Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Government of Alberta/Flickr).

So, make that 26,000 Alberta jobs, gone with the wind!

Now that some of the smoke is starting to clear from Premier Jason Kenney’s Saturday Afternoon Massacre of school board jobs, it’s apparent initial estimates by school trustees and union leaders of 20,000 jobs lost were about 30 per cent low.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange at the moment on March 15 she promised “school authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019-2020 school year.” (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

The true number of workers affected by the mass layoff of substitute teachers, educational assistants, non-essential school support staff and school bus drivers is closer to 26,000 — 6,000 with teaching credentials, the other 20,000 in support roles.

That kind of confusion is understandable given that the Kenney Government, as Progress Alberta Director Duncan Kinney put it Saturday, managed to come up with the perfect way to announce a mass layoff: “With a tweet on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of a global pandemic and massive recession with 15 minutes’ notice to the school boards.”

According to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe — no raging Marxist, by the way — the latest layoffs amount to about 1 per cent of the entire Alberta work force. Or, as he tweeted: “Massive scale.”

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe (Photo: Twitter).

Saturday’s surprise purge is probably the largest mass layoff in Canadian history, certainly the largest in the public sector, surpassing in one day Ralph Klein’s public-sector layoffs throughout the mid-1990s.

Mr. Klein’s cutbacks saw about 13,000 employees leave the public service and as many as 10,000 nurses laid off, a disaster the health care system was still recovering from when Mr. Kenney was elected. Many of the public service “layoffs,” though, were administrative fakery, with public employees simply switching from the civil service to public boards, agencies and commissions to do the same work for the same pay.   

The jobs lost Saturday are supposed to resume when schools reopen, whenever that is. We’ll see how that works out.

The rest of Dr. Tombe’s Twitter commentary was enlightening as well. Premier Kenney’s talking-point claim, repeated by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, that $128-million in savings will be reallocated to the response to COVID-19 is false, Dr. Tombe explained. “Money is fungible and the spending on health during the crisis will be unaffected by this decision. What is affected is Alberta govt’s debt levels.”

The late Ralph Klein, premier of Alberta and author of the Kleintastrophe in the mid-1990s (Photo: Chuck Szmurlo, Creative Commons).

As for other false statements, did Ms. LaGrange know of this plan when she promised on March 15 that “school authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019-2020 school year”? It’s more likely she learned about Saturday’s decision not long before the rest of us did.

Does Mr. Kenney consult anyone other than Jason Nixon, Travis Toews and Stephen Harper? I doubt it. And maybe not even all of them.

As for the argument the money is better spent in health care, “which is not the case anyway, but even if it were,” Dr. Tombe asked why the Kenney Government persists in spending $30 million a year in public funds “on a terrible marketing campaign through the War Room?” He can take comfort from the fact a lot of other Albertans are asking the same thing.

As many have pointed out, yesterday’s announcement amounts to telling 26,000 people who are doing important, necessary work to collect Employment Insurance for doing nothing, while the nine employees of the War Room who appear to do almost nothing are costing $82,000 a day!

But to give Mr. Kenney credit where credit is due, he demonstrates remarkable chutzpah.

Progress Alberta Director Duncan Kinney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

He came into office vowing to restore the “Alberta Advantage,” which basically meant unsustainably low taxes and a government that functions anyway, most of the time, because of oil.

When he turned out to be as powerless as NDP premier Rachel Notley was to control or even influence the global price of oil — now at historic lows thanks to the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic suppressing demand and the Russian-Saudi price war increasing supply — he vowed to focus on creating jobs.

The fantasy budget rammed through the Legislature in mid-March with almost no debate, which assumes oil prices of close to $60 a barrel, was named A Blueprint for Jobs.” (Yesterday, Western Canadian Select, the respectable name for bitumen crude, touched $3.72 a barrel. That’s not a typo.)

We are laser-focused on creating jobs, growing the economy, and getting Albertans back to work,” the budget’s online cover page proclaims.

