Alberta Premier Jason Kenney – I didn’t even plan that much! (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

According to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, he was so sure his government would win its challenge of the federal government’s carbon-mitigation law that he never gave it a second thought, let alone plan what to do if the Supreme Court of Canada thought otherwise.

Gee, it just seemed like a sure thing, the premier explained yesterday, what with the Alberta Court of Appeal agreeing with the United Conservative Party Government’s arguments and everything.

U.S. President Joe Biden – he uses notes! (Photo: The White House).

Apparently the UCP strategic brain trust was so confident it never considered the prevailing opinion in legal circles that the appeal had the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell before the Supremes, or that the Alberta ruling was an outlier.

Meanwhile, the day before yesterday in Washington D.C., conservative media was in a swivet at the thought that President Joseph Biden, a Democrat whose election Mr. Kenney also apparently neither anticipated nor planned for, used notes of all things when conducting his first press conference since becoming president.

“New photos show cheat sheets used by Biden during his first press conference,” the New York Post screeched. (Emphasis added.) A Fox News commentator breathlessly told listeners that President Biden not only used speaking notes, he could be observed “often referencing them, at times appearing to read directly from them”!

There is a thread that connects these two events. 

Of course, Republican commentators south of the Medicine Line want to portray President Biden, 78, as a doddering old man, unable to function without a cheat sheet similar to the ones used by John F. Kennedy, the youngest president in American history to win an election. (Wait! Strike that last line!) 

Likewise, it is certainly true Mr. Kenney wants to leave the impression that the Supreme Court’s decision was outlandish and dangerous, not that it was pretty obvious to almost everybody that Alberta’s argument in the case was so weak it was unlikely to succeed, and that the province’s UCP Government is just lurching from crisis to crisis without a coherent plan. 

More significantly, though, it seems increasingly likely the entire conservative movement in North America has been drinking its own ideological bathwater for so long it’s no longer capable of making coherent arguments or paying much attention to what’s actually happening. 

NDP Opposition leader and former premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“At a deeper level,” wrote economics columnist Paul Krugman in the New York Times Thursday, “Republicans may simply have lost the ability to take policy seriously.”

From that perspective, the idea of using notes to make sure you’ve got your facts right must seem positively eccentric!

Dr. Krugman quoted American political author and journalist Jonathan Cohn, who argues that the U.S. Republicans, long the model for Canada’s Conservatives, “no longer know how to think through hard choices, make the compromises necessary to build alliances and get things done.”

Bereft of ideas, they offer “boilerplate denunciations of socialists killing jobs,” wrote Dr. Krugman, and focus on cancel culture and Dr. Seuss. 

This certainly sounds like the UCP, doesn’t it? 

Well, you can’t really blame Premier Kenney, the guy who was gobsmacked by the court’s decision, for wishing he wasn’t going to have to re-enact the Alberta NDP’s carbon levy while pretending whatever he comes up with is completely different. That’s going to be embarrassing after he wound up his base making such a big deal out of how horrible carbon taxes supposedly are, especially with the federal party he wishes he were leading still doing the same thing as Erin O’Toole leads it into the eco-wilderness. 

An image from the 2008 “No Plan” TV ad critical of premier Ed Stelmach – 13 years later, the ad seems almost quaintly gentle (Image: Screengrab).

The ludicrous sight of Mr. Kenney defending Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax as not quite as bad as NDP Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley’s carbon levy even had Postmedia’s Don Braid snickering at the bind the premier has managed to get himself into. 

Remember, Ottawa imposed its carbon tax after Mr. Kenney ripped up the NDP carbon levy, which he did as soon as the UCP won the spring 2019 provincial election.

This mainly seems to have been done out of knee-jerk spite. But it couldn’t have helped, from Mr. Kenney’s perspective, that the NDP version was designed in part to make Alberta less dependent on the fossil fuel industry. 

Certainly the decision wasn’t carefully thought out from a policy perspective, or even as a partisan strategy to help the unsuccessful Conservative effort to defeat the Trudeau federal government in the fall of 2019. 

“Imagine the hilarity in Ottawa,” chuckled Mr. Braid, offering some gentle advice to the premier on the best way to get out of the mess he’s created without looking too much like he has no plan at all.

