Alberta Politics
Conservative premiers Jason Kenney of Alberta and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan on stage at the Wilson Center in Washington Friday morning (Photo: Screenshot of Wilson Center video).

Jason Kenney names Gerry Butts and Barack Obama in latest UCP conspiracy theory!

Posted on February 09, 2020, 1:35 am
9 mins

Does anyone actually believe Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s startling claim that Gerald Butts, then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, secretly conspired with the White House in 2015 to engineer “a co-ordinated surrender” by Canada on President Barack Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline project?

Judging from the conversations on social media, either some members of the United Conservative Party base here in Alberta or whoever runs the bots that attack Mr. Trudeau night and day think Mr. Kenney was speaking the gospel truth at the highly respectable Wilson Center in Washington on Friday morning.

Gerald Butts in 2015 (Photo: Tholden28, Creative Commons).

As for the rest of us, probably not so much.

But there’s “absolutely no doubt” about it, according to the premier.

Here’s the key passage from the Wilson Center’s recording (beginning at 22.22) wherein Mr. Kenney, sharing the stage with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, responds with characteristically pious pomposity to the moderator’s question about whether there was more the PM should have done when President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline in the hours after Mr. Trudeau was sworn into office.

“Prime Minister Trudeau, what more could he have done? He could have done something,” intoned Mr. Kenney. “I mean he, he was, uh, the announcement of President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL came 48 hours after Prime Minister Trudeau was sworn into office.”

Now, many of us might have thought this was a mitigating factor for Mr. Trudeau since he had so little time to respond. Mr. Kenney, though, had an alternate theory.

President Barack Obama in 2015 (Photo: Glenn Fawcett, U.S. Department of Defence).

“And I have absolutely no doubt there had been back-channel conversations between his then Principal Secretary Gerry Butts and the White House that there would be no negative reaction, and there wasn’t. It was a news release, and they walked on to the next issue.”

“They never wanted that project,” Mr. Kenney continued — the “they” in this yarn being the Liberals in Ottawa, not the Obama White House — “and they were not willing to employ any political or diplomatic leverage against a political decision by U.S. Administration, uh, to violate the spirit of NAFTA, which was about, in part, open access to the U.S. market for our energy exports.” (This bit, at least, is sort of true — although at the time the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was negotiated in 1994, it had more to do with guaranteeing U.S. access to Canadian resources than the other way around.)

“So, we think, there’s, uh, I think there’s a reason why the Obama Administration did not veto the project in the several years that prime minister Harper was there waiting for an approval, because they knew there would have been a very serious diplomatic conflict with Canada.”

Stephen Harper in 2014 (Photo: Presidencia de la República Mexicana).

At that moment, Premier Moe, looking every bit the ventriloquist’s dummy he often seems to play when Mr. Kenney’s in the vicinity, loyally piped up: “All of that is absolutely correct …”

In reality, if a possible Canadian response was considered at all, the timing of Mr. Obama’s veto of a bill authorizing construction of the pipeline was driven by lawmakers’ efforts in the Republican-dominated Congress to use legislation to force his hand.

Mr. Kenney’s crack about co-ordinated surrender occurred a few moments earlier, while he was answering a question about whether Mr. Trudeau now supports the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. Well, yes, Mr. Kenney admitted, before airing a laundry list of complaints about the prime minister, real (“the tanker ban on the northwest B.C. Coast”), imagined (“the No More Pipelines Law”), and spun beyond all recognition (“his arbitrary cancellation of the approved Northern Gateway Pipeline”).

Justin Trudeau in 2015 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Shortly after Mr. Kenney’s startling pronouncement about the unlikely Butts-Obama conspiracy — first reported on Politico, the Washington-based public policy website — an exasperated Mr. Butts tweeted that this was “an extraordinary thing to allege by the Premier.”

“Have been staying out of Canadian politics since the election, but this is not true. I would appreciate it if @jkenney would retract that statement,” he said.

Well, we wish Mr. Butts good luck with that aspiration. Knowing Mr. Kenney, he probably ought not to hold his breath.

Neither documentary evidence from the Toronto Star tweeted by Mr. Butts nor his statement he “publicly and privately promoted and defended” the KXL project from 2012 to 2019 is likely to result in a retraction from Mr. Kenney. That’s just not the way our premiers rolls.

Nor will commentary by observers who are paying attention, like University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, reviled by the Kenney Government for his role in the previous NDP government’s climate change strategy.

U of A economist Andrew Leach in, as a matter of fact, 2016 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Dr. Leach tweeted yesterday that the conversations between Canada and the U.S. that mattered on Keystone XL took place in public view, and the government of Stephen Harper refused to co-operate with the Obama Administration in ways that could have resulted in U.S. approval of the pipeline — in other words, that social-license thing again.

