Alberta Politics
A cranky looking Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro bashes Justin Trudeau at yesterday’s daily COVID briefing (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Assailed for their own scandals and bungles, Alberta’s UCP doubles down on bashing Justin Trudeau as distraction

Posted on January 29, 2021, 2:17 am
9 mins

Facing mounting public anger over a truckload of scandals and bungles, Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government has doubled-down on its favourite fight-back strategy: rancorous attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Yesterday’s daily COVID-19 briefing was only the latest example of the how the UCP strategic brain trust thinks they can change the channel on Mr. Kenney’s disastrous $1.5-billion lost bet that Donald Trump would win the U.S. presidential election, the Aloha-gate caucus vacations scandal, the effort to sneak open-pit coal mining into the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies, and the province’s lacklustre response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The United Conservative Party’s favourite whipping boy, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

When Premier Kenney failed to make his scheduled appearance at yesterday’s COVID news conference, it fell to Health Minister Tyler Shandro to heap the ritual abuse on Mr. Trudeau, when he wasn’t refusing to answer reporters’ questions. 

“Ottawa continues to fail us, and to fail all Albertans,” he moaned, naming Mr. Trudeau as the source of all the province’s troubles, especially when it comes to supply problems with various COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Prime Minister Trudeau, Health Minister Hajdu, and Public Services and Procurement Minister Anand need to come clean with Canadians and fix this now,” Mr. Shandro said in a press release, published just in case anyone missed him carrying on at the news conference. “Anything less is unacceptable.

The actual battle against COVID – presumably the one we should all be focusing on – is clearly now taking a backseat to the UCP’s effort to distract the public from Mr. Kenney’s recent troubles and its potential to be a spoiler in the next federal election, should one be called soon. 

If Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw wasn’t embarrassed by Mr. Shandro’s performance as she waited to deliver the latest infection statistics at was is supposed to be a daily pandemic technical briefing, she should have been. 

Constantly yelling at Mr. Trudeau about circumstances over which he has little control may seem like a non sequitur, but the UCP’s strategic advisors obviously think it will work. And here’s the thing: they might be right. 

For one thing, it helps rebuild ties to key parts of the UCP base disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the holiday scandal and deeply troubled by the loss of that $1.5 billion gone to subsidize the Keystone XL Pipeline that will never be built and the coal-mine plan that has infuriated farmers and ranchers all the way to the Saskatchewan border. 

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

Mr. Kenney’s advisors – or Mr. Kenney himself – have obviously concluded these folks hate Mr. Trudeau more than they fear selenium pollution in their water or are offended by UCP MLAs sunning themselves on the beaches of Hawaii or Mexico during a pandemic. 

It doesn’t help that the NDP Opposition appears to be gun-shy on a couple of these issues. 

Having been successfully branded as anti-pipeline by Mr. Kenney during the 2019 election campaign, it’s understandable the NDP might fear going after him too hard for hosing away billions on KXL. 

But, c’mon, that was then and this is now! Joe Biden is the president and carbon neutrality is coming to the U.S.A. General Motors, for heaven’s sake, said yesterday it’s going to stop making petroleum-burning vehicles in 14 years! 

The idea that someone could Make Oil Great Again might have had some tattered credibility left two years ago. But that pipe-dream’s dead now. 

The NDP needs to hammer the UCP for betting everything on a pipeline and denying reality, instead of managing change that everyone knows is coming. 

The Opposition needs to keep asking – forcefully and regularly – what else Mr. Kenney has hosed away on that doomed pipeline. With another $5 billion in loan guarantees, it’s quite possible the government is covering up bigger losses by refusing to disclose the details of their deal with TC Energy Corp. 

Likewise, having been effectively smeared as allies of Mr. Trudeau and the Ottawa Liberals during the last election, the NDP is shy about slamming Mr. Kenney’s cynical attacks on the PM to distract us from his own government’s pandemic mistakes. 

But by playing it too softly, the Opposition risks letting Mr. Kenney make his way back to that convenient false narrative that only he will stand up for Alberta. 

Meanwhile, UCP creates an unneeded new bureaucracy 

It may add a whole new bureaucracy with all the expenses that go with it, but the Alberta Parole Board announced yesterday by Justice Minister Kaycee Madu will let the UCP play at being tough on crime.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The new board can only grant parole to prisoners in provincial jails, in other words, people serving sentences of less than two years. Ottawa used to do that job gratis since there’s not much need for it. 

But this unneeded announcement allowed Justice Minister Kaycee Madu to join the Ottawa-bashing yesterday and proclaim that “given the lack of action by the federal government in addressing Alberta’s request for a fair deal in Confederation, the Alberta government must continue to assert its jurisdictional authority where it can, like a provincial parole board.”