That seems unlikely to work.

So maybe this would be a good time to bring back a line from those whispery voiced Albertans for Change “attack ads” from 2008 that made premier Ed Stelmach so mad? 

Jason Kenney. No plan. No way!

Join the Conversation


  1. He’s got nothing; they’ve got nothing! The conservatives as a party and as individual people have nothing; they are empty vessels.
    Well, not actually empty. They are full of dogma and rage and ideology. But they have no conception of making things better for folks, not the slightest awareness of what the problems are that folks are facing. Because they don’t and won’t accept reality. They live, all of them, in one sort of fantasy or another. This is the disease of conservatism today.

    Krugman, as usual, lays it out pretty clearly. We got problems, real problems, today. Those problems have solutions. We need leadership who can a) identify and articulate those problems, b) identify and articulate an acceptably effective solution set for those problems and c) competently manage and work those solutions for the benefit of the population.
    We get none of that with conservatives. Their only concern is power. Their power to control.

    It’s long past time to get the nutjobs and evangelicals and charlatans and ideologues out of our politics.

    1. Yes, let’s focus on the evangelicals and charlatans while the greatest transfer of wealth in human history continues. The conservatives have no ideology, they have only sentiments coupled to an aspirational worldview with the complexity of a multi-level marketing pitch. The “progressives” likewise lack any ideology, and are also tied to what are currently more acceptable sentiments wired in with a world-view that is virtually indistinguishable from one of Werner Erhard’s EST training manuals.
      While the proof was in the pudding when Notley put her back into helping paddle the oil companies’ treasure ship laden with royalties, she reached Used Car Party levels of pandering with that comment about Albertans and horses and unicorns. Digesting that little gem required a 2L Pepto Bismol.
      It’s long past time to get the politicians out of our politics.

      1. Wow! I haven’t heard any EST references for at least 30 years and to hear it from anyone even remotely connected to Alberta is just beyond belief. But here it is! Remarkable.

        I can’t imagine any progressive liberal having any problem with your description of them, Clyde. As you say it almost an aspirational goal.
        On the other hand, I disagree with your read on conservatives, they have nothing if not for their ideology. Without it they would have to pay attention to what is actually happening around them. Kinda like what Werner said. They’ll never do it; they don’t have the courage.

  2. Maybe Jason Kenney’s plan is to hope the CPC wins the next election, and the carbon tax will go away. He seems to like that strategy!

    It makes a lot of sense for Alberta to impose its own carbon tax. Even if it is exactly the same as the federal carbon tax, the funds would be a welcome addition to the provincial coffer.

    What hasn’t been mentioned very much is that this could prove to be a time limited offer. At this point the climate tax is rebated back to people via a line on the income tax form. As such, it is just one number of many to people who prepare their own taxes, and invisible to people who have someone else do their taxes, or have a computer program do it.

    The tax at this point is, I believe, $40/tonne, and that translates to a rebate of $490 on my tax form, and even more for single parents or people who can claim their eligible spouse. The tax is scheduled to go up to $170/tonne, which should result in a rebate of nearly $2100. That is a large enough amount of money that it would make sense for the government to start making quarterly payments at some point.

    Once people get used to those quarterly payments I think it will be too late for a provincial government to impose their own carbon tax – they won’t want to be known as the government that took away the rebate.

  3. And yet people like Lucia Corbella have said that the Supreme Court wouldn’t have made a ruling like this against Quebec yet the Supreme Court has ruled against certain sections of Bill 101 which were deemed unconstitutional. I am sure that there are other examples. The fact is that lower courts upheld the carbon tax and the supreme court wasn’t going to overturn these decisions. Alberta and the others have to quit being a bunch of babies and get on with dealing with fighting climate change and moving towards a carbon neutral economy.

  4. Certainly not Kenney’s fault.

    It must be down to Trudeau, or Notley, or Biden, or some other person who went the other way. Most likely a communist, or at least a raving socialist. Does not matter that the Supreme Court Judge (Wagner) who wrote the opinion was a Harper appointee.

    Who could ever blame the Kenney UCP team for being so incredibly arrogant and inept that they did not even consider formulating a back up plan?

