Alberta Politics
Past Conservative Christmas parties have featured entertainers like this guy — expect Jason Kenney to play a key role this year (Photo: Facebook).

Is a ‘fair deal’ or a fare deal behind Jason Kenney’s Christmas flight to Ottawa with his entourage?

Posted on December 09, 2019, 1:07 am
7 mins

Nobody flies to Ottawa at this time of year expecting to get anything done with the government of Canada.

This is axiomatic.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Remember that if you’re wondering about that planeload of Alberta Conservative cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and assorted spear-carriers led by Jason Kenney jetting off to the nation’s capital, supposedly to bring the premier’s long list of non-negotiable demands for a “fair deal” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.

They’ll probably squeeze a belligerent press release or two out of any visits they manage to set up with Liberal ministers inclined to spend a few minutes with them for appearances’ sake. But don’t expect anything serious to get done, least of all Mr. Kenney’s demand for $2.4 billion in fiscal stabilization payments.

That’s not what they’re there for anyway.

If it had been, there would have been some serious proposal letters whizzing back and forth first, and the demand for a meeting wouldn’t have been sent, as for all practical purposes it was, via social media. Nor would all this have happened days before Christmas, even if Dec. 25 wasn’t Mr. Trudeau’s birthday.

No, this isn’t about a “fair deal.” It is, if I may be so bold, much more likely to be about a fare deal.

Because there is serious business to be done in Ottawa this holiday season by Conservatives, but it’s not the sort that’s done hat in hand in Liberal cabinet ministers’ offices.

Thomas Lukaszuk back in 2011, when he was deputy premier of Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

On the contrary, it’s the kind of business done in dark corners of Conservative Party Christmas parties. That is especially so in the run up to Christmas 2019, when the party has just lost a federal election it expected to win and the knives are out for its beleaguered leader, Andrew Scheer.

Never forget that Mr. Kenney is still a major player in the Conservative Party of Canada.

With talk of a coup to topple Mr. Scheer in the holiday air, Mr. Kenney needs to be there and he needs to have his loyal retainers with him. Now may not the time to make a deal with the government of Canada, but you can count on it some important deals are going to be cut on the Conservative Christmas party circuit.

Mr. Kenney is also a man known to have slept in his mother’s basement and found a way to send a bill to the taxpayers of Canada. So the idea of having a good excuse to charge the airfares for his substantial retinue of eight ministers, nine deputy and associate ministers, the UCP caucus chair, and sundry bag carriers to the good people of Alberta and still be able to score some points with the party base back home must have seemed appealing. Of course, I am willing to stand corrected in the unlikely event it turns out the party or individuals are ponying up for the flights.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Whether Mr. Kenney still harbours prime ministerial ambitions of his own — in which case it might make more sense for him to want the hapless Mr. Scheer to hang on for another unsuccessful term — is hard to say.

But whether he wants Mr. Scheer to stay or go, he obviously needs to be there at this crucial moment when the federal leader’s fate hangs in the balance. Even if Mr. Scheer must walk the plank and Mr. Kenney has forsworn all federal ambitions, he will want a federal Conservative leader who doesn’t have too independent a mind of his or her own.

And it can said with a reasonable degree of confidence, dear readers, that is what this trip is really about.

As for the Liberal ministers, doubtless anxious to get back to their ridings in time for some important holiday events of their own, they will give him a polite if noncommittal reception to avoid the appearance of conflict.

Certainly no one will call Alberta’s premier naughty names in emails and accidentally/on purpose leak their thoughts to everyone on the reply-all list.

That kind of thing has happened in Ottawa, but not on the Liberals’ watch as far as I know.

Alert readers will recall that back in 2012 one federal Conservative minister, angry at the request for a meeting with federal cabinet and caucus members by a fellow Conservative from Alberta, did just that.

In his widely distributed email response, the federal minister labelled his Alberta counterpart — cover your ears, children, for there is just no way to sugarcoat this — “a complete and utter asshole.”

Certainly no Liberal minister would ever have said anything that crude to a cabinet minister from Alberta, even an insistent Conservative with an annoying and unreasonable wish list in hand.

The victim of the disgusting slur in the email reply was a fellow named Thomas Lukaszuk, who happened to be Alberta premier Alison Redford’s deputy premier at the time.

And the perpetrator? Why, none other than … Jason Kenney!

22 Comments to: Is a ‘fair deal’ or a fare deal behind Jason Kenney’s Christmas flight to Ottawa with his entourage?

  1. Dave

    December 9th, 2019

    It is hard to know how seriously Mr. Kenney takes his ambitions of Federal leadership these days.

