The home of the Board of Internal Economy as seen by those who have already gone to Hull (Photo: Coolcaesar, Creative Commons).

CALGARY – Jason Kenney’s been in power for less than a week and already his election promises are falling like dominoes.*

Yesterday, another wobbled when the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government has the power to establish limits on greenhouse gas production that provinces must meet, and to establish a carbon tax if they won’t meet them.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, himself once a denizen of the House of Commons in Ottawa (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, it wasn’t Mr. Kenney’s legal bid to overturn Ottawa’s carbon tax that was dismissed, it was the Saskatchewan government’s. But the Alberta premier has promised to use taxpayers’ supposedly limited money to launch his own appeal of the same federal legislation with the same arguments, the same likely outcome, and the same goal – to wit, to play partisan politics against the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The court’s ruling was a split decision, so it can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, giving Mr. Kenney and his fellow Conservative provincial chapter leaders opportunity to throw additional roadblocks in the way of the federal policy – just as they accuse B.C. Premier John Horgan of doing to ruin their Trans Mountain pipedream.

But onto every rain-soaked head a little sun must shine, and there was good news for Mr. Kenney yesterday as well.

Canadian economist Jim Stanford (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I speak, of course, of the announcement by the Board of Internal Economy, the quaintly named committee responsible for the financial and administrative affairs of the House of Commons, that it has completed its examination of Mr. Kenney’s claim a room in his mother’s Calgary nursing home was his principal residence while he was an MP, and therefore that it was OK for him to claim $10,000 a year from 2012 to 2015 to maintain a “secondary” residence in Ottawa.

According to the CBC, the committee “cleared Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of any wrongdoing.”

This assertion is subject to debate. A more accurate summary would be that the board – which, notwithstanding numerous headlines to this effect, is obviously no “watchdog” – determined that no rules were broken.

There is a subtle but important distinction between “there was no wrongdoing” and “no rules were broken.” It is the difference between “not guilty” and the useful third verdict available in what we used to call Scotch Law, “not proven.”

The unavoidable conclusion to any Canadian remotely familiar with the circumstances of Premier Kenney’s residential arrangements during his years as a Conservative MP for Calgary is that the “rules” of the Board of Internal Inquiry, such as they are, amount to no rules at all when it comes to living expenses for MPs from outside the region around Ottawa.

No ethical person, even if they really did live in their mom’s basement, would have claimed their principal residence in Ottawa was their secondary residence in order to cash in on the generous secondary housing allowance available to MPs. That the rules were so loosey-goosey it could be done is, as my mama used to say, no excuse.

Clearly, the House of Commons’ efforts to make its members behave ethically are only aspirational and amount to the sort of self-regulation the Kenney Government advocates for the corporate sector.

Nevertheless, we’re bound to hear soon – probably in the breathless stenography of some award-winning Postmedia columnist – that Premier Kenney has been “vindicated” in this sorry affair.

But let us not relitigate that point, but move on to what other rules must have been broken.

After all, Mr. Kenney has only been vindicated in the way U.S. President Donald Trump was vindicated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. That is, plenty of actual rules were broken even if the Board of Internal Inquiry was not mandated to look into them.

For example, the Calgary facility in which Mr. Kenney claims to have rented a basement room in his mother’s suite is known not to permit sub-letting.

So if he were sub-letting the space, as he claims, he was breaking that rule. And if he wasn’t, and was lying about it, he was breaking one of the Ten Commandments, a set of rules said to be mandated by a higher authority than that of the Board of Internal Economy.

In addition, the seniors’ residence in question doesn’t allow non-seniors to reside there permanently – another rule broken, unless Mr. Kenney and the Wikipedia alike are lying about his age.

Moreover, when he donated money to his bromantic partner Doug Ford’s Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, which was illegal unless he happened to be a resident of Ontario, he was breaking Ontario election law if he was telling the truth to the House of Commons when he famously checked with officials to ensure his housing claim was within the rules.

Mr. Kenney really can’t have this both ways. Either he was breaking the Ontario law, or he wasn’t – in which case he was lying about where his principal residence was located. Either way, since he never seems to have owned up to breaking Ontario law, the premier’s actions in Ottawa do not pass the ethical sniff test.

And by the way, the operator of the maternal nursing home, like all such companies, would have received a significant grant from the province of Alberta to build the place. So, in effect, even if Mr. Kenney told the truth, his was mooching off both the provincial and federal governments!

Vindication? I think not.

*I would love to take credit for this great line, but as an ethical blogger, I cannot. It belongs to the well-known Canadian economist and author Jim Stanford, now a resident of Australia, who used it an informative talk in Calgary yesterday on the similarities between the Canadian fur trade of the 17th to the 19th centuries and the Canadian fossil fuel trade of the 20th and 21st. “Canada is never going to run out of oil, just like it never ran out of beavers,” Dr. Stanford observed. I plan to write a post on Dr. Stanford’s thoughtful presentation, but since he speaks extemporaneously as well as forcefully, I will need some time to transcribe a recording. DJC

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  1. Jason Kenney knew all along that he could weasel out of this since the “rules” allow sleazy politicians to line their pockets.