    If I were Jason Kenney I would be too embarrassed to admit this. I would stay closeted in the ‘Redford Suite’.

  5. …President Biden not only used speaking notes, he could be observed “often referencing them, at times appearing to read directly from them”!
    Perhaps the New York Post and others like the upper echelon of the UCP should be reminded of extemporaneous remarks from their idol, Donald J. Trump. He loved tossing out compliments designed to inspire the youth of America and his adoring followers.
    Joe Biden: Basement Biden/Beijing Biden/Corrupt Joe/Crazy Joe Biden/Sleepy Creepy Joe/Slow Joe
    Hillary Clinton: Crazy/Heartless Hillary/Crooked Lyin’/ Skank
    Kamala Harris: Monster/Phony Kamala
    Jeff Bezos: Jeff Bozo
    Robert Di Niro: Punchy
    Truly Weird Senator Rand Paul
    Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign: Joe’s Failing Campaign

  6. I believe Kenney had a plan.

    Pick a fight you will likely lose. Then when you lose, claim loudly and long “Alberta is treated unfairly”. Like a magician, the premier keeps our attention on the topic of Alberta alienation. Then he can rail against the “Laurentian Elites” at great length.

    This issue captures the front pages and the other UCP initiatives like coal mining mountain tops, teachers’ pensions, privatizing parks, initiatives to transfer the CPP to provincial control, replacing the RCMP with a provincial force, 1.5 billion to a failed pipeline project… and so many bungled changes recede into the recesses of voters’ memory.

    As he told us before his election to the Premiership, he will throw so many changes at Albertans, resistance to changes would be scattered and weakened across a range of issues and he can proceed as he wants.

    The Bigfoot gambit can be seen in the same light.

    1. I agree. Kenney’s moves and supposed reactions are calculated. There is always an angle or a manipulation. The intention is to play to his base and perpetuate the narrative that will ensure continued support so he can proceed with his agenda.

    2. On the “Laurentian Elites”, let me direct you to Susan on the Soapbox’s post, in which she noted that, “…of the nine SCC judges, 3 of the 6 who upheld the Fed’s carbon tax were Harper appointees and 2 of the 3 who dissented were Trudeau appointees.”

      At least Canada doesn’t have the kind of heavily-politicized judiciary we see south of what our host so charmingly calls the Medicine Line …

  7. Well, as a world-renowned jurist cum bible interpreter, and according to his Wikipedia entry well able to tell off the local bishop at the Frisco university he attended for a while, kenney walks around in a state of ideological certainty not shared by others. Too bad the others included the Supreme Court of Canada and the majority opinion on the licit carbon surcharge delivered by a harper appointee, the downright SCOUNDREL and turncoat! It’s just a small reminder, not that kenney’ll notice, that he lives in an actual country. Canada. And that there’s bigger fish to fry than kowtowing to his rubbish blinkered provincial anti-social outlook.

    I must say I get great satisfaction when His Unctuousness gets what’s coming to him, on any issue. His balloon, punctured by so many pins, is sporting the well-patched look of an heirloom quilt. But he has some intellectual allies. Local part time gas station attendant and nominal premier of nextdoor Saskatchewan, one schMoe, apparently feels the SCC got it wrong as well. And grain farmers stepped up to the plate complaining that drying wheat to the correct moisture content is energy intensive, and that grain trains gobble energy too. Lookit the carbon surcharge on that when you sink your gnashers into a more expensive Micky D’s egg mcMUFFIN! Saskatchewan is the sunniest province in Canada — time to invent a solar dryer, me boys. So far, nobody’s found a lower friction and energy-consuming transport for bulk goods overland than rail. Locomotives weigh several hundred tons in order to haul loads without wheel slippage on slippery rails. Just the job for a Tesla megacell battery loco that weighs tons and tons and tons. Start thinking outside the box — USask is a first rate institution, so use ’em. But first, get a deal out of Manitoba Hydro for some hydro instead of using thermal power plants. Cons seem to have Swiss cheese for brains.

    Honestly, if these Regressive Conservatives spent time thinking about new ways to do things instead of clinging to the past and got on with them instead of bemoaning a changing world, then they could lecture the dull rest of us and get some actual respect. Until then, they’re just clueless clots baying at the moon.