Since this government had already seen some 70,000 jobs disappear on its watch before the arrival of the coronavirus and collapse of oil prices, cutting another 26,000 at a moment when the right thing to do economically and morally was to keep as many people as possible employed leaves only 4,000 to go for Mr. Kenney to have presided over the disappearance of 100,000 jobs!

Some blueprint for jobs! A blueprint for pink slips, more like.

As for offloading the cost directly onto the level of government that’s actually doing something to limit the spread of the coronavirus and counter the effects of rock-bottom oil prices, Dr. Tombe mildly commented: “Laying off provincial public servants to shift salary burdens to the Feds doesn’t strike me as the best approach.”

You could certainly put it that way. Count on it, given half a chance, it won’t be long before Mr. Kenney is again complaining about Ottawa spending too much.

So when you think about this man, remember author Leo Rosten’s famous definition of chutzpah: “That quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

I give you, Jason T. Kenney.

Join the Conversation


  1. It will be remarkable if any of the Kenney Kabinet manage to scrape together jobs and board appointments in the private sector when this is over. Yes, they have well-connected friends in high places, but they wear Kenney’s “T” on their foreheads. That’s “T” for Tainted.

  2. Given Kenney’s obviously sociopathic tendencies, why would he so relentlessly pursue this madness?

    It’s apparent that he believes in the paleoconservative beliefs of espoused by the likes of Pat Buchanan. Such a belief system includes blind faith in the free-market, Christian values, organized Christian religion, and the primacy of a higher power. It is a doctrine that firmly believes that the people don’t know what they want, so you can give or take away anything from them without apology. Giving the people the rod will make them better. Clearly, this is a belief system that sociopaths delight in.

    But what can be served if Kenney decides to punish Alberta? Obviously, he believes blindly in the notion that when people are removed from the teat of the State, tremendous wealth creating energies are released that will assure even more riches for all. Schools, hospitals, and life in general will become better if all are denied funding and forced to live through a period of instability. Hardcore Catholics like Kenney believe that suffering is the path to purity and righteousness. That is the same belief that was practised by the infamous Mother Teresa demanded that the sick lay on cold concrete floors in their time of dying, because suffering improves the being and enhances the quality of the soul.

    God Almighty has blessed Alberta and He (God must always be male) will bestow even more blessings upon His Alberta flock.

    This is the Alberta prosperity doctrine and Kenney, either, believes in it; or, he bamboozles those who are stupid enough to believe in such things. These are the same people who believe that the current pandemic is God’s clarion call to the righteous to throw off the yoke of the secular state and welcome a return to the divine blessings that are their Alberta birthright.

    Yep. That explains how Kenney got elected. The question is are those who voted for the UCP willing to give their heads a shake and realize that they were duped by a conman?

    1. Excellent questions, JM, I have been wondering the same things. The orwellian codependency can’t be understated. The Overton window (spectrum of acceptability) in the public mind makes fartoo many people think that voting left of conservative is equal to electing a cat.

      1. I recall the day Notley and the NDP were elected. For one thing, it was just the day after Cinco de Mayo and there was a storm. (I guess Hell really did freeze over – the Hell being Alberta, of course.) But another thing that I encountered were a number of people – let’s call them your garden variety evangelicals, who vote CON on primitive impulse. They swore up and down that Notley was open labour camps, just like Stalin, and begin a far reaching purge. Many had their guns ready to take out Notley when she came around. Sorry to disappoint them but there were no labour camps springing up. Nor were there any armed mobs coming to take away all their stuff. Actually, it was pretty quiet, apart from all the death threats Notley was getting.

        The evangelical paranoid is a pretty common character. This sort of person not only obsesses over their salvation, but he is convinced that his salvation is dependent on the other person being saved. It seems that God keeps and score card and your avoiding damnation depends on it. Such people (mostly male I will add) are easily duped and have indulged in all kinds of self-abuse. For them, life is endless suffering, until the day when the Lord returns and ends the world. This mindset is unique only to organized evangelism in the US, which should be the first clue that the level of crazy is pretty amped up.

