Alberta Politics
Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski addresses supporters at Saturday’s tiki-torch march in Edmonton (Photo: Facebook).

Advice for Jason Kenney: If you’re going to sup with the Devil, you need a longer spoon

Posted on February 23, 2021, 2:00 am
7 mins

Jason Kenney didn’t actually say there were very fine people at Saturday’s tiki-torch parade at the Alberta Legislature, but his half-hearted condemnation of the racist overtones of the tawdry “one-voice walk for freedom” surely came from the same place.

It took Alberta’s United Conservative Party premier almost 48 hours to condemn the march, which was supposedly organized to protest Alberta’s already-too-weak restrictions on commercial and social activities that can spread COVID-19 but quickly took on an uglier tone. 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson (David J. Climenhaga).

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson did not hesitate. He issued a statement hours before the marchers assembled, emphasizing that “COVID-19 is not a joke or a hoax. We are in the middle of a global public health crisis. Wearing a mask and following other public health measures keeps people safe and saves lives.”

“I’ve also been made aware that some people associated with this rally, which is being led by organizers from outside Edmonton, may be associated with known hate groups,” Mayor Iveson pointedly added. “Edmonton unequivocally condemns racism, misogyny and other forms of hate – such speech is not welcome in our community.”

“This wasn’t about COVID-19,” NDP Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley said on Twitter afterward. “Demonstrations of white nationalism are a real threat and we must confront that threat.”

After that, there was silence from the UCP. 

Never mind that while the tiki torch crowd of about 300 people marched to the Legislature, many were recorded spewing abuse at reporters and counter-protesters, not to mention scuffling with police. One man was arrested and four officers were assaulted during the melee, Edmonton Police said. 

Eventually, at a virtual news conference yesterday about how hockey teams would be allowed to raise money by holding 50-50 draws, the UCP’s multiculturalism minister responded for the government.

“Peaceful protest is a very, very important part of democracy,” Leela Aheer said, carefully sticking to the government’s talking point. “However, racism, white supremacy – any of that – is absolutely, imperatively, absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable at any time.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (David J. Climenhaga).

It was another six hours before Mr. Kenney got around to saying anything, with a waffling statement attached to a tweet. Nothing was posted on Facebook, where the basest members of Mr. Kenney’s base hang out. 

“Albertans value the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly,” he began – at least, presumably, when those rights aren’t being exercised by people the premier doesn’t agree with anywhere near critical infrastructure.

He acknowledged that some of the participants in the rally are associated with known racist groups, mildly condemned division and hate, and concluded: “Like any large public protest, there was likely a range of perspectives and motivations amongst those who attended. 

“There is no doubt that some people came just to register their opposition to public health measures, which is their democratic right,” his statement rambled on. “But these people also have a responsibility to disassociate themselves from extremists who peddle hatred and division, and who played a role in this event.” 

Alberta Multiculturalism Minister Leela Aheer (David J. Climenhaga).

This mealy-mouthed commentary wasn’t quite a full-throated Trumpian defence of the “very fine people” among the not-so-fine folk in attendance, but surely boils down to the same sentiment. 

Could we expect an unequivocal condemnation of outright racism by our premier? Apparently not. An official statement from his government? Also no. 

But this is what happens when a political party gets too close to its extremist fringe. Politicians like Mr. Kenney may start out thinking they own the fringe, but as we have seen frequently of late, sometimes the fringe ends up owning them. 

That’s why folk wisdom advises that he who sups with the Devil should bring a long spoon. 

This isn’t a new problem for Alberta Conservatives, of course.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver in 2014 (David J. Climenhaga).

Readers will remember that in 2018, members of the Soldiers of Odin – one of the groups said to be at Saturday’s protest – showed up in full regalia at a UCP campaign pub night in Edmonton. Instead of being shown the door, they were invited to share beer and chicken wings and pose for photos with the candidate. (The same candidate is now the chief of staff to the minister of education.)

And way back in 2014, Ric McIver – now Mr. Kenney’s transportation minister but then campaigning for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party – got in hot water for joining anti-gay Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski on the serial noise-bylaw violator’s “March for Jesus” though the streets of Calgary. 

