Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s COVID-19 news conference (Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

Jason Kenney tells a whopper, Kaycee Madu recants and apologizes: situation normal in Alberta

Posted on May 12, 2021, 2:19 am
9 mins

The Internet let out a collective gasp yesterday afternoon when Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was caught telling an obvious whopper.

Well, perhaps not the whole Internet, but that portion fascinated by political affairs in Canada’s westernmost Prairie province, tuning in to discover why Mr. Kenney had insisted once again on being part of Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In the event, Mr. Kenney didn’t have much to announce, beyond saying he expects the province’s two-millionth vaccine dose to be injected today, which would sound like more of an accomplishment were Alberta not still suffering the highest COVID-19 infection rate in Confederation. A total of 1,449 new cases were reported yesterday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 24,998. Three more Albertans died of the disease. 

Mr. Kenney also announced an advertising campaign to try to persuade the many vaccine-shy Albertans to get their jabs.

But the premier did agree to accept a few questions afterward from reporters, which is where things got interesting.

Asked by a journalist about the outrage sparked by Justice Minister Kaycee Madu’s breathtaking assertion the day before that federal Liberals, Alberta New Democrats and media all hope Alberta will be overwhelmed by the coronavirus, the premier smoothly responded, “I haven’t seen those comments, but  

But “I believe no one wants the pandemic, I’ve said that may times, and we shouldn’t be pointing fingers,” he piously went on.

Naturally, everyone paying attention realized at the same instant Alberta’s premier had just uttered a monumental fib.

It hardly seems possible that Mr. Kenney was unaware of what Mr. Madu had said the day before. The man’s a notorious micromanager of his government’s communications efforts – often to their detriment. He is briefed regularly by a legion of issues managers on the day’s new stories. This certainly included Mr. Madu’s gaffe.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his news conference yesterday (Screenshot of CBC news clip).

Even if he hadn’t been, it would have been drawn to his attention once a solemn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had weighed in.

“I think it’s a shame to see people pointing fingers and laying blame and suggesting that anyone in Canada wants anything else than to get through this pandemic as safely as possible, everywhere,” Mr. Trudeau said earlier in the day. “Playing politics at this point is just not what Canadians want to see.”

Like everyone else after four years of Donald Trump in the White House, Albertans have become inured to bare-faced liars in high places. Still, it was unusual for so many people to reach the same conclusion at the same time.

“Is there a single person in Alberta that believes that Jason Kenney hasn’t seen the comments that were posted by Minister Madu yesterday?” University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, a vocal critic of the government, asked wonderingly via tweet.

“I don’t even think Jason Kenney believes that Jason Kenney hasn’t seen Madu’s comments,” added Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.

CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine (Photo: CBC).

“There is no way that is possibly true,” CBC reporter Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted impatiently, possibly annoyed that she’s among the reporters who never get a chance to ask a question at these virtual news conferences, unlike the Postmedia columnists whose wordy softballs help the premier run out the clock. “Premiers get briefed every day on issues,” she stated.

“I’ll take a look at the comments and talk to Kaycee,” Mr. Kenney said, thereby leaving Mr. Madu without much choice but to recant.

“I would like to offer an apology for my recent comments on my personal Facebook account,” the justice minister tweeted a couple of hours later, notwithstanding his press secretary’s defiant assertion the day before he had no need to do so. “My comments were wrong, as all Canadians want this global pandemic to end as soon as possible.”

With that, as these things tend to go, the furor will probably die down soon enough.

More significant, perhaps, than the evidence of Mr. Kenney’s oftencasual relationship to the truth was his seemingly unintended revelation of what he really thinks about public health care.

Responding to a rambling question by a Postmedia columnist frequently favoured with one of the limited number of questions at these virtual news conferences, the signer of 2019’s “Public Health Guarantee” launched into a revealing soliloquy about the number of available ICU beds in Texas, compared with Alberta. 

“This is something that we really need to realize as a country,” Mr. Kenney said, apparently pulling his factoids from a 2019 Fraser Institute study, “the Americans have way more hospital capacity. Health care is big business in the States. They spend 17 per cent of their economy on health and we spend 11 per cent here. And they have redundant capacity because they have a competitive system. We have a single-payer system so we have by nature a rationed system.” (Emphasis added, since any rationing is a political decision.) 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never before heard the fact that the U.S. health care system costs taxpayers vastly more than Canada’s public system while still leaving the equivalent of the entire population of Canada completely uninsured presented as if that were a good thing! 

Kenney Government names former general as DM of Health

Newly appointed Deputy Minister of Health Paul Wynnyk in his military days (Photo: Department of National Defence).

Also yesterday, the Kenney Government appointed Paul Wynnyk, Jason Kenney’s favourite former general, as deputy minister of health.

The appointment doesn’t seem to have rated a press release, it was merely mentioned in dispatches. In orders in council, I mean. 

Formerly the DM of municipal affairs, the senior civil servant had previously been deployed to lead the province’s “COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.”

Well, arguably the appointment of a former lieutenant general to this role makes sense, as the UCP Government’s War on Doctors can hardly be called a success, and with contract negotiations with several healthcare unions now under way the department may soon be called upon to wage war on all health care workers.

As befits a former Canadian senior military officer, the Russians have been keeping a close eye on Mr. Wynnyk’s performance in his civilian role in Alberta.

13 Comments to: Jason Kenney tells a whopper, Kaycee Madu recants and apologizes: situation normal in Alberta

  1. tom

    May 12th, 2021

    Jason Kenney’s talk about Canadian healthcare sounds like he’d love to be able to make a sow’s ear out of Canada’s silk purse.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 12th, 2021

      Sadly, Tom, I think there’s no question of that. DJC

      Reply
  2. Public Servant

    May 12th, 2021

    Jason Kenney is an accomplished liar. He is so good at lying he no longer bothers to even trying to tell the truth.

