Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney, Alberta’s thin-skinned head of government (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Sarcasm does not become a premier — especially as our placid boreal Dominion grows less gelid by the day

Posted on September 13, 2019, 1:51 am
8 mins

Methinks the premier doth protest too much!

What else can we say about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s bizarre 2,330-word public letter yesterday to Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada, attacking Mr. Neve, the organization he leads, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, the Soviet Union, the Saudi royal family, the Qatari royal family, the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, OPEC, “eco-colonialists,” the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, Canadian environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, the Tar Sands Campaign, and maybe the Internet too?

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International, who obviously knows how to get up Mr. Kenney’s sensitive nose (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well … first this: Sarcasm does not become a premier.

Especially, if I may be so bold, a Conservative premier.

There was a day when Alberta’s Progressive Conservative premiers ignored what they deemed to be unfair or unreasonable criticism with dignified, even stately, silence. Which, more often than not, was any criticism at all. For most of 44 years, this worked magnificently.

Ignoring criticism is not our hypersensitive premier’s thing, obviously.

Apparently stung to the core by Mr. Neve’s thoughtful open letter Tuesday about the dangers he sees with the United Conservative Party’s strategy of “war rooms” and inquiries that decide first and interrogate witnesses later, Mr. Kenney responded with a full-blown squalling tantrum, a malediction worthy of one of those poor nuts who in the normal course of governing a province like Alberta send their loopy fulminations to the politicians who occupy Mr. Kenney’s current office.

Canadian environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, just one name on Mr. Kenney’s growing Enemies List (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Instead of strategic dignity, Mr. Kenney opted for a barrage of bitterness and sarcasm — all published on the official government website.

“I understand it must be hard for you,” he derisively told Mr. Neve as if they were arguing on the steps of the Legislature. “When you look around the world and see the rise of authoritarian governments, civil war, human trafficking, genocide, and other gross violations of human rights, it must be a tall order to find something, anything to denounce here in our gelid but placid Dominion.”

Alas, our placid Dominion along with the rest of the planet is becoming less gelid by the minute, and it turns out that’s a problem raised by Mr. Neve in his letter that Mr. Kenney and his government would really prefer not to confront. So a strategy of drawing more attention to what Mr. Neve had to say, and, inevitably, engaging more readers who may agree with the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, is probably not the best way to achieve the premier’s objectives.

Better from Mr. Kenney’s perspective, perhaps, to have ignored Mr. Neve’s criticism with a hyperboreal chill worthy of Peter Lougheed, who knew how to do that sort of thing. If I were the premier, I’d leave sarcasm to what he calls Bohemian Marxists with blogs!

Well, this is what happens when a thin-skinned control freak gets into the premier’s office and makes his communications staff hand over the password to the provincial website’s content management system!

And who can doubt Mr. Kenney wrote this by himself? It has the sophomoric ring of a man, thesaurus in hand, who left college in a huff and privately wishes he hadn’t. Well, he has the National Post fooled, at least. It re-published the entire thing for the edification of the nation.

Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who’s looking a little bilious lately (Photo: Screenshot of Conservative Party of Canada video).

It’s becoming glaringly obvious that Mr. Kenney, though a campaigner of undoubted talent, is as batty as Donald Trump, and possibly less charming! Whatever role he played to the Court of Stephen Harper (jester?) it couldn’t have been his thoughtful counsel on diplomacy or conciliation the boss was seeking out.

In order to harness his energy and talent without smashing the crockery, Mr. Harper clearly kept him firmly under his thumb. It must have been exhausting! No wonder the former Conservative prime minister looks a little bilious of late.

Mr. Kenney has now revealed a conspiratorial turn of mind that doesn’t seem entirely healthy, and for which the traditional journalistic prescription is to brusquely instruct the afflicted to go forth in search of a tinfoil cap.

“As for the rest of your accusations and insinuations,” the premier screeched at Mr. Neve, “they only make sense if you deny that there is a well-funded campaign against Alberta’s natural resource industry and a concomitant need to rebut it. This would be the campaign that you dismiss as ‘vague conspiracy theories about the hidden goals of U.S. based foundations.’ I assure that if their goals are hidden it is because they have worked hard to keep them that way.” (Emphasis added.)

This is, shall we say … unlikely, undignified and possibly unhinged.

And don’t forget that Mr. Kenney is the man federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has asked to replace Doug Ford on the campaign trail because the Ontario premier nowadays arouses too much hostility among the vote-rich province’s citizenry. The mind reels.

It’s hard to imagine to whom this denunciation is supposed to appeal. The bitterest denizens of Calgary’s oil towers, one supposes. The truly desperate who wish the inevitable decline of fossil fuels as a commodity could be staved off another century, perhaps.

The premier obviously knows many Canadians regard Mr. Neve as a thoughtful man, and Amnesty International remains a respected organization, even though the premier is no longer president of his high school Amnesty club. Nothing in his screed changes that.

Indeed, the secretary general of AI Canada can now safely rest his case, confident the jury’s on his side.

