rebel Media of the left.

    Reply
  7. David

    April 24th, 2019

    It seems like Mr. Kenney is inclined to take a page out of Harper’s attempt to shut down environmental charities in an attempt to silence his most vocal critics. Gee that went so well for Harper! What could possibly go wrong here?

    I suppose this reflexive approach to shut down all criticism perhaps explains why the Libertarian side of the Federal Conservative party is not so happy and Mr. Bernier fled. Fortunately for Mr. Kenney while he has the Freedom Conservatives to contend with here, they are not much of a threat and probably will not come to the defense of a perceived left wing publication. However, there are two bigger problems for Kenney here.

    First, if he wants to try shut them down on the basis of being “third party” advertisers, the problem is the biggest third party advertisers were mostly supporting Kenney. Perhaps he no longer needs the Used Car Dealers and all the rest or just does not want to be known as the leader of the Used Car Party and can live with that. However, if successful wouldn’t the same rules apply to various Conservative leaning media – Rebel Media for sure and judging by most of their columns, likely the Sun, and certainly a number of columnists for the Post-mortal media. Does Mr. Kenney really want to start to go down this path?

    Second, even if it tried I think it is most likely the Alberta government would lose a court challenge on this, on the basis of freedom of speech or freedom of the press or maybe both. I suppose that loss would nicely compliment the likely loss of the challenge to the Federal carbon tax. Does Mr. Kenney really want to get a reputation as the Don Quixote of Alberta politics, tilting at all these political windmills? I am not an expert about the psychology of Alberta Conservatives, but I have observed this much, they like winning a lot and they really hate losing and losers. The last prominent Alberta politician who was obsessed with losing court cases, Stockwell Day, was gently eased out of Klein’s government so he could continue losing instead on the Federal level, far away from Edmonton and Alberta.

    I don’t know if Mr. Kenney reads this, probably not, but I hope common sense will prevail here. If not, I suspect the courts probably will.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      April 25th, 2019

      “ …Does Mr. Kenney really want to get a reputation as the Don Quixote of Alberta politics, tilting at all these political windmills?” … well, there’s this: Kenney ran on a platform of “jobs, jobs, jobs”… so this effort will certainly create jobs for constitutional lawyers … maybe he’ll hire David Khan lol …

      Reply
  8. Albertan

    April 24th, 2019

    And then there’s, ‘The Tyee.’ (www.thetyee.ca)
    ……lots of stuff on Jason Kenney there (i.e.go to Google and type in ‘the tyee on Jason Kenney’) and read all about it.
    …wonder if Kenney will go after ‘the tyee’ as well.

    Reply
  9. Jim

    April 25th, 2019

    Does anyone believe or trust the mainstream corporate media anymore? The fact that Trudeau is bailing them out with our tax dollars is just shameful. They still won’t love you Justin no matter how much taxpayer money you throw at them.
    Trump attacks the media because well he is right and has been proven right. South of the border the MSM just spent 2 and a half years pushing the Russian collusion hoax. Good job there almost certainly ensuring a second term for him. They could have reported on what he actually has done or more importantly hasn’t done and it would have been much worse.
    I have found Pressprogress quite good they really are what a news organization should be, certainly more professional than the rebel. Should the rebel be silenced? No of course not they have their right to free speech just like anyone else.
    Extremism tends to always go towards authoritarianism whether it is left or right and Kenney is clearly showing he leans towards the extreme. In the age of the Internet trying to cover up and silence dissenting opinions and facts doesn’t work, Kenney will discover this. Finally Kenney clearly doesn’t know what libertarianism is if he thinks he even remotely resembles it. One of the advantages of never having a real job your entire past is a matter of public record and a libertarian he ain’t.

    Reply
  10. Dwayne

    April 26th, 2019

    This article states that the last time the government tried to control the media was 1937. Seems like Press Progress, in their NDP biased style of journalism, forgot to mention that Rachel Notley’s NDP Party banned an unfriendly media outlet in February 2016. Press Progress is the left wing equivalent of the Rebel media. Not unbiased reporting, just op-eds.

    Reply

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