Former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, who for a spell was public security advisor to a group promoting Canada’s new recreational marijuana industry, will head the unnecessary new bureaucracy.

Bob Hawkesworth resurfaces as Bow Valley College board member

Well, that’s a mild surprise. Revealed in Wednesday’s cabinet orders was the appointment of former Calgary NDP MLA and city councillor Bob Hawkesworth to the Board of Governors of Bow Valley College. 

Former NDP MLA and Calgary city councillor Bob Hawkesworth (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Hawkesworth was elected to Calgary City Council in 1980, and to the Legislature in 1986, beating a Progressive Conservative candidate named Jim Prentice by a narrow margin. Mr. Hawkesworth was re-elected in 1989, defeated by a now-forgotten Tory in 1993, and soon returned to Calgary City Council, where he stayed until 2010. 

That year, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Calgary, withdrawing from the race less than a week before the election in a futile effort to block Naheed Nenshi from winning. In 2015, he tried for a comeback in provincial politics, running to replace his old adversary Mr. Prentice, who had resigned as premier immediately after losing the May 15 election to Rachel Notley’s NDP. He was beaten by then-Wildroser Prasad Panda by a comfortable margin. 

Mr. Hawkesworth’s term will expire on March 31, 2022. 

19 Comments to: Assailed for their own scandals and bungles, Alberta’s UCP doubles down on bashing Justin Trudeau as distraction

  1. Hammer

    January 29th, 2021

    I am getting really tired of this bullsh## of Shandro and company. Even my kids know when to cop up when it is their fault. I am no fan of Trudeau, but always trying to blame the Liberals is nonsense. Didn’t the Jesuit teachings include personal responsibility? I also had a bit of the good old Jesuit training and it was always our fault! JK must have missed that class.
    If the populous is that naïve to believe that all problems flow from JT and company then you get what you deserve. If there is no accountability to decisions like coal, AIMCO, ALOHA gate, 1.5$ billion flushed down the sewer, then help us LORD! It is time for the NDP to grow a set and shout UCP responsibility from the rooftops , instead of making the calculus if they say anything they will be seen as JT conspirators!
    PS.. Hey JK when are you going to top up FL worker pay?

  2. jerrymacgp

    January 29th, 2021

    Attacking Mr Trudeau & his Liberal government for Pfizer’s pause on manufacturing their vaccine — jointly developed with BioNtech — is simply irrational. The company’s stated reason for the pause is to retool their manufacturing process to increase the pace of production. Whether or not that’s true, is irrelevant to the question of whether the federal government is at fault: the answer is, it isn’t. How could it be? There’s no logic to the position that the federal government is to blame, other than the UCP’s knee-jerk visceral hatred of Mr Trudeau & all his works.

    Not only that, but Pfizer’s pause doesn’t mean we are getting no vaccine: we are still getting & administering the Moderna vaccine, although their delivery schedule is still a bit slower than most of us would like. (I have it in good authority, for example, that most of the residents of a private supportive living facility here in Grande Prairie have been immunized, using the Moderna product, with the exception only of those who are positive for the virus & are therefore temporarily ineligible).

    This is a marathon, not a sprint.

  3. Abs

    January 29th, 2021

    The thing is, in-person meetings for groups are perfectly safe when combined with in-person buffet dining experiences, but only when you order chicken, extra meat, vegetables and no potatoes, in accordance with the keto diet. Plus, one must chose a locale without someone scaling the exterior while you are inside.

    I can’t make this stuff up. Why would I, when life in Alberta is stranger than fiction?

  4. Sheldon

    January 29th, 2021

    I want my government to find solutions to problems we face, not to blame others like a child for its own inaction in the face of complex and difficult issues.

  5. Carlos

    January 29th, 2021

    Incompetent or immature people always blame others for their shortcomings instead of using humility as their way to grow.
    In the UCP party no one needs to grow anymore because they are so full of themselves and of something else that smells that it becomes a lost cause as we are witnessing day by day.
    It is a total disgrace and God knows what else they will change to meet 12th century standards.

  6. ema

    January 29th, 2021

    That was quite the petulant hissy fit that Shandro threw at the presser yesterday. He sounded beyond churlish and childish, as he dodged questions and spewed raw venom, particularly against the federal govt. Was his refusal to divulge why the premier was not in attendance anything to do with another hit on the premier in Rick Bell’s column? The whole security excuse was a farce, about something that had nothing to to with the government officials attending their meeting. Besides, what is with these meetings? Aren’t they supposed to go online?