Mr. Kenney has only been in power for four and a half months. He still enjoys a post-election honeymoon with voters. He has a powerful mandate to do whatever he pleases. Isn’t it a little soon for him to jump the shark?

19 Comments to: Sarcasm does not become a premier — especially as our placid boreal Dominion grows less gelid by the day

  1. Dave

    September 13th, 2019

    I would say our Premier is becoming a bit cranky. Perhaps he thought winning the Premiership would bring him more adulation or maybe unexpected criticism from this particular organization hit a raw nerve. Whatever the case, it seems to have provoked quite a reaction.

    My observation is Mr. Kenney is at his best in three situations. One is opposition. In some ways he already acts more like the Federal Conservative leader than Scheer. A second is talking to the true believers and a third is with a less partisan, but somewhat friendly crowd, lets call that the curry in a hurry crowd. Of course, Mr. Harper couldn’t give him the first role when in government and the second had some dangers, so he kept him as busy as possible with the third role.

    Now Mr. Kenney is back in government and not in a best supporting role, but a buck stops here role. If his steathily planned cuts go sideways and I think they probably will, you know whose popularity will take a hit. It will not be Harper, Notley or Trudeau who Albertans will blame.

    Mr. Kenney’s thin skinned and over the top response may go over ok in Alberta, where mainstream newspapers often publish stories about environmentalist conspiracies. However, a few more of these diatribes and more people outside Alberta will start to look at Mr. Kenney as possibly being a bit kooky in an Aberhart kind of way. That will not be helpful for Mr. Kenney’s chances if he decides to throw his hat in the ring when the Federal Conservatives have the need to replace Scheer.

    • Janna

      September 13th, 2019

      I wish you were right that Albertans would blame Kenney and not Notley and Trudeau. I don’t believe that Albertans have drunk so much Conservative Kool-Aid, it’s always the Liberals and NDP fault, no matter what. Always. Kenney will get away with this, with his base anyway. And that base is large in Alberta.

    • Death and Gravity

      September 16th, 2019

      I think the author is right about Kenney, but wrong about Albertans. He states “it will not be … Notley or Trudeau who Albertans will blame”. I predict otherwise. Albertans will blame Notley and Trudeau for the consequences of implementing Kenney’s ideological position, just as they blamed them for the price of oil, and the very existence of other interests within the Canadian body politic.

  2. Public Servant

    September 13th, 2019

    Jason Kenney is more interested in settling old scores and pandering to his base than he is in governing. His daily childish outbursts do nothing for Alberta and make him (and our province) look silly.

    We can only hope that he will get to work once the federal election is over (when he’s finished campaigning on our dime).

    • Kang

      September 13th, 2019

      Public Servant: Sorry to disagree, but look at the wreckage from M. Kenney and his clan already: just the Edmonton medical lab alone should be enough to qualify all of them for dismissal.

      You may note that the price of Western Canada Select (tar with solvent) is still falling. Perhaps that is the reason for his petulant frustration. The less the UCP do, the better off we will all be.

  3. Athabascan

    September 13th, 2019

    Buckle up Alberta. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Just wait until he drops his budget after the federal election. Let’s see what impact this will have on jobs, real estate values, and pre-Christmas retail sales shall we?

    Albertans voted for austerity, and that’s what they’ll get.

  4. tom in ontario

    September 13th, 2019

    I see no exhortation in the Premier’s letter that Mr. Neve and the rest of us Eastern Bastards should freeze in the dark. Maybe next time.

    • Bob Raynard

      September 14th, 2019

      Actually, Tom, you Eastern Bastards need to gelid in the dark!

  5. Sam Gunsch

    September 13th, 2019

    re: ‘a full-blown squalling tantrum,’

    Our own Made-In-Canada mini-Trump? But with a bigger vocabulary enabling more pompous adolescent takes?

    Language Expert: Donald Trump’s Way Of Speaking Is ‘Oddly Adolescent’ | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

    • Jerrymacgp

      September 14th, 2019

      How about Donald Trump with Rex Murphy’s vocabulary?

  6. Geoffrey Pounder

    September 13th, 2019

    Kenney’s screed is clearly targetted at his base. Not that UCP lugnuts need any convincing.

    No need for an inquiry, I guess. Premier Kenney has already made up his mind.
    Kenney’s snide rant is full of errors. Vivian Krause’s morass of fallacies stand out. Kenney has taken on Krause’s conspiracy theory lock, stock, and barrel.
    Kenney completely dismisses homegrown opposition, including First Nations opposition, to oilsands expansion and pipelines. According to him, it’s all about foreign billionaires and foreign-funded special interests.