        Kenney has tapped into this well spring of discontent because they long for all to suffer for the sake of their personal salvation. It is religious piety mixed with sadomasochism, and hardcore Catholics like Kenney live for this sort of thing.

  3. I just read Don Braid’s recent column in the Calgary Herald.

    Usually, I can’t stand anything Braid writes. He’s barely a journalist and insofar as his opinion pieces go, they are dubious at best. However, Braid’s comment on the recent layoffs startled me. The piece startled me because Braid, who has been one of Kenney’s Postmedia fluffers for a while now, believes that the layoffs are irrational, if not completely insane.

    He touches on the point that transfering 26,000 working Albertans onto the federal EI role is thoughtless, because it already overloads a system that is needed by Albertans who were laid off from the private sector. What was the point of that, apart from paying these people public monies to be unproductive instead of being productive.

    Braid even points out the obvious — that 26,000 more unemployed in Alberta does not help the provincial economy. It cripples it.

    So, given all the irrational stunts Kenney and the UCP have been pulling lately, what are they trying to prove?

    Shandro gets into trouble because he is covered in the appearance of the impropriety of personal gain related to his ministerial decisions.

    So, Kenney tells La Grange to layoff 26,0000 public employees to distract from Shandro’s shenanigans. Instead of doing the right thing and get rid of Shandro, Kenney decides to throw some red meat to his base and take it out on the hated public employees. His base lives for his rage and they love it when he destroys things.

    Kenney sends a message to his critics: say another bad word about me and MY government and I will hurt Alberta even more.

    Kenney is not Alberta’s premier; he’s holding the province hostage.

    1. Perhaps … if we’re all very, very lucky … Mr Braid’s critique of JK’s latest disaster will one day be evoked in the same breath as the famous quote apocryphally attributed to LBJ after hearing Walter Cronkite speaking about the Tet Offensive: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country”, or words to that effect — although Don Braid is certainly no Walter Cronkite.

      LBJ later went on to announce he would not run for re-election, and Tet was a major driver of that decision.

  4. “As for other false statements, did Ms. LaGrange know of this plan when she promised on March 15 that “school authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019-2020 school year”? It’s more likely she learned about Saturday’s decision not long before the rest of us did.”

    It’s becoming clear that Jason Kenney has exactly what he wants in a provincial cabinet, an assortment of sock-puppets. Remember how it was pointed out during the election that the UCP was more popular than Jason Kenney? Well, now the UCP is Jason Kenney.

  5. Just a friendly reminder to all the laid off health care workers and teachers: your pensions are fully transferable into Canada’s best run public sector pension fund should you choose to relocate to BC once C.19 has run its course.

  6. Just Me puts it most eloquently.

    Having a provincial premier turn on his own employees is, I think, an exclusively Conservative phenomenon. Kenney is of course a sociopath, I don’t think there’s much to refute that notion. Every move he’s made, since I began to take real notice perhaps a decade ago, point to it. If one is going for disunity to bolster one’s peacock imaginings, there’s no better way to cheese off a large portion of the population than to vilify them. Empathy? What’s that? Not a part of the kenney mind.

    With a Big Mac Meal at the same price or more than a barrel of Western Canada Select, this morning I was treated on CBC to a plaintive wail from someone or other in the petro-business in Alberta that they were running out of storage capacity for dilbit. Better to stop making a loss, and quit digging while you’re ahead, surely? This primitive idea is apparently beyond the ken of the producers, where commonsense is always trumped by greed and now disbelief. Car makers are cutting back production or remaining closed as are many other manufacturers, but the oilmen? Not on your nellie. This is cognitive dissonance at its most extreme.

