Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney … at his computer, of course (Photo: Twitter/Jason Kenney).

A Twitterer’s tale: Kenney scores an own goal with tweet that ‘reads like a Beaverton headline’

Posted on May 25, 2021, 3:01 pm
8 mins

At 4:02 o’clock on the afternoon of Sunday, May 23, 2021, somebody pressed the “tweet” button on Jason Kenney’s Twitter account, sending an enigmatic message about the government’s response to COVID-19 whizzing into cyberspace.

Perhaps it was Mr. Kenney himself who clicked the click. Perhaps, since he is the premier or Alberta, ex officio the most important politician in the poorest little rich province of Canada, it was some flunky.

An image of the premier’s offending tweet (Image: Screenshot of Twitter).

Whoever it was, the message was dangerously ambiguous.

Over a yellow poster image that reads “45% of those admitted to hospital since February 1 were under the age of 50”, Premier Kenney or his amanuensis adopted a characteristic professorial tone the premier likes to explain the significance of this development to us slow-learners.

“The people that are getting ill and hospitalized now are overall younger and without compromising health conditions because we took steps to protect vulnerable Albertans first,” proclaimed Mr. Kenney, or his advisory alter ego.

“That strategy has worked. Now we just need to get everyone else vaccinated.”

“Whatever were they trying to say?” I wondered mildly when I first saw the tweet.

Other reactions were not so mild. Indeed, while the initial response on Twitter was harsh, it has grown harsher as the possible interpretations of this message percolated.

Reactions, almost universally angry, ranged from perplexed, to amused, to abusive. 

Perplexed New Democrat MLA Rakhi Pancholi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It “reads like a Beaverton headline,” observed one Peter Aidan Byrne. 

“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” said Jody MacPherson, an experienced professional communicator. “Your comms strategy is the absolute worst.”

“It’s government strategy that younger healthier people are getting ill and hospitalized?” asked former NDP ministerial chief of staff Tony Clark, who knows a thing or two about political communications himself. “This is all going according to plan, is it?”

Readers will get the idea from this small selection of tweets. “I’m just here for the ratio,” said Stephen Carter, once Alison Redford’s chief of staff, with an implied eyeroll.  

“I’ve read this @jkenney tweet so many times & it still baffles me,” said NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi, echoing my own sentiment. “The Premier’s plan all along was for younger Albertans to become sick & hospitalized? And he wants to be congratulated for it? Honestly, every time I think I couldn’t be more shocked by the UCP, I am.”

University of Alberta law professor Ubaka Ogbogu (Photo: University of Alberta).

University of Alberta law professor Ubaka Ogbogu zeroed in on the same problem with the errant communication: “Kenney in 2020: your grandmas and grandpas can die – they have lived too long. Kenney in 2021: if I told you that it is okay for you to die because I was saving grandma and grandpa last year, would you believe me?”

So, like most else Mr. Kenney touches, this puzzling statement is turning into a damaging cause célèbre – damaging to him and his United Conservative Party, that is.

Now most of us have had the experience of letting slip with something foolish or confusing on social media, immediately regretting it, and wondering what to do next.

Most of us delete it and hope no one is watching, a luxury not available to politicians, for whom a legion of screen-shooters awaits to instantly capture any error of judgment or fact.

Still, in a case like this, surely there are more graceful ways to back away from an embarrassment than the typical strategy of the Kenney brain trust, which is to bluff it out. 

Most sensible people would say, “Sorry about that, here’s what I meant to say,” and then say it.

Former chief of staff to premier Alison Redford, Stephen Carter, just there for the ratio (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But Mr. Kenney’s advisors – 1980s-style confrontational Thatcherites and latter-day Republicans to a man and occasional woman – hold to the view that one should never apologize, never explain. The lady, as was said of Mrs. Thatcher, is not for turning.

And here we had imagined Mr. Kenney and his political advisors were brilliant strategists when they rode a wave of recessionary angst and post-boom nostalgia into power in 2019.