    On the one hand, the cuts and all the west uber alles politically heated rhetoric coming from Kenney and his government probably reduce his appeal to more moderate Conservatives, particularly those in the east. However, the moderate crowd has never been Kenney’s base and if the western dominated Federal Conservatives ever really cared much about moderation, they probably would have chosen one of the several Ontario candidates last time rather than Scheer.

    I recently listened to an interview in which Kenney seemed so almost convincingly supportive of Scheer, which leads me to believe that the Kenney fix is in. Yes, Kenney would probably prefer Scheer hang on a bit longer as the timing is not quite right now for Kenney to head back to Ottawa but I think it is still quite possible in his mind. Say what you like about him, but he doesn’t always take the most conventional or easiest path.

    I suspect Kenney’s most important meetings will therefore be with prominent Federal Conservatives, where he may try to convince them to de-escalate and slow down the too public campaign to push Scheer out, “for the good of the party”. The few extra few months to the leadership review will give Kenney enough time to come up with a politically more palitable exit plan from the hell hole Alberta politics could easily become for him once the full effect of his cuts is felt and it is clear the economy is not improving. Expect a draft Kenney for Federal leadership campaign to pop up before the tulips some time around early spring. Expect our Premier to express surprise and some reluctance initially, but to be persuaded by the “groundswell” of support before spring ends.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    December 9th, 2019

    Is this a shock, or a surprise? Jason Kenney’s corporate tax cuts have not created a single job, but instead lost Alberta around $4.7 billion. As oil booms are going the way of the dodo bird, what is Jason Kenney doing? Crying to Justin Trudeau for help. Jason Kenney did it to himself. What have Albertans gotten themselves into?

    Reply
  3. Doug Hart

    December 9th, 2019

    Thank you David, for your eloquent historical opinion piece. What is gravy for the goose is gravy for the gander. I like my goose cooked.

    Reply
  4. Jerrymacgp

    December 9th, 2019

    The very worst thing the federal Conservative party could do, from their perspective anyway, would be to double down on the extreme right & the so-Con rump by replacing Mr Scheer with Mr Kenney as Party Leader. While their vote in Saskaberta is solid, they are gradually losing electoral relevance in more densely populated, more cosmopolitan parts of the country that are key to winning government in our (Conservative-created) rep-by-pop electoral system.

    Even conservative voters in the GTA and the “905”, as well as in the B.C. Lower Mainland, are far more progressive on non-fiscal issues than those here in Oilbertastan, and if the Conservative Party of Canada is ever going to once again contend for power in a majority government, it needs to jettison or silence those anti-LGBTQ2S+, pro-forced-birth, anti-environment social conservatives from any significant policy influence, and put forward a moderate conservative voice — you know, the kind that were once known as Progressive Conservatives. The replacement for Mr Scheer needs to be someone not beholden to the Wilberforce Project or to the Christian Right. I don’t know who that is, but I know it sure isn’t the unmarried, allegedly celibate Jason Kenney.

    Reply
  5. Abs

    December 9th, 2019

    It’s a relief that our federal government is not likely to transfer $2.4-billion to the Kenney Enema Fund, which would be flushed down the toilet, along with all the other fortunes from Albertans’ pensions. But this brings up the problem of pork barrel Christmas party trips, financed by the Kenema Fund. It just goes in circles, doesn’t it, kind of like money going down a drain?

    So in case anyone in Ottawa is listening, please do not give $2.4-billion to the Clown Posse. Let them explain why they wasted more of our tax dollars on a frivolous trip. Thank you. Because even if pancakes and vitamin C showers are not involved, this kind of waste and indulgence is not okay. Austerity for the peasants, cake for the privileged never ends well.

    Reply
  6. J.E. Molnar

    December 9th, 2019

    We were all told there would be winning . . . so much winning. Unemployed Albertans are still waiting — with bated breath.

    With 18,000 jobs lost in Alberta in November — 25% of the nation’s total for the month — I do hope that the premier and his inept government will take this as an urgent reminder of the need to focus on economic growth, job creation, diversification and competitiveness. Instead of wasting time and energy on conspiracy theories about eco-terrorists conspiring to subversively undermine our oil and gas industry and holding irrelevant “Fair Deal Panel” meetings designed to placate the UCP’s red meat base — is it too much to ask the UCP government to do their *real* job?

    Holiday partying in Ottawa is unlikely to accomplish any economic benefit for Alberta — let alone get any of these conservative knuckle-daggers on Santa’s “who’s nice” list.