    The TMX construction must be halted at once. What earthly use is it to the country? None whatsoever. Same goes for Horgan’s Coastal Gas Link pipeline. The investors didn’t see the risk, but that’s too damn bad. Even before Covid-19, their production costs far exceeded the price of natural gas on the market, by a factor of 200 to 300% in Asia. Risk is supposed to be part of the gamble of investment – but these investors are stoned out of their tiny minds if they cannot add 2 and 2. No bailout for those dumb bunnies – you gambled, you lost.

    The pitchfork brigade will come for kenney at some point. No doubt in my mind at all.

  7. The Federal government should subtract the amount of money being paid out to EI for Alberta laid off teachers salaries from the amount they are transferring to help Alberta out of its financial problems.

  8. Taking a break from packing up our household, my husband played a clip on politicians. You can find it on YouTube by searching on “George Carlin” and “politicians”. Here’s part of the monologue:

    “Where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality…. If you have selfish ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish ignorant leaders. So maybe… maybe… MAYBE, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here like: THE PUBLIC. ”

    And that’s where we are now. There’s no point in asking why Kenney does these things – the simple, hard truth is he does them because he can get away with them. He knows the citizens of Alberta are too apathetic to do anything concrete. I’ve lived in other provinces, my side of the family is still mostly in Ontario and Nova Scotia, my husband’s family is in BC. Politicians in those provinces would be too frightened to even contemplate acting the way the Kenney government acts.

    Unless Albertans start taking ownership of their province, nothing is going to change.

    As soon as social distancing is lifted, we’re loading up a moving van and we’re gone to live in my husband’s home town in the Okanagan Valley. We will not – not once – look into the rearview mirror.

    1. I know how traumatic moving Provinces can be even as a youngish single guy….I hope I don’t downplay the vastly greater pain it must be for a family, but I expect you are making the right move. In fact, I would advise all who can to do the same, and get the hell out of Dodge. You want to wait for the next election, when the Alberta electorate will come to their senses? Or the UCP will change the leadership cadre to resemble Lougheed’s team? Or for the the sun to rise in the West?

    1. Not important???
      You must not have kids.
      Open your damn eyes. Oil will NEVER reach what Kenney thinks it will, his whole bet is on oil and look where it got us. He made up figures in his budget that would never happen. He is ruining and will bankrupt this province before these four years are done. All the while clinging to his stupid and over priced war room for good luck.
      Only fools bank on oil as a saviour in times like these.

  9. When I first moved out to Daysland, AB, in the early eighties, to begin my teaching career, an often repeated story was how a freshly elected county councillor is reported to have said, “you mean we are in charge of schools as well?”

    Jason Kenney’s behaviour since the pandemic broke has reminded me of that story. In his mind he was elected by the business community to enhance Alberta’s business environment. Unlike the county councillor, it seems like Mr. Kenney has yet to realize he also has real people under his care. Based on our current trajectory, we could easily have 1000 active cases of Covid by the end of this week.

    Think about it. One thousand Albertans told they have a disease that could be fatal, and for which there is no known cure. In addition to the fear they are feeling, each probably have a half dozen loved ones feeling fearful for their sick relative. As well, they have to be wondering if they have been exposed, and each sick person must be wondering if they have unwittingly brought the disease to their loved ones.

    In front of this back drop they hear Jason Kenney’s one note tune about what to do about the price of oil.

    We need better leadership.

  10. Jason Kenney’s plan to further drive Alberta to “hell in a hand-basket” just got another thumbs up from his right-wing base — who incredibly voted for this political masochist. Sad.

      1. My reference was to “political” masochist. (From Merriam-Webster general use) : a person who takes pleasure in pain and suffering. In Jason Kennedy’s case — I think the reference is most apropos. Still disagree?

        1. Athabascan is correct. A masochist is someone who takes pleasure in their own pain and suffering; a sadist takes pleasure in someone else’s. Maybe time for a new dictionary?