That’s the same Artur Pawlowski, of course, who was one of the organizers of Saturday’s tiki-torch parade in Edmonton. 

It was Pastor Pawlowski’s brother, Dawid Pawlowski, who was arrested after the scuffle with police and later released without charges. 

Maybe Mr. Kenney should speak with his transportation minister about the risks of being too closely identified with those fellows. 

18 Comments to: Advice for Jason Kenney: If you’re going to sup with the Devil, you need a longer spoon

  1. Dave

    February 23rd, 2021

    Well I suppose better late than never, but if Kenney’s moral compass isn’t broken, it sure seems to have quite the time delay these days.

    Conventional wisdom was that Kenney was such a solid political leader, while most of his UCP caucus was not so strong on this. Well Ms Aheer seemed to get it more than her boss here and Ms. Savage handled the recent climb down or reversal on coal policy as good as one might expect, in the circumstances while Kenny was MIA on that too. Maybe the UCP’s biggest problem right now is the boss they are all trying to cover for.

    I suspect Kenney will eventually adjust his message somewhat here, but a big part of the problem is his initial hesitancy and equivocation. I think his failure to be clearer and take a leadership role only encourages and emboldens people like those out on Saturday. It has been ongoing problem for a number of months, and not just over the last few days.

  2. tom

    February 23rd, 2021


    basis, bedrock, foundation, core, essence, essential, nitty-gritty, basics, starting point, key component, fundamental, root(s), heart, backbone, theory, principle, rationale; source, origin, spring, well head, fountainhead, fount.

    sordid, improper, low, mean, bad, wrong, evil, wicked, iniquitous, immoral, sinful; unscrupulous, unprincipled, unseemly, unsavory, shoddy, squalid, vile, foul, vulgar, tawdry, cheap, low-minded, debased, degenerate, depraved, corrupt, reprobate, dissolute, dishonest, dishonorable, disreputable, despicable, discreditable, contemptible, petty, ignominious, ignoble, shameful, wretched, scandalous, infamous, abhorrent, abominable, disgusting.

    • Mark

      February 23rd, 2021

      Perfectly illustrated

  3. TENET

    February 23rd, 2021

    Kenney and his crew are a pernicious presence. They drag Alberta down, the denigrate Albertans, and they have no place in public forums (let alone leadership). We have to learn to flush twice. Thank you David for your tireless work.

  4. Carlos

    February 23rd, 2021

    No surprise at all. The UCP is an extreme right wing party with a fur coat and we all know that.
    They will never say anything about people like Pawlowski because when no one is watching, they are one and the same.

  5. Abs

    February 23rd, 2021

    But the snow penguins! Remember those legions of inanimate, silent little protestors holding toothpick-mounted signs reading, “Don’t freeze us out”? This government was only too happy to take quick and decisive action to smash their snowy skulls to smithereens. What an embarrassment they were, protesting cuts to post-secondary education.

    When it comes to real people carrying tiki torches, abusing reporters doing their jobs, scuffling with the po-po and signalling what could hardly be described as virtues? Stone cold silence. These people weren’t singing “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho”, obviously, but perhaps the premier needs to be reminded of the final line of that song, “And the walls came tumblin’ down.”

    As for Ric McIver, perhaps it’s better if he sticks to making appearances among the common folk at “Cruisin the Dub” nights in the summer months. Vintage cars and hamburgers are far less likely to land him in a heap of whoop-azz.

    • David Climenhaga

      February 23rd, 2021

      Well, they were in fact talking about the battle of Jericho, if not singing. Leastways, they termed their event a “Jericho March,” which if you look it up is defined nowadays as “a loose, pro-Trump ‘Judeo-Christian’ coalition who pray, fast, and march for what they claim to be election integrity and transparency in response to Donald Trump’s baseless accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election…” DJC

  6. Scotty on Denman

    February 23rd, 2021

    premier K does indeed try to own the far-religious-right in Alberta, and his tardiness in denouncing their hate and bigotry, his passive-voice predication of their freedom to spew hatred in the name of Jesus, his consistent retreat to the redoubt of Covid ambivalence and equivocation, his two, one, or zero degrees of separation from defiant supremacism —all positive indicators of his affiliation which, naturally, he’d like to turn into votes for his hapless, freshman party.