    Never mind that the funding provided by U.S. foundations like Tides represented a small fraction of Canadian ENGOs’ budgets. Most of them get most of their funding dollars from ordinary Canadians from coast to coast.
    Never mind that U.S. foundations provide far more funding to U.S. ENGOs to oppose U.S. pipelines and projects.
    Never mind that funding from U.S. foundations represented a small fraction of Canadian ENGOs’ budgets. The bulk of their funding comes from ordinary Canadians.
    Without U.S. foundation funding, would Canadian ENGOs have acted any differently? Would Canadian ENGOs support oilsands and pipelines? Pure fantasy.
    Climate change is a global issue. Why would ENGOs refuse U.S. funding for work they were already doing?

    If Kenney already has all the answers, he could save taxpayers $2.5 million and cancel his pointless inquiry.

  7. Bill Malcolm

    September 13th, 2019

    Kenney, the gift that keeps on giving, squawk, splutter, screech, turn red with utter outrage.

    That list of countries and people he derided was so long, I expected to see DJC’s name in it. But apparently he’s already been tagged as a Bohemian Marxist. If the plump cherub of change makes it down Halifax way to prop up Down Home Andy trying to give a halting speech from illegible notes, I shall have to put on my best suit and infiltrate the proceedings. Did it almost fifty years ago in Greece, when right wing colonels were in charge. I met one and had a lovely personal high speed cabin cruiser boat tour of Piraeus harbour complete with much derision for the hoi polloi on shore. “That’s why we have live soccer matches on TV every day – keeps ’em happy” My backpack I had left at a friend’s before showing up. Since all the other Western youth backpacking Greece had long hair, beards and ratty demims, they got hassled. There’s a lot more to the overall story, but another time. Heh, heh. Yup, if you can knot a decent tie you too can meet Cons to see how their minds tick. They’ll be more than forthcoming if they think you’re one of them.

    I see harper has now physically styled himself after Conrad Black, a not unreasonable clone actually, a physical hologram of that unbiased historian/author of past Great Battles, where none of the Big Names ever met HIS standards. Perish the thought. But still, to preserve the higher plane of consciousness a first-rate Conservative mind possesses, one must support lesser lights’ mediocre performances now and then, no matter how distasteful the task is. I rather think Kenney looks vulnerable to being teased and provoked by a wily Opposition. Apparently an over-the-top unreasonable rant can be rustled up in an instant. On cue, as it were. Well! I’m sure a wise old BARON Black of Crossharbour would counsel a cup of tea and some nice chocolate biccies, followed by two Valium several hours before composing a response in future. “Calm down, Keeney! Or is it Kenney? One forgets small details. You’re queering the pitch! Unacceptable for one supposedly of the clan.”, I imagine him advising in a voice as hard as ice.

    That might keep our budding demagogue from again yelling so soon into his tenure. Otherwise, we’ve all got to put up with trash talk for ever, I suppose.

  8. Sheldon

    September 13th, 2019

    Rather than tolerating opposing opinion Mr Kenny is following the example of the American President. First, make an unreasonable and contentious statement. Then when there is pushback ratchet up the indignation, the resentment and attack and attack again. Never admit there is any other position but your own.

    The Premier forgets he is meant to represent all Albertans, not just the people who think confrontation is good government.

  9. pogo

    September 13th, 2019

    I await the return of John Baird! Where is he when we need him the least! th UCP

  10. Jay

    September 13th, 2019

    Me thinks this is Premier Kenney’s awkward way of telling organizations whom he believes are criticizing Alberta to bugger off.
    Over the last few years, it’s true many Albertans are tired of being criticized or picked on by those who want to have a say in their provincial affairs, yet they truly don’t. I agree it would be best to ignore it all. It’s difficult to persuade a very grumpy Alberta Bear to not ignore this.
    I’m surprised Kenney hasn’t come after you DJC.

  11. AlbertaRusH

    September 14th, 2019

    Embarrassing! Dangerous. I wonder how Kenny’s mania is assessed in the UCP caucus and donor boardrooms? He won the election; we can take it from here? Funnily enough, it’s time to chain your pit bull before you have to pull him off your kids.

  12. Expat Albertan

    September 14th, 2019

    Wow, I didn’t even recognize Harper in that photo – he looks terrible. All politics aside, I hope he is not ill.

  13. Just Me

    September 16th, 2019

    Keep in mind that for all Kenney’s posturing, this is a man who is thinking about leaving Alberta’s hinterlands behind and returning to gold paved roads of Ottawa. The PMO beckons and Kenney feels destined to seize that which he was denied so unceremoniously.

    Having forged a political party in his own image, Kenney can now toss the better-get-married-first requirement of conservative leadership and demand his place in the sun.

    And Canadian conservatives will be stupid enough to give it to him, too.

  14. J.E. Molnar

    September 17th, 2019

    Speaking of snitch lines…

    The tables are starting to turn on fossil fuel companies as startling information comes to light that O & G companies knew for decades, based on their own scientific analysis, of the threat fossil fuels posed to the world.

    “Nine cities and counties, from New York to San Francisco, have sued major fossil fuel companies, seeking compensation for climate change damages. And determined children have filed lawsuits against the federal government and various state governments, claiming the governments have an obligation to safeguard the environment.” — David Hasemyer (full article below)


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