    Reply
  3. Abs

    May 12th, 2021

    What does it say about a Justice Minister who allows himself to be caught up in a lie such as this one?

    The premier has a “tell” in these situations. He stutters and stumbles his way through his response.

    But then, when has the truth ever mattered to the UCP? They have no shame.

    Reply
  4. tom in Ontario

    May 12th, 2021

    Premier Kenney, lover of private, for profit health care “launched into a revealing soliloquy about the number of available ICU beds in Texas, compared with Alberta.”
    In matters beyond ICU beds in the Lone Star State, 24/7wallst.com, a financial and independent news website focusing on U.S. and global equity markets provides statistical detail.
    Headline April 2, 2020: How Many People in Texas Are Burdened With Medical Debt?
    Here’s how people in Texas are faring:
    * Adults with unpaid medical bills: 6.2 million (29% of adult population-5th highest)
    * Median medical debt in collections: $829 (9th highest)
    * Uninsured rate: 17.1% (the highest)
    * Adults in fair or poor health: 18.2% (15th highest)
    The state’s high uninsured rate is a threat to overall public health. Over the last year, the high cost of medical care has discouraged 26.1% of adults in Texas from seeking treatment for a health problem–well above the comparable 20.6% national figure.”

    Reply
    • Caron

      May 12th, 2021

      Excellent points Tom: I would add that much of that extra spending in US health care is devoted to insurance company profits. It should also be noted that for people with truly serious treatment needs, their health insurance often runs out long before the treatments are completed. For those with only basic US private health insurance coverage, they are never kept in the system long enough to even show up as negative statistics, which is a large part of the reason some US health care outcomes appear to be so effective when in fact the fragile are never counted to bring down the average.

      Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      May 12th, 2021

      Health care in the US is, indeed, big business—for all the wrong reasons. Kenney long ago converted to the anti-government rhetoric in the US, courtesy of the Marshall Institute and its fellow-travellers like Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute—in Canada, the Fraser Institute. The message is passed around with the fervor of religious conviction: “Government is bad, business is good.” It’s disturbing how those who believe the message, and yet manage to get elected, promptly set out to make it true.

      Reply
  5. May 12th, 2021

    Thank you for the laughs, Dave. And, I suspect another whopper is in there. Kenny :“I believe no one wants the pandemic, I’ve said that may times…”

    Has he really made that odd assertion a lot? Why? How does this even come up, and come up often, in conversation? I myself believe no one likes having their hair catch on fire. But I don’t spend much time pointing that out, or being proud of the frequency with which I make such a claim about human nature.

    Also, thank you for the RT clip. Both hilarious and sadly appropriate for Alberta’s situation.

    Reply
  6. Brett

    May 12th, 2021

    We have come to the conclusion that Jason Kenney is using these events to audition for SNL. It could be his next career move.

    More often than not we find ourselves laughing at some of comments. So far from reality that they must be an attempt at humour.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    May 12th, 2021

    One thing that is surprising to me is how docile our local mainstream media can be, even when attacked by the UCP.

    Yes, I think that Kenney’s claim about not be aware of Madu’s comments is a whopper. I can’t quite picture him hunkered down in the Sky Palace bunker or his mom’s basement, with the TV and all electronic devises off, in the dark, eating Cheetos. He is fortunate he does not have Pinocchio’s affliction or his nose would be much longer. In a healthy democracy you might even expect to see a picture like this drawn like this by an editorial cartoonist, but our local one seems to only know how to draw Trudeau. At this point it time, while Alberta is definitely a rigorous two party system, the local media generally seems to act as if it was still when the PC’s ruled with huge majorities and Alberta seemed to be a one party state.

    So, despite all his difficulties, Kenney is blessed by a local media that does not press him too much. Perhaps that is why the UCP does some of these kooky things, just to see what they can get away with, or perhaps they thought it would be a needed distraction. Of course, Mr. Madu also was just copying the pugilistic style of his boss, but it is not as easy to get away with when it causes controversy and you are not the boss. Kenney did cleverly manage to distance himself a bit from Madu while not condemning him too harshly – so perhaps he comes out of this looking like the good cop. While he doesn’t have complete control over his caucus, it seems he does still have some control over his cabinet.

    Mr. Kenney is a classic big fish in a little pond. For whatever reasons, the local mainstream media seems reluctant to challenge him too much, even when what he does is clearly ridiculous or disastrous. Where he seems to fail time and time again most noticeably is when he creates or tries to attack imaginary opponents outside of Alberta. Maybe Mr. Madu didn’t figure out that part before he went on his rant.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    May 12th, 2021

    Who are the UCP trying to fool? The apology by Kaycee Madu was very weak, and meaningless. If the premier of Alberta wasn’t aware of what Kaycee Madu said, where was he hiding? That excuse doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    May 12th, 2021

    I have an amazing explanation for the bizarre events of the last two days.

    It is impossible for Kenney to take the high road and declare that there are things that should not be politicized. In the next breath, he will go and politicize everything, but whatever — that’s Kenney.

    But what if Kaycee Madu can get away with what Kenney cannot?

    Have Madu make the bizarre declaration that the whole world wants Alberta to be turned into a pandemic wasteland, which is red meat for Kenney’s base, because Madu can…ahem…get away with it. Madu came back with a public apology and regrets for his comments, so it all bygones.

    Kenney steps up and reasserts that this no time to play politics, before he starts playing politics again.

    Reply
  10. Jimmy

    May 12th, 2021

    SNL? That could be a step up in class. Mr. Kenney has been interviewed on Fox News. An accomplishment he shares with Calgary Covid denier and racist Artur Pawlowski.
    Both are available on Youtube

    Reply

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