Albertans can be forgiven for imagining in the face or protracted low oil prices that our single-note economy could boom again if only Conservatives were restored to their rightful place in the Legislature, never mind the underlying market realities. 

Now they have been disabused of that notion. Mr. Kenney and the UCP chose, instead of ruling moderately and respectfully, to implement a radical program that has alienated broad swaths of the population, now including some of their keenest supporters. On a practical level, it has also failed spectacularly. 

Nor did Mr. Kenney’s claque have the humility to recognize that the election of Rachel Notley and the NDP in 2015 was not a fluke, as they continue to insist, but the result of demographic change that had been slowly taking place for a long time. 

Indeed, Lethbridge journalist Kim Siever wrote today on the Kenney government’s current predicament, “the UCP didn’t win as strong a mandate as they thought they did, and given how poorly the UCP have performed in the polls for the last five months, it seems that mandate has become even less strong.”

So what we first mistook for brilliance among Mr. Kenney’s advisors is revealed as the result of happenstance and momentary good luck.

Since then, we’ve learned the hard way that being good at clicking a tweet button, which UCP issues managers do scores of times every day, doesn’t mean they have enough clicks to make a clack!

26 Comments to: A Twitterer’s tale: Kenney scores an own goal with tweet that ‘reads like a Beaverton headline’

  1. Anonymous

    May 25th, 2021

    Hopefully, the UCP’s madness and reign of error will meet its abrupt end in 2023. It just gets crazier all the time.

    Reply
  2. Former Albertan

    May 25th, 2021

    I’m dumbfounded. Jason is the only politician who can simultaneously cross his legs and stuff both feet in his mouth. Such talent at contradicting himself; why is it one cannot hear a clashing of gears when he opens his mouth. It is truly horrific to see him self immolate and worse yet to see Albertan suffer because of his now very plain to see mediocrity. Lord have mercy.

    Reply
  3. Brett

    May 25th, 2021

    It never seems to stop does it?

    Reply
  4. Abs

    May 25th, 2021

    This must be part of the new “Alberta has done everything it can” PR strategy, personifying Alberta as responsible for the pandemic, rather than Kenney and The UCP. This way, they can blame the death toll from Covid on Alberta. Bad Alberta!

    The premier reminded us last year that seniors dying from Covid had lived past the average age of death. Perhaps the premier will smirk and remind us that the average age of death is now 40, so these people have lived past their usefulness to society anyways.

    Aren’t we all just “human capital”?

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      May 26th, 2021

      Well, from an evolutionary perspective, anyone who has lived past reproductive age is genetically superfluous anyway, so just let those 40+ adults die off 😉 … oh, wait, I’m guessing JK doesn’t believe in evolution, so that can’t be it. (In fact, one of the reasons for the evolutionary success of the human species is the involvement of older generations in the care & raising of children, as well as passing on their acquired wisdom to their successors).

      Reply
    • Lars

      May 26th, 2021

      Something that Kenney failed to note, when he said that the average age of death from COVID was around the average life-expectancy of Albertans, is that this is the life-expectancy calculated at birth. The average life-expectancy of an Albertan of about 81 years’ age at present is about another nine years. So Kenney was writing that off for those people when he implied that they were probably on their last legs anyway.
      I don’t know why more attention wasn’t drawn to this at the time. Either he knew and didn’t let it stop him from misleading the public, or he didn’t know and had no business talking about it.

      Reply
  5. Dave

    May 25th, 2021

    Well, to be fair, I suppose we don’t know for sure whether it was Kenney or one of his flunkies who sent the tweet, although I am not sure it much matters. If it was an aide, they sure got the professorial tone down well and also a ongoing general tone deafness that Kenney has, which seems to be amplified lately.

    He was never very good at communicating compassion, but I get the feeling that whatever adult supervision existed before in Kenney’s office to conceal this is gone now. The message seems to say that it is ok for people under the age of 50 to go to the hospital. I don’t think that is any better than his previous message about only older people getting seriously ill, but between the two it seems to me in a rare political feat, he has now offended almost everyone of every age.