    What does the math say? prime minister? Sophomore premier? leader of the loyal opposition? Dog Catcher?

  7. brett

    February 23rd, 2021

    Jason Kenney continues to disappoint this independent Alberta voter.

    I did read Iveson’s comments. I was expecting something similar from the Premier shortly after the demonstrations. But not two days. I was well on my way to another conclusion. I am still left with the question….why was the Premier’s statement more immediate and even more forceful.

    It would appear to me that Mr. Milquetoast appears to be attempting to govern by political polls inside his party and polls of Alberta voters. Problem is it takes a few days to get those results. By then the damage is done.

    I believe that Albertans want a Premier and a Leader who instinctively does the ‘right’ thing notwithstanding where his supporters or the voters happen to be at a particular point in time. So far, Jason Kenney IMHO, has not exhibited this quality. Indeed, the opposite appears to be the standard.

    Jason Kenney has been a huge disappointment to this independent voter….on many levels, many files.

  8. John

    February 23rd, 2021

    I’ve become so disgusted with the UCP and their rabid followers that my view is looking east and west of this province where I’ve hung my hat for 30 years.

  9. Just Me

    February 23rd, 2021

    And Tiki torches, too. Well, the full-on Charlottesville style of protest was going. And I’m sure there were bad people — but also very fine people…on both sides.

    The substantial delay for the Premier’s Office to respond to the past weekend’s protest just proves what thin ice Kenney is on. It’s bad enough that his core support is populated by PLANdemic pinheads, anti-maskers, Qanon enthusiasts, antivaxxers, Evangelical wingnuts, white supremacists, and every other kook-burger franchise out there.

    The notion of the Crying & Angry Midget barricaded inside his Sky Palace/Bunker with an enormous supply of cough syrup does bring joy to my heart.

    • tom in Ontario

      February 23rd, 2021

      “And I’m sure there were bad people—but also very fine people…” The Facebook shot inserted by the blogger doesn’t do the protesters any favours. The dour looks on their faces suggest they need a good evacuation.

  10. Mike in Edmonton

    February 23rd, 2021

    Interesting, isn’t it? This is the second time extreme-right groups have interfered with access to public infrastructure–first at the Remand Center, and now the Legislature. Why no arrests under the protecting public infrastructure act, or whatever the official name is?

    As if we didn’t already know, here’s a link to commentary from a cleric named Michael Coren. He’s trying very hard to be polite, but his opinion of the grandstanding pastors comes through:

    Like the white supremacists, these guys are an integral part of Jason Kenney’s base. Hence, for 48 hours we heard crickets.

    Roll on, 2023! Rachel, where’s your post-oil, post-Covid economic platform? We need it NOW!

    • Scotty on Denman

      February 23rd, 2021

      The way it went, post-oil happened a while back.
      The way it’s going, Alberta will never get to post-Covid.

  11. ayeamaye

    February 23rd, 2021

    Jason Kenney is is just like Count Helmuth Von Moltke the younger not the elder…a vacillating oppurtunist.

  12. ayeamaye

    February 23rd, 2021

    It’s only a matter of time until his “Crisis on the Marne”

  13. February 28th, 2021

    As a black Albertan, it’s disappointing to see how many people are so easily deceived by the media’s narrative. I’ve been a PART of these demonstrations for MONTHS. They are MULTI-CULTURAL and PEACEFUL. The issue is that our politicians don’t like these demonstrations, so the easiest way to “dismantle” it is to call it racist.

    If black lives matters to you all, then stop using our skin colour as a way to divide us! Recognize that this is another division strategy! Black vs White, Left vs Right, now mask vs maskless! DON’T FALL FOR THEIR TACTICS.

    We are all one and need to stand and fight ALL injustice – together.


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