Jason Kenney’s controversial speechwriter Paul Bunner (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Given the uproar over an article widely perceived as expressing racist sentiments by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s speechwriter, it will be interesting to see how the Conservative Party of Canada reacts to the fact Paul Bunner is also chief executive of its Edmonton Strathcona constituency association.

As of the close of business Friday, Elections Canada’s registered association database continued to show Mr. Bunner as CEO of the federal party’s association in the progressive-leaning Edmonton Strathcona federal riding.

Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That is bound to raise the same questions for the federal Conservatives as Mr. Kenney and his United Conservative Party have faced since Mr. Bunner’s 2013 article resurfaced earlier this week.

This can’t be good news for the federal party since Edmonton Strathcona, represented by New Democrat Heather McPherson, is the only riding in Alberta that didn’t elect a Conservative MP in last year’s federal election.

They would very much like the clean sweep of Alberta they expected last time to actually happen in the next federal election. Doubtless Mr. Bunner’s speechwriting talents will be in demand to boost the CPC’s candidate in the riding, investment banker and former journalist Rick Peterson, an advocate of a Texas-style regime of zero income taxes for big business.

Despite calls by NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and many others for Mr. Bunner to be fired, Mr. Kenney was clearly disinclined to do anything more than mildly say he disagreed with the opinions expressed in the article in C2C Journal, an online conservative publication that bills itself as a source of “ideas that lead.”

“Somebody who was a journalist for 40 years undoubtedly wrote things with which I disagree,” Mr. Kenney said Thursday. “That does not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.” He said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the point of view expressed by the speechwriter he hired last year.

“This essay is racist,” Ms. Notley said of Mr. Bunner’s article. “And it is not a poorly worded tweet or document of the distant past. It was written deliberately and recently.”

“I am deeply troubled that Jason Kenney selected someone who holds these views to be one of his closest collaborators in the premier’s office,” said the former premier, whose Edmonton-Strathcona provincial riding occupies some of the same territory as the federal electoral district of the same name.

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Last night she tweeted: “It’s not enough to not be racist, we must be anti-racist. Being anti-racist means firing Paul Bunner and apologizing to Albertans.”

In a news release from the NDP Caucus that pointed to a long list of controversial statements made by Mr. Bunner in various articles over the years, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi said “it’s simply not believable that Kenney hired Bunner to such a senior position as a writer without any knowledge of his body of work as a writer.

“Even if he wants to claim that, Kenney can’t deny that he knows about Bunner’s long record of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia today,” Ms. Pancholi continued. “He must fire him immediately.”

As is now very well known, Mr. Bunner’s story, entitled “The ‘Genocide’ That Failed,”  dismissed the widespread understanding of what happened in Canada’s residential schools as “a bogus genocide” and called on opinion-leaders in media, academia and politics “to find the courage to start questioning the residential schools orthodoxy.”

Edmonton-Whitemud NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Once the chief speechwriter for Stephen Harper, Mr. Bunner also described the former Conservative prime minister’s 2008 apology for the residential school policy as “a strategic attempt to kill the story.”

The article was certainly in line with opinions by other writers found in C2C Journal, which is widely distributed in Conservative circles, including through emails sent out by the Calgary-based Manning Centre — which will be officially renamed the Canada Strong and Free Network next Wednesday on Canada Day.

C2C articles have mocked problems faced by LGBTQ seniors, continued to complain about “Harper Derangement Syndrome,” and touted the “male resurgence” in Ontario politics.

Articles in the publication this year have argued “the private sector must get a larger role in Canadian health care,” claimed “the worst environmental calamity would be the absence of capitalism,” attacked the reputation of retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and cheered “free speech warrior” Ezra Levant.

Even if publicity about Mr. Bunner’s federal role worries the Conservatives, they’re unlikely to do anything about him without getting the nod from Mr. Kenney and Mr. Harper.

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  1. Stephen Harper was stopped, just like those traffic signs outside his office warned before the election that saw him kicked to the curb. And yet the Wizard of Odd continues to pull Jason Kenney’s levers behind the curtain.

    This kind of rhetoric is dangerous and undemocratic. It almost sounds like “wash your white laundry day”.

  2. I knew Paul Bunner in the mid 1980s when he was a reporter so the Meado Lake, SK Sun. He was clearly a Conservative reporter writing for a very Conservative weekly newspaper, but tempered his articles back then. I was the NDP mayor of Meadow Lake at the time and I suspect that the paper owned by the owner of the Grand Centre Sun with the hope of defeating me but I was acclaimed at the 1985 municipal election. The paper was discontinued shortly after that.

    I almost liked Mr. Bunner back then. But I never imagined he would go over the edge, but then Alberta has a long history of being very right wing with little or no serious opposition. 2015 must have been a hard swallow for Mr. Brunner.

  3. It’s good to see that the level of kook-burgery at ye olde Edmonton-Strathcona PC/Reform/CA/CPC riding association(s) continues to push and impress on levels of tomfoolery never before seen by humanity.

    I recall the days when local gun enthusiast, advocate, and loon, the late David A. Tomlinson, would inundate the office of the riding association with reams upon reams of documents purporting to prove the Illuminati Conspiracy was behind gun control. And there was then student-at-law, Ezra Levant, presenting himself as a budding Geraldo Rivera, often storm trooping the meetings and holding the evil socialists at bay. Add into that the day-drinkers of the U of A Reform Party Club, and you get a menagerie of characters that would inspire Larry David’s comic genius.

    And the proud tradition of raging lunacy and jackassery continues…

  4. I don’t know for sure whether Mr. Bunner himself is a bigot or racist (although I suspect he is), or he has just made a long career of consistently appealing to them. I do know that up until now, Mr. Kenney sure has seemed untroubled by having Mr. Bunner around and that speaks volumes about the how the top leadership of UCP thinks on these issues. First, they consistently seem quite comfortable to have racists or bigots within their fold, at least until something comes out to put public pressure on them or embarrass them. Second, they generally still seem quite willing to go after minorities if it plays to their base or they think it is a winning strategy electorally. Mr. Kenney’s efforts to undermine and restrict GSA’s are a bit more subtle than some of the ham handed comments Mr. Bunner has made over the years, but ultimately as damaging or perhaps more.

    I don’t think Mr. Kenney can claim ignorance of Mr. Bunners views or disavow them. Surely he has read Alberta Report and many other things Mr. Bunner has written over the years. I suspect he is fully aware of many of the things Mr. Bunner has written over the years and even more than that, I suspect they have shaped and reinforced Kenney’s own world views. Clearly prejudice does not exist in a vacuum, but spreads like a virus. If Mr. Kenney was truly concerned about this, he would use this opportunity to reflect on his own views and also actually take this opportunity to try repair some of the damage done over the years. However, I suspect Kenney’s main concern is just that this story go away, as he does not have the inclination to get rid of Mr. Bunner and probably still agrees with much of Bunner’s world views.

    Some of the terrible things Mr. Bunner wrote were from years ago, some more recent. I doubt that Mr. Bunner’s view’s have evolved much over the years, there is little evidence to support that, although perhaps tighter hate speech laws and less social tolerance have influenced how Mr. Bunner puts his thoughts in writing in more recent times. I am also not aware of any time in the past, before all this came to light, that he has expressed any regret or apologized for what he has written.

    This whole thing shows how comfortable the top leadership of the UCP is with bigotry and racism and also how uncomfortable they are with actually doing anything about stopping it. They are fine with letting this virus continue to spread.

  5. I don’t speak German, so is it possible that “C2C Journal” is an English translation of “Völkischer Beobachter”?

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