    Lets start with the fact that anyone going to the hospital, whatever age they are, is probably fairly seriously ill. Younger people in hospitals have died and are still dying from COVID. This seems to indicate Kenney’s at times half hearted efforts to stop the spread are not working as well as they should. So it seems to me that the celebratory tone of Kenney’s message is a bit off.

    I suppose it is one of two things. Either the strain of dealing with all these problems has got to him and Kenney is not handling it well or he has a serious emotional deficiency that has only been noticed in this health crisis. Neither is very good, but I feel it is the latter, which unfortunately is a more permanent condition.

    Reply
  6. pogo

    May 25th, 2021

    And you call me Ishmael? Jesus! Are we just now struggling through some looking-glass? I had been confident of our capability to learn. Well there’s always tomorrow! Until that ends? https://youtu.be/rMifwzfwyFA

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 26th, 2021

      And I only am escaped alone to tell thee. DJC

      Reply
  7. Kingsley

    May 25th, 2021

    One and done.. voters must send him down the road to oblivion.

    Reply
  8. Bill Malcolm

    May 25th, 2021

    “We took steps to protect vulnerable Albertans first.”

    What, just like every other jurisdiction in the country? How unique!

    “But now that we have a great big nasty mean mutated virus that munches on anyone’s lungs at the drop of a hat, we’re just glad that many of the people getting badly infected are younger people, who hardly ever get really, you know, really sick, and fully 40% of the cases needing hospitalization are now under 50 years old and likely to survive with mere long term heart, lung and brain problems, which first class private doctors can treat. Hey! It’s a stroke of UCP public health genius on behalf of all Albertans!

    Signed

    Moi”

    Meanwhile, another public health genius, Pallister of Manitoba, where his “lockdown” isn’t even a stay at home order like in NS where case rates are just a third of Manitoba’s, has a an almost complete breakdown of its hospital system. Vote Conservative and sign you own death warrant! “Help, Canada! And remember, it’s all Trudeau’s fault because, er, well, er BECAUSE! And Biden’s too! Not me, I’m yer everlovin’ populist Bwian and my tropical tan’s fading and that’s their fault as well!”

    At least in Ontario, Ford caved and listened to the doctors. It was getting to the point where he had mutiny on his hands anyway with nobody listening to his bullshit. But the lizard-brained dumdums ruling the Prairies still think they’re geniuses, and all I can say is, you get the incompetence you voted for.

    Reply
    • Alan K. Spiller

      May 26th, 2021

      Sadly they aren’t conservative , they are Reformers pretending to be conservatives, run by a well known Liberal, turned Reformer who has to be the dumbest politician ananda has ever seen whose only mandate is to blame everyone else and destroy everything our conservative hero Peter Lougheed created for us.

      What is interesting about all this is the fact that everywhere one of these reformers has been elected as premier there has been a major problem with how covid has been handled.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        May 27th, 2021

        ALAN K. SPILLER: The greatest per capita rate of people with Covid-19 in Canada, has constantly been Alberta, or others where these pretend conservatives are in power. They push their neoliberal and reform ideology onto the people and the results are dismal.

        Reply
  9. John Kolkman

    May 26th, 2021

    Most of us probably know what Kenney was trying to say. It didn’t involve saying the plan was to protect the elderly and vulnerable so the young and healthy could end up in ICU. Think Kenney meant to encourage younger people to get vaccinated so they would be protected like the old and vulnerable.

    I wonder whether Kenny may have stepped in it again with his tweet promising a great Alberta summer. It’s usually a good rule in politics to under-promise and over-deliver.

    Reply
  10. brett

    May 26th, 2021

    I believe a very large number of Alberta voters are sick and tired, to the point of exhaustion, of the antics of Jason Kenney, a number of his Cabinet Ministers, and the majority of his spineless, self serving caucus members.