    Regarding the parole board, where was Grant Hunter in all of this? Aren’t they supposed to be stopping unnecessary red tape?

  7. Neil Lore

    January 29th, 2021

    IMO JT should call Shandro’s bluff. “Dear Alberta, if you want to make the federal government responsible for Alberta’s provincial health care, sign here. No takebacksies.”

    19,000+ Canadians dead. Long past time to invoke the Emergency Measures Act. I would specifically urge the gov’t to temporarily suspend the following civil liberties:
    Freedom of the press – censor newspapers for printing COVID denial or for platforming COVID deniers
    Freedom of assembly – next “Freedom Rally” should be met with riot police and jail time. They are spreading the plague and killing people.
    Freedom of movement – no non-essential travel across federal or provincial borders. No fines for offenders, jail time starting at 1 year.

    Why are these rights more important than the rights of thousands of Canadians to not die of the plague? Could it be that the wealthy and privileged believe that this virus is not their problem? We need to make it their problem! Their profits matter more to them than our lives, and fair enough I guess, but why do their profits matter more to US than our lives?

    I would further urge the government to nationalize long term care and sue the companies responsible for manslaughter, reckless endangerment, etc. Go after them for every dime they are worth, put the CEOs and majority shareholders in prison, and not one of the “nice” prisons either. They profited off of actions that killed helpless people who they were being paid to protect, and could reasonably have foreseen it. The lack of preparation in LTC for the second wave is beyond inexcusable.

    All rent, lease and mortgage payments should be halted for all individuals and businesses under a certain size. Banks can damn well eat the losses – the whole reason we let them rig the rules to make them so rich is because having a strong banking sector is important for national security.

    All employees should get paid sick leave until this crisis is over.

    Temporary federal funding should be provided to food banks across the country.

    A COVID profiteering tax should be enacted, any business that has seen its profits jump over COVID should have a large chunk of those profits recouped by the taxpayer.

    A new Crown corporation responsible for manufacturing medical equipment for Canada should be created immediately. We should never be reliant on other countries in order to take care of the sick and injured.

    For the duration of the crisis, the Intellectual Property of vaccine “creators” should be ignored. Any production facility capable of making vaccine should make it. Infuriating to me that the taxpayers of so many countries funded the R&D for these vaccines yet the company owns the IP. When did we become such a bunch of hapless rubes?

    Anyone with a net worth of X or greater should not be able to claim COVID benefits. Don’t know exactly what X should be, but I know that the richest people in society are making out like bandits right now and we need to do something about that.

    Aaaaaaaand none of this is going to happen. Maybe the people who are running society….

    …shouldn’t be.

  8. mike

    January 29th, 2021

    Rick Hanson ran provincially in 2015 for the PCs in Calgary and lost to Ricardo Miranda, so there’s a whiff of patronage.

  9. Dave

    January 29th, 2021

    Mr. Kenney is doing what he does best – criticizing and stirring up anger towards others. He would make a very effective opposition leader, but unfortunately he does not seem so good at governing. Perhaps he is fortunate the issue of pipeline insecurity, which strikes a raw nerve with the fears of many Albertans related to current and future economic security, has arisen again. It helps distract from all the problems and mistakes of his own government, as does bringing up the current problems with vaccine distribution. These distribution problems may only be temporary, over the next month or so, but will give Kenney a chance to focus on others, instead of his own shortcomings, for a while.

    However it was interesting Kenney designated Shandro as his attack dog against Trudeau this time, instead of taking Trudeau on directly as he seemed to relish in the past. I wonder if Kenney is hedging his bets here, perhaps he has noticed that attacking Trudeau hasn’t always been as electorally rewarding as expected for fellow his members of the resistance, Premiers Ford and Pallister. I also wonder how many times Kenney can go to the blame Trudeau well, before it starts to run dry for him as a political strategy. Kenney’s tactic is already becoming a bit of a political punch line outside Alberta, where he has seemingly has considerably less sway over the mainstream media.

    There is a risk, as you noted, that if Kenney wants to keep talking about pipelines that the focus could shift back to the related issue of the losses to Albertans from Kenney’s foolish investment and loan guarantees in Keystone XL. Apparently it is somewhere between $1.5 billion and $7.5 billion, but amazingly we still have no figures from the Alberta Government as to the amount of the loss. You have to wonder how much longer it will be before even those in our placid mainstream media start to ask more questions about this. Although, I suspect like many things embarrassing to the current Alberta government, it will probably be covered better by media based outside Alberta than the local mainstream media. It makes me wonder why the local media is often hesitant to say or print things critical of Kenney and the UCP.