Given that, Dr. Leach concluded, “Obama’s decision was a no-brainer.”

So why would an intelligent man with a reputation as a shrewd political operator, who was a federal cabinet minister and is now the premier of Canada’s richest province, spout silly conspiracy theories before a sophisticated audience in Washington, D.C.?

Maybe he was simply pitching his message to the base back home.

Maybe Mr. Moe’s convincing portrayal of Knucklehead Smiff got him feeling too comfortable.

Or maybe he just can’t stop himself when he rambling on about Mr. Trudeau, who after all defeated his mentor Mr. Harper, just like he apparently can’t restrain the urge to lecture Democratic presidential nomination candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. (I can’t imagine Rebel Media talking points about “dictator oil” are very effective with a policy wonk like Ms. Warren, but whatever.)

Who knows? Not us, that’s for darned sure.

And unless Mr. Butts sues Premier Kenney for defamation and compels him to testify, we almost certainly never will.

15 Comments to: Jason Kenney names Gerry Butts and Barack Obama in latest UCP conspiracy theory!

  1. Marco

    February 9th, 2020

    A couple of points about this. I distinctly remember Mr. Trudeau’s support for Keystone XL prior to his election in 2015 and him being criticized aplenty for it by some environmental pundits. Also, clearly remember Mr. Harper’s comment that approval of this pipeline was a “No-brainer”, at a time when there was major opposition to it in the US, Nebraska, I believe.
    Now, maybe I’m too much of a snowflake, but when you call the US President a ‘no brains’ guy over his reluctance to approve the project, that might not have been the most effective way to get him to decide in your favour. Insults don’t often convince.

    Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    February 9th, 2020

    I think Mr. Kenney’s insistence that back channel communications occurred says more about his own willingness to use back channel communications than anything Mr. Butts might have done, say back channeling with Jeff Calloway’s leadership campaign, or with Janice MacKinnon’s independent investigation.

    Its not so much that Justin Trudeau defeated Stephen Harper so much as he thwarted Kenney’s own prime ministerial ambitions. Gee, if only the Liberals had kept Michael Ignatieff or Stephane Dion, Jason could be prime minister.

    Reply
  3. tom in ontario

    February 9th, 2020

    For those unfamiliar with Knucklehead Smiff, the puppet was second banana to Jerry Mahoney as part of ventriloquist Paul Winchell’s TV act in the 1950s. The reader is left to decide whether Premier Moe could be compared to a wooden headed dummy.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      February 10th, 2020

      Lol ….

      Reply
  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    February 9th, 2020

    Overall, Gerald Butts and the Liberals strongly support new export pipelines. Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley have also been far more effective than the Conservatives at selling new pipelines to Canadians. Togethter, they pushed country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%. Something Kenney and Scheer could never dream of doing. Now with Kenney in charge, the polls are going the other way.
    “Poll shows support is slipping for Trans Mountain, raising political risk for Trudeau”
    https://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/poll-shows-trans-mountain-is-losing-public-support-raising-political-risk-for-trudeau

    Anybody who doubts Gerald Butts’ bona fides on pipelines and oilsands expansion should read this:

    “Before Trudeau, Gerald Butts Abandoned Tar Sands Action As Head Of WWF”
    https://www.canadalandshow.com/before-trudeau-gerald-butts-abandoned-tar-sands-action-as-head-of-world-wildlife-fund/

    A brilliant exposé of corporate Canada, Big Green, and Gerald Butt’s Liberals — and their obstruction of environmental action.
    Textbook example of a controlled opposition group. Corporate Canada took over WWF’s board of directors and shut anti-oilsands campaigns down. Gerald Butts served as hatchet man:

    “The board was populated by CEOs, corporate lawyers, and bankers, as well as future Liberal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan. It also included Blake Goldring, a member of the Business Council of Canada, who had previously donated $500,000 to WWF-Canada. He was the CEO of investment firm AGF Management, which advised an Oil Sands Sector Fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars. All that remained was for Gerald Butts to exercise his widely-praised skills in reading the tea leaves.”