    My spouse can no longer stand his voice. When he comes on the television she either mutes or changes the channel. She simply cannot take the insincerity, the BS, or the constant blame games. She does not want to hear the name Kenney, she is even less interested in the UCP.

    It seems that Kenney is to the UCP what O’Toole is to the Conservative Party. A stinking albatross around the neck of the party, and of provincial politics in general.

    Enough is enough.

    Reply
    • Firth of Fifth

      May 26th, 2021

      My wife says her F**K You Kenney mug I gave her at Christmastime is the best gift she’s ever had….and she’s had some pretty nice gifts over the years. Tells you something hehe

      Reply
    • Alan K. Spiller

      May 26th, 2021

      I feel the same way your wife does and I learned it from the liar Ralph Klein. My problem was the fact that I had known Klein personally since the early 1960s and at least with him I knew every time he was lying by the stupid smile on his face. He loved to treat people like morons , just like Kenney has been doing.

      I haven’t forgotten Klein’s comments “ Albertans aren’t smart enough to understand our plans for health care reform, so we aren’t going to tell you what they are”. That one got him forced into early retirement. Even his own supporters didn’t like it.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        May 27th, 2021

        ALAN K. SPILLER: You are correct. Ralph Klein is greatly admired by the UCP, so it’s no wonder why what the UCP does ends up costing Albertans a fortune, and even their lives.

        Reply
  11. Bruce

    May 26th, 2021

    I heard it said within a documentary about the Nazi’s ideology in the second world war,
    when people asked “how could this have happened to the so called “enemies of the state”?
    Someone answered “that evil exists in the person without empathy for other human beings”.

    I am once again astounded at Jason Kenny.
    Alas, he also was just too good to be true.

    I wish for someone much more empathetic and someone with better leadership for the people in the province of Alberta.

    Good Luck in 2023!
    Although it’s a long ways to wait….

    Reply
  12. Athabascan

    May 26th, 2021

    So, I guess Albertans as a whole are content to sit and wait until the next provincial election for a chance to vote Kenney out, and hope enough votes will overcome his cheating.

    Until then, I don’t want to hear one more goddamn person in this province complain about our facist government.

    We are the people. There are many more of us than there are of his ilk. That means we have the power and not him.

    Only a general strike of 7-10 days will rid us of this little sociopathic dictator. Until then, suffer Alberta.

    Reply
  13. Sara-Anne Peterson

    May 26th, 2021

    I have always said he’s not very smart. Shrewd and tricky smart, but not intelligent smart. I don’t understand why some politician doesn’t push hemp in Alberta until the province becomes the center of the hemp world.

    Reply
  14. Bedoich

    May 26th, 2021

    LOL! “And here we had imagined Mr. Kenney and his political advisors were brilliant strategists when they rode a wave of recessionary angst and post-boom nostalgia into power in 2019”. Thanks for that one!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 26th, 2021

      Under the Stampede chuckwagon race, anyway. DJC

      Reply
  15. Just Me

    May 26th, 2021

    The behaviour of Premier Crying & Screaming Midget is beginning to look more and more like that of the “Bunker Mindset”. This mindset occurs when a despot, addicted to his own fantasies of glory, finds that reality will not allow him the providence that he believes is his entitlement.

    Many a despot has fallen because of this state of self-induced madness. During WW2, while Germany was at the edge of the abyss, the German Chancellor was having many meetings and dictating endless commands to imaginary armies in the hope that the tide would turn. Kenney is hoping that this gamble will somehow pay off and save what’s left of his career.

    Need. More. Popcorn.

    Reply
  16. Scotty on Denman

    May 26th, 2021

    Queequeg [to the Pequod’s ships-carpenter]: Make me a coffin, [holding up his fingers in a ‘V-sign’] with two feathers [carved on it].

    —from the screenplay “Moby Dick” by Ray Bradbury and John Huston

    “The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the lane ran through the groves; —ran afoul. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him around the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope’s final end flew out of the stark-empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its depths.”

    —from the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville

    Reply

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