  10. Keith McClary

    January 29th, 2021

    Does “come clean with Canadians” mean publish the contracts with the pharma companies?

    If so, why doesn’t UCP “come clean with Albertans” by publishing the Keystone agreement and what it cost us, and itemized spending on the War Room and the Anti-Alberta Inquiry?

  11. Just Me

    January 29th, 2021

    If you’re going apply a distraction to diminish your own misdeeds, at least come with a distraction that is well-thought through and offers a reasonable amount of protection for yourself.

    Saying, “I did my homework, but my dog ate it,” isn’t much of a distraction. Worse, it may serve as the next best thing to a confession.

    Blaming everything on the feds, or more conveniently Justin Trudeau, as always been the tried and true method of getting out of trouble in Alberta. It’s always been reliably used for decades — even the NDP got into using it with some success. But with the UCP, this form of distraction is fast becoming unreliable.

    Throwing multiple billions of dollars in public money at a pipeline project, that could only be completed on a wing and a prayer, qualifies as one of the mother of all screw ups. Was Kenney actually hoping that the insurrection to overthrow the 2020 Election would succeed, and Trump would become president for life? Given the Angry Midget’s tendencies toward fascism, it’s fair to say Kenney would have been shamelessly cheering on Il Duce Trump from the front row for the sake of his pipeline.

  12. Firth of Fifth

    January 29th, 2021

    My wife was reading somewhere (sorry, can’t find the link) that Tyler “Dennis-The-Menace” Shandro’s popularity is dropping fast. I believe the numbers were 36% approval rating vs 49% disapproval. Had me feeling pretty good until I realized that means 36% actually still approve of that twit and 15% are somehow neutral. It just boggles the mind how deep the brainwashing, and brain rot, goes in this province.

  13. pogo

    January 29th, 2021

    Shandro? Ooh! He’s a bad boy with sniffy baggage! Good lord! Can the UCP brainbust fail to give him a theme song? Well then, I will!

  14. Scotty on Denman

    January 29th, 2021

    Hawkesworth: now there’s a name I remember from one of my sojourns in the great province of Alberta, when he was a Calagary City councilman. Always something goin’ on in Alberta, sometimes a little surprising—like Hawkesworth’s return to the public eye—but far more often something more appallingly consistent and predictable, like a slow-mo train wreck we can’t look away from—at least as much as some would like us to.

    It’s hardly surprising UCP MLAs want to distract from their government’s still-scrolling list of screw-ups, but it’s astonishing, nonetheless, that it still seems scripted from Donald tRump’s playbook: from recruiting some very fine campaign people in biker vests to ginning ridiculously antiquated red-scare rhetoric; from dismissing the seriousness of the Covid pandemic to opening up pristine wilderness (of high-access recreational value, no less) to coal mining interests (from Australia) for no other reason (unless you count the pittance of royalties negotiated) than to let the UCP thumb its nose at environmentalists on a trifecta of counts: habitat destruction, water pollution, and climate change; and from presuming a Republican win in the USA (enough to bet large on the KXL pipeline which the Democratic candidate campaigned on nixing—and did) to blaming everything that goes wrong on a scapegoat, in the UCP’s case, Justin Trudeau, Liberal Prime Minister (who, even more unforgivably, failed to do penance for beating CPC godhead and former PM, Steven Harper, by beating his successor too). The K-Boy’s even got following the tRump playbook all the way over a cliff down pat, too, trade wars, liberal conspiracies—the whole nine petards.

    Two more tRumpesque plays reported here today, both predictably predicable: like tRump’s ballyhooed “renegotiation” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which he said was the “worst deal ever,” one that took unfair advantage of the USA, Justice Minster Madu’s parole board for provincial, two-year-less-a-day prison sentences is a bunch of chauvinistic bluster over a molehill of moot but, to be sure, blamed on allegedly unfair advantages taken of Alberta and just as meaningful as the new Canada US Mexico Agreement (despite The Orange One’s boast that the deal was totally refurbished, it actually only tinkered with some fraction of a percent of bilateral trade); second is, naturally, blaming Trudeau for everything that’s going wrong for the UCP government, even though the Prime Minister didn’t import the Covid virus whelming Alberta’s hospital capacity or crash the bitumen market basket in which the Wild Rose Province has put all its eggs. Makes you wonder how the rugged cowpunchers and sand pounders riding the range of individual rights and freedoms feel about being so predictably, so robotically ready to draw arms: all Kenney—or Shandro, or anybody, really— has to do is push their Trudeau buttons and they sing their peeved Prairie paean in a hammering blaze of fury and white hot barrels, right on cue, every time.