  11. Ms. LaGrange would it be too much to ask for you to give an update on the expansion of the Red Deer hospital you promised would be done if you were elected? I would hate to think that you misled the voters and in fact have done nothing, it would be a shame to have 400,000 central Albertans left without adequate medical care especially during a pandemic.

    I had to rewrite this reply as the original likely wouldn’t have been published or appeared as just a bunch of symbols. All I will say, in terms you may understand, is Ms. LaGrange there is a special place in hell for those who hurt children and you are booking your ticket. Forgiveness comes to those who are truly sorry and you appear not to be, your blind pursuit of a twisted ideology that punishes the most vulnerable is unforgivable. Think of the lives of the children that will be seriously harmed or permanently altered as a result of your callousness. A person’s true character is shown when the puppet questions the master, it is time for you to show some character and question your master.

  12. I am an EA, The child I work with has aggressive behaviour and when I arrived in September he was ‘lashing out’ and hurting other children. He spoke about killing small animals and hurting others. With help from school counsellors, other EA’s, the teacher, the secretaries, the bus driver, the school custodian and myself we have been able to create a safe environment for this child to exist and thrive in. I am happy to report that I have not seen him hurt another child for months and he is learning respect and slowly able to play with other kids. His talk about hurting other living things has decreased and our awareness on how to work with him and other children who have experienced trauma has increased.

    Taking away my work with him, although online – is taking away a trusted support system from this child. I believe I am one of the only adults he can actually connect with. This is putting this specific child and our community at risk. I have spent the past 2 weeks helping the teacher work with him and the other high needs children in our classroom. She has over 40 students because she works with 2 classes.

    The children of this province are our future and our greatest asset. The UCP have put them at great risk with this decision. The trauma some children will experience during this time is unthinkable and having support staff available to them is crucial.

    Why cut these essential services yet keep the staff in the War room?

  13. If the governments political slogans were truthful, they would have called it the Blueprint for Elimination of Jobs instead. Of course they will avoid that because they campaigned on job creation, even though that is so clearly not what they are delivering.

    It doesn’t make sense to add to an already overwhelmed EI system, except in so far the provincial government can save some already budgeted money by shifting costs to the Feds. It also allows them to stick it to one of their favorite whipping boys – public sector employees, yet again. Of course, the employees will also get less under EI, the process of laying off and hopefully later rehiring them will be disruptive and require a lot of administrative work and time. So much for reducing administrative costs.

    Even before everything hit the fan, I felt Kenney could become the modern day version of RB Bennett. I feel the government is floundering through this and clinging to ideology, which seems to only be making things worse. After RB Bennett, it was almost 70 years before another government called Conservative, without any modification to the name, was elected in Canada. They say people do not have long memories about politics, but somehow the slogan that conservative times are tough times stuck.

    Mr. Kenney is quite good at the glad handing aspect of politics and giving rousing speeches to partisan crowds, but the governing part does not seem to be his strength, especially in tough times.

    1. Actually from 1935 to 1957 is only 22 years, not 70. I get that everyone is upset but come on, people, facts matter.

      And R.B. Bennett was a good man who responded personally to letters for help from desperate people hit hard by the Great Depression by sending money to them in his return correspondence and he brought in a Canadian New Deal that would have provided pensions and government funding for Canadians. He got defeated and it was thirty years before the Liberals brought in pretty much the same programs.

  14. And to add further to the dark comedy that is Alberta, c/o of the UCP website and the Calgary Herald. (Back to their Kenney fluffing ways, I see.)

    It’s been declared that Kenney will be leading an organized effort to create a North American energy zone that bars the importation of foreign oil.

    Interesting idea, except for one very glaring point that Kenney failed to notice.

    The second that the price of gas in the US breaks the $4.00/Gal mark because of the restricted supply, every single politician in America will stop breathing and die.

  15. The War Room has only produced one item in the last 19 days, slightly reworded press releases as usual, with no relation to their purported mission of debunking anti-oil messages. At this rate it is over $1,000,000 per “article”.

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