    Reply
  7. Tiddo

    December 9th, 2019

    Classic, Jason…

    Reply
  8. Prairie Observer

    December 9th, 2019

    I am going to have that image of Harper’s artistic side burned into my retina for the remainder of my mortal existence. It is more painful than listening to one of Brad Wall’s motivational speeches that are paid for by the Alberta oil industry, which is saying at lot.

    Ask not why I always equate the undertakings of any right wing politician with both nausea and dread. Mr Kenney at this moment in our history is the right of center political figure who is best at producing such sensations. Hapless Mr. Scheer would fit right in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He is like the not so bright Labrador retriever owned by the neighbor down the street.

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      December 9th, 2019

      Yeah, but does that dog have dimples?

      Reply
  9. Sub-Boreal

    December 9th, 2019

    Jason’s return to Ottawa would be a zillion Christmas gifts rolled into one for the Liberals! They could permanently reinforce the duopoly by waging a credible fear campaign of “strategic voting” that would cap the NDP at 15% (or less) forever. The Dippers’ best hope would be to buy Con memberships and start a Draft Lisa Raitt movement

    Reply
  10. Scotty on Denman

    December 9th, 2019

    Vardy! Ye be good, me son! I’ll bet when Jason KeKangaroo Kenney pulls his sleigh into good ole holiday Bytown and ties his entourage to the hitching rail, he’ll enter the party like a chubby and plump Marie Antoinette and take the cake.

    But surely he’s got more serious stuff to do—like make sure there’s a viable federal conservative party to acclaim him leader when the time comes. That’s a tall order because it’s too soon to abandon his new caucus and premiership to contest the CPC leadership (presuming Andrew Sheer loos—oh, never mind!): the glue that holds the UCP together doesn’t smell quite dry, yet. And he probably shouldn’t leave his newly united provincial cabinet unattended for too long; who knows what kind of trouble they could get into unsupervised —which might be why he brought them along—that is, not solely because he wants to awe the Ottawa attendees with his majesty.

    I click to the most recent federal electoral map and some things are pertinently clear. There’s a huge, impressive bloc of blue (might’ve called it “Tory Blue” if it was—you know—really Tory) from BC’s Interior (save the Kootenays, bless everyone there!) all the way to Manitoba, and another, geographically smaller bloc of blue in southwest Ontario where I’m originally from and many of my kin still live. By count, about half the CPC seats are in the Western bloc, and half in the East. Immediately it becomes apparent what the UCP leader’s problem is: if Scheer gets shaved dry, there’s a possibility—nay, a fair likelihood—he’d be replaced with a CPC leader from the East.

    So it’s a pickle. An Ontario CPC leader might not feel so indebted to the Alberta premier to step aside when it’s convenient for him to assume the purple. I’d wager some Ontario Cons find the Western vein of the party more repellant than their own provincial equivalent who at least stayed out of sight during the last campaign for the CPC’s sake; on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised that the UCP leader’s stumping foray into Ontario to drum up support for the hapless Scheer is regarded as responsible for the CPC being shut out of the real prize: Hogtown.

    Moreover, this is United Empire Loyalist territory where even landed American immigrants fought and died the Yankee invader in the War of 1812. In the vicinity of my brother’s house, plaques, cairns and cemeteries never let citizens forget, even to this day, that the very ground is soaked in the blood of both the enemy and patriotic defenders of King and Colony. I know this very well. They are a different kind of conservative.

    That’s what JKKK is afraid of.

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      December 10th, 2019

      And I have no problem with God, King and Country conservatives: my grandfather was one. Well, actually, I do have one problem: they need to wake up and realize who they are in bed with, and disunite the CPC. Cut the glibertarians and foetus-fetish woman-haters loose.

      Reply
  11. Just Me

    December 9th, 2019

    There can be no doubt now that the theatrics of this assault on the “Gates of Vienna” was meant to embarrass Scheer into a resignation before year end.

    It is now clearer, more than ever, that Kenney is pushing the knives already in Scheer’s back in that much further.

    Kenney can now stand and say, “Look me at me. I’m leading the charge and they are scared of me. I am getting stuff done; I am the real power; I should be leading the CPC. Short guys win; tall guys fall harder.”

    But in the midst of all this, Alberta is getting skewered again with even higher levels of austerity, all for the sake of Kenney’s relentless zealotry. Kenney’s march on Ottawa serves only as a distraction from the mayhem he is causing.

    I truly hope that a committee is struck to provide oversight of Kenney’s so called demands. And I would like a substantial portion of those committee seats to be held by BQ MPs. It seems that the BQ has no trouble telling Alberta’s angry midgets where to go.