    Two quick stories about BC Premier John Horgan (whom Trudeau replaced according to the dictum of Groß Lüge which restricts blaming everything on to one scapegoat at a time): the BC NDP has always struggled with being aggressive, even when it should be. Passivity cost leader Carole James her job when a third of her opposition caucus demanded she attack scandal plagued BC Liberal premier Gordon Campbell with more vigour (he eventually resigned of his own disgrace anyway). Horgan came in third in the race to replace James because (in an example of ethnic discrimination), it was whispered on the convention floor, he was too hot-headed to be an NDP Premier (that is, supposedly, because he’s of Irish descent). But the winner, Adrian Dix, was so passive he ordered NDP candidates in the following election to avoid negativity, calling the campaign strategy “positive politics”—like he hadn’t learned from his predecessor’s ouster—and the party went on to blow a 20-point lead while the one-note (LNG), prancing majorette, Christy Clark, walked away with the victory. Horgan was then acclaimed NDP leader—and it made a big difference: when Christy tried to deploy the BC Liberals usual hardball, underhanded, take-no-prisoners tactics leading up to the 2017 BC election, this time by falsely accusing the NDP of hacking the BC Liberal website, Horgan immediately threatened legal action instead of turning the other cheek like so many NDP predecessors would have done. Christy was so stunned by the rapid ultimatum that she left a sort-of half-apology on Horgan’s answering machine, mumbling a halfhearted retraction of the attempted smear. But more importantly, it made her conspicuously and uncharacteristically gun shy for the rest of the whole campaign —and it was probably instrumental in her party’s failure to win a majority and in her minority government’s subsequent toppling when the Throne Speech lost on a vote of confidence.

    Rachel Notley might take a lesson: sometimes a party must attack its rival instead of playing tactical games, polishing campaign policy promises, and keeping power dry for the big, fixed-election date (which is why I’m against fixed terms). Rope-a-dope is only good in boxing if it eventually leads up to a knock-out punch—that is, if the beating endured on the ropes hasn’t worn you out before your opponent. Now, for the moment, I’ll give it to Ms Notley that she might be keeping something back for a more propitious time. Yes, what many prejudge of her gender and diminutive stature might indeed make her style of aggression seem most effective as the deftly stinging, well-landed jab, say, in a televised debate, as she demonstrated upon the soon vanquished Jim Prentice (ending 43 years of ProgCon rule). But, IMHO, she should not rely on another kiss-of-the-spider opportunity presenting again at such an optimal time. There is no dishonour in moving in for the kill when the opponent is down, especially when downed by his own doing, and even more, when those doings need to be shown the opprobrium they deserve. Pick your spots, Ms Notley, I won’t try to second guess you in your own bailiwick. Just make sure the K-Boy and his UCP chauvinists are exposed for what they really are—a bunch of charlatans— and what they really aren’t—a good government.

    Second thing about Horgan that Kenney should look out for, too: Horgan was granted an early election because he led a minority government which rather needed a stronger mandate precisely to deal with the Covid pandemic, despite many people of all stripes arguing, not unreasonably, the opposite: that it was epidemiologically too risky to conduct an election during a pandemic, especially in the cold months. Nevertheless, the Governor allowed him that risk and his NDP won a strong majority. (The New Brunswick Conservative minority followed suit, was granted an early election on pandemic grounds, and also won a majority.) Now, Mr Kenney, you don’t suppose a certain federal minority government might, in the midst of a pandemic, request and be granted an early election, too, do you?

    What would the K-Boy do then, for the sake of consistency? Oh, well, yes: claim massive electoral fraud, of course! He doesn’t have to read the tRump playbook to know how that works: he went to electoral cheating finishing school for nine years—and his diploma’s probably coming in the mail— soon.

  15. brett

    January 29th, 2021

    Kenney’s Government seems to have three operating principles…

    1. If it is good….take all the credit notwithstanding who made it good.

    2. If it is bad…..always blame a) Trudeau, b) the Federal Goverrnment c) the rabid socialists banging on the door

    3. If if is bad and clearly the fault of the UCP Govt start screaming, waving hands, and blame it on the Federal Government or whoever else is convenient. Just deny, deny, deny

    So for, it seems that 2 and 3 have been used and overused. Voters are wise to it. Albertan voters are not as dumb as the UCP assumes (or would like).

    • jerrymacgp

      February 2nd, 2021

      For the UCP, Mr Trudeau & his Liberal government fill the same role of all-purpose villain as Hillary Clinton & her emails …

  16. Anonymous

    January 30th, 2021

    The UCP have nobody to blame but themselves for all of their mistakes. But they will always try to blame others. That is a failed strategy.


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