    Mike Duffy played that game too, but even he eventually had to crawl back under a rock. Hopefully the same happens to Kenney.

  2. David, on the topic of Jason Kenney’s housing ethics, I really loved the column you wrote when this issue first came out.
    It was about the CTF director’s take on the ‘no rules were broken’ defense when a similar issue surfaced with Alberta politicians about 20 years ago. Could you post a link to it, please?

  3. I’m looking forward to the post on the Jim Stanford talk. It just so happens I’ve been thinking about the fur trade for awhile now in the historical context as it relates to fossil fuel extraction. With energy prices going the way they are, a beaver pelt may be worth more than a barrel of oil pretty soon. Which may be a good thing since it will mean Jason Kenney will be spending most of his time in the halls of Europe demanding carte blanche entrance for Albertan fur and threatening to blowup anyone who opposes him.

  4. Not to pull a JK on you, but “Scotch Law” is “proofed,” Scottish Law is “not proven.” Wouldn’t want to allow mere sobriety to be a viable excuse.

    1. I respectfully disagree, Scotty. I think the politically correct term of art is Scots Law nowadays, but Scotch law is respectable and has a long tradition to support it, including among Scottish lawyers, one of whom taught me about it using that term. It is from this aspect of the Scottish legal tradition, by the way, that we get the expression, “he got off Scot free,” which doesn’t mean the accused suffered no approbation from the reasonable assumption he was in fact guilty, merely that there wasn’t sufficient evidence for a court of law to find him so. DJC

    1. Chris: Dr.Stanford spoke to the biennial convention of the Alberta Federation of Labour in Calgary. DJC

  5. Pursuing Mr. Kenney’s illegal residence claims further would put the Federal Liberals in an awkward position right now. It would probably result in an all out war with Kenney, and now that he is a provincial premier and they have to some how try deal with this difficult pipeline issue, I suspect it was decided not to pursue it further. It is interesting how people in positions of power get away with things others wouldn’t these days and the Conservatives and Mr. Kenney are as guilty of it as those they often throw accusations at. Is it any wonder voters are so cynical and angry these days.

    Well as long is Mr. Kenney is not so stupid to rent out his new Edmonton accommodation on AirBnb (unlike another former UCP MLA), he should be fine on that issue in the future. Even ole Mike Duffy seemed to wiggle out of the huge double dipping housing scandal he found himself in and when Harper tried to bring Duffy down over it, it worked out Duffy was the survivor instead, not Harper. Obviously the Ottawa housing rules are very flexible and Conservative politicians in particular seem to have no qualms about taking a lot of money most people would feel they are not entitled to.

    However, I think Kenney’s greater legal concerns relate to all the shenanigans in the UCP leadership race. There are still ongoing investigations of that one and a lot of things happened there that are questionable and it involved a lot of people, some of whom are facing fines and charges. They may not all be as supportive of Mr. Kenney as his mother was on the housing issue.

    Interestingly out of this housing/residence debacle, Mr. Kenney i notice Kenney has something in common with SNC Lavalin, a dubious distinction – they both seem to have made illegal campaign donations. The Liberals and Conservatives both paid back those donations to SNC, which go back to 2011 or so and before the current leaders were in charge of their parties. I wonder if the Ontario PC’s have gotten around to returning the money they more recently received illegally from Mr. Kenney. Maybe that is another Kenney scandal and perhaps a Ford one too.

  6. .. Jason Kenney PURCHASED and ‘lived in’ a condo within walking distance of OUR Parliament buildings.. and the after hours steak houses, beaneries, salad bars, juke joints frequented by elected and unelected ‘public servants’ WE paid salaries and pensions to… You know.. the likes of Andrew Scheer, Ray Novak, Rob Anders, Duffy, Poilievre, Tony the weenie wagger Clement & an ‘environmental’ pylon Minister named Peter Kent. The same feeding places as MainMedia.. and the punditry, lobbyists, and electoral wankers & crankers chowed down at.

    Does anyone deny this.. ? That is a black & white ‘YES/NO’ question. Jason Kenney purchased that condo – he lived in it – he sold it. He also declains with ‘he lived as a Senior Minister in hotels’ – does anyone care to dispute that (yes/no) ???

    Yes yes.. his mommy & daddy’s place – Calgary .. blah blah woof woof.. looking after them.. and a blue pickup truck.. saving his virginity for the right saintly virgin lady… oh deary me.. horseshit salad & hold the lettuce and tomato, thanks

    Death threats to the intrepid journo who dared track Jason Kenney’s expenses sucking greedily on the teat of Canadian taxpayers.. for how many years ?????

  7. RE: The Salamander’s point – Did Jason Kenney claim that the condo in Ottawa was his principal residence when he sold it? Or did he pay taxes on it as a secondary residence? Anyone know?
    Maybe Mr. Kenney would like to share his tax reporting for the year of the sale.

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