    Reply
  12. Chris

    December 10th, 2019

    While Kenney and half his cabinet and executive management jet off to Ottawa, I have it on good authority that front line workers in the public service are being told if their computer breaks down between now and the next budget, it won’t be replaced, and office supply expenses like pens and paper require approval from the deputy minister.

    Reply
  13. Magda

    December 10th, 2019

    The only argument Kenney can make at this point for going federal is that the is the only person who can keep Saskberta (thanks, Jason Markusoff!) from leaving Canada. The PET of the 2020’s, so to speak. He’s certainly arrogant enough to believe it. The risk is that the rest of the country wouldn’t care if it did leave or not.

    I’m impressed with the way PMJT has handled Kenney post-October 21. Letting the premier shake his fist and yell at clouds serves only to make Kenney look pathetic. I think PMJT has found his footing. In the latest Paul Wells column, not linked to out of deference to our host, here is Wells’ last paragraph:

    “All of which helps explain why, when Scott Moe asked Trudeau for changes to equalization, Trudeau made a mischievous proposition: he’d be happy to consider any change to equalization on which the premiers can agree on among themselves when they meet, without Trudeau, in December. It was like inviting the fox and the hens to agree on protein management strategies.”

    Reply
  14. Farmer Dave

    December 10th, 2019

    So we have Jason Kenney and his entourage spending travel money to Ottawa, adding to the deficit, crying that Alberta is broke. Kenney try telling other provinces, who collect sales taxes to operate, to feel sorry for Alberta while you brag about Alberta having no sales tax and the lowest tax in the country. What a hypocrite you have turned out to be.

    Reply
  15. alan

    December 10th, 2019

    “Nobody flies to Ottawa at this time of year expecting to get anything done with the government of Canada.”

    On the contrary, no government invests billions of dollars in order to expand pipeline capacity without also ensuring that sufficient product is also available for transport in that same pipeline. Back room promises have probably already been made to those prospective buyers and end users of carbon energy in the Far East.

    All that remains, is to iron out the details and then sell the idea to a confused public that wants jobs, economic growth, and, of course, actual real world actions that address the resulting climate change feedback loop. Where economic growth and expansion are the only current options, kicking the climate change tipping point can further down the road has never been easier. See for example,

    “Kenney in Ottawa to call for approval of massive open-pit oilsands mine”

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/kenney-approve-frontier-project-or-else-1.5390795

    https://thenarwhal.ca/latest-oilsands-mega-mine-proposal-a-reality-check-for-albertas-emissions-cap/

    The dissenting voices are mere background noise, as the global factory continues its nonstop expansion.

    Reply
  16. Farmer Brian

    December 11th, 2019

    Lets be realistic, Justin Trudeau has very little to gain by helping out Alberta, the last election proved that.

    Jason Kenney is an astute politician but imo to socially conservative to lead the federal Conservatives, will never happen.

    The loss off 18000 jobs in Alberta is certainly very sad but I think related to the re-election of Justin Trudeau. Alberta business woke up October 22 and realized nothing is going to change. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
  17. Abs

    December 11th, 2019

    So, a news story on CBC today says that the war room, aka Energy Centre, will actually cost $30-million annually. So by the time the premier and his UCP are voted out of office in 2023, the bill will be $1.2-billion.

    This is half of the $2.4-billion sum JK wants from “Ottawa”, aka the rest of Canada. Does that sound like a good investment of Canadian taxpayers’ money to a senior citzen taxpayer in, say, Halifax?

    But don’t worry, because the article says that $20-million annually will come from a new carbon tax that Kenney is creating, and the rest from another advertising budget. Double whammy. A new carbon tax? What?

    So the $2.4-billion will actually go to other stuff, and the war room is completely separate from all that.

    Nice of the folks from SAIT to stand in the background bobbing their heads while all this was going down.

    Reply
  18. Abs

    December 12th, 2019

    After further reflection, I think that $2.4-billion could actually be pumped into European pre-Christmas trips for the premier’s entourage, split with the War Room. I think I heard that out of the premier’s mouth yesterday, but I can’t be sure. Is he, or is he not, taking a trip to Europe for some pre-Christmas market shopping, or “influencing” as social media puts it? It’s all like a bad dream, and I’m not sure what’s real any more. Please wake me up when it’s over, and please let it be over soon.

    Reply
    • Farmer Brian

      December 12th, 2019

      After further reflection you might realize that $30 million x 4 is $120 million not $1.2 billion. As for the war room, it is really Alberta promoting the oil business. Personally why not just spend $30 million promoting Alberta in general. Too narrow of focus can lead to missed opportunities. Enjoy your day.

      Reply

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