    In his book, “The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada”, Donald Gutstein details how neoliberal “progressive” politicians like Trudeau and Notley subverted the climate change agenda and enabled Big Oil’s “predatory delay”:
    “The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate” (The Tyee, 14 Nov 2018)
    https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2018/11/14/Trudeau-Climate-Bargain/

    “Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein’s The Big Stall (The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )
    https://www.straight.com/news/1164161/justin-trudeaus-grand-bargain-big-oil-exposed-donald-gutsteins-big-stall

    “‘The Big Stall’ details how neoliberal think tanks blocked action on climate change”
    • rabble.ca/books/reviews/2019/04/big-stall-details-how-neoliberal-think-tanks-blocked-action-climate-change

    When Canada fails to meet its climate targets in 2030 and 2050, and the skies have turned to ash, thank Trudeau, Butts, and Notley. In the history of climate politics, Jason Kenney will be a mere footnote.

    Reply
  5. Farmer Dave

    February 9th, 2020

    The Canadian Conservative Party (CCP) will never do well in Federal elections until they rid themselves of their current policies from Canada’s bible belt, Manning, Harper and their ventriloquist Jason Kenney. CCP needs a Progressive Conservative leader from the Toronto area or Montreal area who has no far right views and rids the party of their current Bible belt religious policies. If CCP does not fix this part of their party they can expect to stay in opposition for a very long time.

    Reply
  6. Abs

    February 9th, 2020

    I keep expecting him to burst onto song at any moment, “Baby, I was born this way.”

    Reply
  7. Hana Razga

    February 9th, 2020

    I was always looking for a way to describe Jason Kenney’s behaviour when speaking in public, but David hit the nail on the head with this:

    “pious pomposity”

    Reply
  8. Just Me

    February 9th, 2020

    Now that Kenney’s angry midget act is getting the better of him, we can expect to see the steady flow of conspiracy B.S. turn into a torrent.

    The problem with all Kenney’s antics is that they are revealing that maybe things are not that tranquil in Albertastan. What happened to the UCP being hailed as the people’s choice to restore the good old days?

    With Rona Ambrose firmly out of the CPC leadership race, Kenney is babbling support for John Baird as the saviour in waiting from MacKay’s Red Tory horde. Has Kenney’s desire to find another stooge to serve his interests has lead him to back a barely-closeted gay man, with a questionable record of personal behaviour? Baird’s predilection for being an avid cat-fancier and a confirmed bachelor is well known. Also well known is that he suddenly resigned from cabinet and public life, following a state visit to Israel and the West Bank, under highly questionable circumstances does not endear him to CONs wanting to put forward a better public face forward.

    Kenney’s nonsense has ramped up a few more points and the show is becoming that much more interesting. The conspiracy trap that he jumped into will only get that much deeper and more unbelievable. What’s poor Ken-doh to do?

    Reply
  9. jerrymacgp

    February 10th, 2020

    Mr Kenney seems to have misplaced his tinfoil hat … that’s the only rational explanation for this paranoid conspiracy theory. The Liberal government bought TMX, and approved that project, and may yet approve the Frontier project, despite unyielding opposition in places like the Lower Mainland & Vancouver Island where they stand to lose far more votes than here in Oilbertastan, where no matter what happens to Teck, they don’t even have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning more than a seat or two.

    Reply
  10. Scotty on Denman

    February 10th, 2020

    Oh well, at least the K-Boy never threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of diluted bitumen unless tRump announces an investigation into JT’s black-channeling.

    …or maybe he’s saving it…

    Reply
  11. Dave

    February 10th, 2020

    I suspect Mr. Kenney became a bit unhinged, particularly away from his comfortable Alberta bubble where the mainstream media does not challenge some of his kookier ideas too much.

    Perhaps having one possibly sympathetic listener nearby (Mr. Moe) emboldened him to go boldly into the alternate facts universe weeds, like a Canadian version of Kelly Ann Conway but sans a spouse George. I suppose the Americans who are very familiar with unhinged and alternate facts these days, just smiled to themselves knowingly thinking, well its not just a uniquely American affliction. Demogogues are elsewhere too.

    I suppose at some level it is also an attempted revision of history by Kenney more favourable to his mentor and role model Harper. Many would probably say the failure of Keystone XL was due to Harper’s inability to adapt to the changing US political landscape – from Bush who he was more comfortable with to Obama, with whom he was not. Certainly this makes sense, Conservatives often can’t seem to deal with change very well. Well Mr. Harper and Mr. Kenney, who seems on a Don Qiote like mission against climate change, are good examples of this.

    So yeah, in the alternate fact rationalization universe in Mr. Kenney’s head it must all be the fault of various political opponents. Maybe it would be best if he didn’t go out and got a bit more rest. That is probably the best treatment for unhinged.

    Reply
  12. Jim

    February 10th, 2020

    A lawsuit would be interesting but would likely expose too much of the inner workings for all sides, don’t want to open that can of worms. A little back and forth on Twitter accomplishes the goal for both sides without exposing too much to the voters.

    Reply

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