    1. hear ! hear !
      really enjoyed your commentary, you nailed it

      His Unctuousness indeed

      will have to add Stumpy McUnctuous to my collection of monikers for what’s his name

  8. More tabulation of seraphim tripping the light fantastic on top of tacks. The globalized neoliberal economy of the last five decades finally fell apart eighteen months ago. The US imperial strategic imperative that was outlined in Ultra War Criminal Dick Cheney’s “National Energy Policy” of 2001 has not changed. Control of energy corridors across the globe remains the driving force determining the form of the imperial death throes to which we are all subject. Fracking, which provided apparent relief from the demands of that imperative has turned out to be a mirage, just another scam, putting the Empire back where it was pre-9/11, which means more furious and desperate efforts to corral China and Russia. Currently Covidmania has served to suppress global demand for hydrocarbons, arriving just as the US Fed attempted to pump fiscal stem cells into the system like they were trying to get Mr. Hockey ready for a trip to Saskatoon, with equivalent long-term success.
    The carbon tax is just another distraction in this province from the Central-African-level looting of this province, looting which Notley and Co. did absolutely nothing to abate during their time behind the wheel.
    The UCP has no plan, because there is no plan to be had by government at this level that is not subject to global forces.
    For those of us living in the immediate periphery of the syphillitic giant, try to imagine the experiece of people living in Poland over the last hundred and twenty-odd years to get the flavour of what’s in store for us.
    I’m a little late with this, having missed Black History Month, but better than never. I’m not sure how well it meshes with the notion that the “adults” are back in charge down south:
    “The top 10 ways that Canada aided the 2004 coup in Haiti and helped subject Haitians to a brutal reign of terror”
    Canada, the U.S., and France immediately recognized the illegal coup regime, but CARICOM’s 15 member states, Venezuela, and the African Union’s 53 governments all refused to grant diplomatic recognition and demanded an investigation into Aristide’s enforced exile.”

  9. I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but ever since Kenney had to get rid of that high level guy in his office for his COVID vacation to the UK, things have not been going so smoothly message or strategy wise for Kenney.

    Kenney tries to portray himself as a smart guy – so first he said he was caught by surprise by Keystone XL when Biden and every other Democrat leadership candidate said last spring they would cancel it and now this. Almost everyone else, other than the Premiers challenging the carbon tax, expected it would be upheld by the Supreme Court. Now, Courts are not always predictable, but surely Kenney should have at least seriously considered a Plan B.

    Perhaps Kenney spends to much time getting his information from the War Room and certain local mainstream media which often seem to serve as a echo chamber for UCP talking points. Surely he can’t be so isolated from reality not to realize that climate change is a huge concern almost everywhere outside of Alberta. Or is he really that delusional?

    Truly smart politicians do not believe what their yes men or women tell them and also do not believe their own spin. When he first came back to Alberta from Ottawa, Kenney’s people portrayed him as this politician with the golden winning touch. Of course, it is not hard to win re-election as a Federal Conservative in Calgary, but I wonder if Kenney has made the mistake of believing his own PR and spin too much.

    Yeah, the dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming and apparently Kenney didn’t see the Supreme Court ruling on carbon tax coming either.

  10. The premier of Alberta, if he can even be called that, is merely a paper tiger, or a stuffed animal. No power to do anything. He and the entire UCP are a major disappointment, in every way imaginable. The sooner they disappear, the better. The UCP’s damage will take a very long time to fix up. That’s what’s unfortunate.

  11. How in heaven’s name can we improve? Try electing someone who has the intelligence to manage the legacy of errors to better outcomes? I tire more easily these days, I’ll grant you that! But my life has always been little by little. I believe that! Surely as the sun will not shine on me after I’m dead.

  12. Kenney has a plan! His plan is to attack cartoons whenever he loses a fight with real people and real institutions. He thinks he’s the fit and agile roadrunner, and everyone else is the hapless Wile E. Coyote. Maybe the air is a little thin up there in the Sky Palace. Maybe the Sky Palace lacks a mirror. Maybe some Acme vitamins would help.

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