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

When the going gets tough, tough-guy Jason Kenney gets going – this time leaving the Legislature padlocked behind him

Posted on May 03, 2021, 2:57 am
8 mins

With COVID-19 out of control, the United Conservative Party Government clueless and divided, ordinary citizens increasingly frightened, and defiant covidiots organizing super-spreader events like that no-more-lockdowns rodeo in Bowden Saturday, Premier Jason Kenney adopted his crisis response of choice. 

Cut and run.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This time, though, instead of heading to Vancouver to fund-raise for the B.C. Liberals, leading his caucus out of the Legislature rather than have them vote on an NDP abortion clinic buffer-zone bill, or conveniently self-isolating at home when tough questions were going unanswered about vacationing MLAs in the middle of a pandemic, Alberta’s premier has suspended the Legislature for two weeks. 

Was the suspension really “to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and not due to any confirmed cases amongst MLAs or staff,” as the government claimed in its unusual Sunday news release? 

Or was it to avoid having to answer questions in the House about how Alberta came to have the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in North America, and what the premier intends to do about the quarter of his own party’s caucus who are openly encouraging defiance of the inadequate COVID-mitigation measures his cabinet has put in place? 

You be the judge. 

It is true that many of The UCP’s COVID Denial Caucus couldn’t be trusted not to have contracted the virus while they were back in their ridings for constituency week.

But the questions were bound to be tough. The Opposition led by NDP Leader Rachel Notley is feeling feisty, leading in the polls, and catching the whiff of panic over the government benches. 

And, face it, with daily new COVID cases surging toward 3,000, breaking records every day, more than 22,500 active cases in the province, and Alberta reporting higher COVID-19 infection rates than every Canadian province and territory, and every U.S. state as well, his government owns this crisis. 

It would be fair to say, in that venerable Canadian political phrase, there is a fury in the land.

Brian Mulroney (Photo: Reproduced with the permission of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh).

When the phrase found its way into the Canadian political lexicon, it was directed at prime minister Brian Mulroney. But don’t worry, Mr. Kenney will soon be as unpopular as Mr. Mulroney was in the last days of his government, if he isn’t already.

It doesn’t look good on Mr. Kenney either that he left it to UCP House Leader Jason Nixon to do the dirty work and make the announcement. 

“With COVID-19 continuing to spread across Alberta, the Government has determined that having MLAs return to Edmonton from all over the province after constituency week is no longer prudent,” Mr. Nixon was quoted piously saying in the news release. “Suspending proceedings is the right thing to do as case counts increase.”

Furious critics of all stripes were quick to point out that the UCP has no scruples about doing nothing for front-line workers – from ICU nurses to minimum-wage convenience store clerks – who have had to work through this pandemic, and continue to be there for Albertans. 

UCP House Leader Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When Mr. Nixon chides us all to follow the rules and reminds us “we all have to do our part to get through to the other side of this pandemic,” it makes the Opposition want to ask why the government won’t do the things it has the power to do, like impose a real lockdown (as it has never done), enforce the rules, and get its COVID deniers under control. 

As for Mr. Nixon’s claim in the government news release the Opposition was consulted, that turned out not to to be strictly accurate. They were told, tweeted Ms. Notley’s chief of staff, Jeremey Nolais. “Let’s put it this way,” he said, Mr. Nixon “consulted with Alberta’s NDP about closing the Legislature just about as much as he consulted with Albertans writ large before signing over our Rocky Mountains to billionaire-backed coal mining companies.”

The NDP was uncharacteristically tough in its response to this development. “It is incredibly cowardly and hypocritical for Jason Kenney to claim it is not safe for him to come to work, when all of these folks, none of whom or very few of whom have sick leave, unlike the Premier and his House leader, have to go to work,” Ms. Notley told reporters yesterday. 

When times are good, Mr. Kenney likes to go all Churchillian and play the tough guy. “The work of democracy does not end in a crisis,” he said at this time last year. “The British House of Commons met every day during the blitz of the Luftwaffe on London.”

But whenever the going gets tough, tough-guy Kenney gets going – although leaving the Legislature padlocked behind him in the middle of a serious crisis is a new one. 

Whether or not the premier is actually in trouble with his own party, remains to be seen. As one astute political observer asked yesterday: “Is it just me or is the political crisis in Alberta starting to feel like the week before Redford resigned?” It is, but despite the shift in the premier’s fortunes – which notwithstanding the random nature of the pandemic, is almost entirely self-inflicted – we’re likely going to be stuck with him for quite a while yet. 

But if you want to know where most Albertans are now, hearken to the words Texan Lyndon B. Johnson, then the Senate Majority Leader in Washington, famously spoke to the press about Richard Nixon: “Boys, I may not know much, but I do know the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.”

19 Comments to: When the going gets tough, tough-guy Jason Kenney gets going – this time leaving the Legislature padlocked behind him

  1. Abs

    May 3rd, 2021

    Lord Maximus Farquaad is certainly living up to his name. Way to call out the rodeo crowd only after after the second day of said event has concluded!

    Is this the part of the movie where the dragon swoops down and swallows him whole, as the crowd cheers in elation? When the dragon burps out his crown, we will know once and for all that Lord Farquaad was not a hero, but a zero. And the kingdom shall be rid of him forever and ever, amen.

    Reply
    • GoinFawr

      May 3rd, 2021

      As a direct result of the UCP’s duplicity some Albertans have, and even more will die, but that is a sacrifice Kenney is willing to make.

      Reply
  2. brett

    May 3rd, 2021

    The Federal Conservative Party and the UCP have so much in common at the moment. Both are divided parties. Reform and Conservative, Wildrose and Conservative. Both have leaders, at least two most recent, who have been or who are abysmal failures. This does not bode well for us luckless taxpayers.

    Sure Kenney is a coward and tone deaf to boot. His stewardship has been one failure after another. Sad to say I do not think that Alberta voters care than he had closed the Legislature for a few weeks.

    My sense is that Kenney has sunk so low in the eyes of Alberta voters that many no longer consider him relevant. A lame duck Premier if you will.

    To my way of thinking this is the worst possible place that any politician wants to be. Just ask Scheer, Bernier, or Sloan. What I find particularly noticeable is the lack of support from Kenney’s cabinet colleagues. They remain stum. Not displaying any public support for their Leader. This in itself is very telling.

    In the meantime Albertans are forced to deal with Kenney’s ineptitude through this covid crisis. A great deal of which is self inflicted because of failure to act in a timely fashion or acting in half measures.

    Albertans deserve better.

    Reply
  3. tom in Ontario

    May 3rd, 2021

    Closer to yesterday’s topic but since LBJ is quoted, here’s another one. “I want real loyalty. I want someone who will kiss my ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.”
    Would this declaration apply to your Premier Kenney and Covid denier MLA Drew Barnes and his flock? If so, who’s who in Macy’s window?

    Reply
  4. Madness of Crowds

    May 3rd, 2021

    Kenney clearly believes the current Covid crisis is worse than the Luftwaffe blitz on London, since he has shut down the Legislature. Given his conviction in this regard, how can he be regarded as anything other than an incompetent coward for failing to “impose a real lockdown (as it has never done), enforce the rules, and get its COVID deniers under control.” Sadly, a majority of Albertans were deluded enough to elect him. Meanwhile jurisdictions with competent leadership, such as New Brunswick, enjoy an open economy and a functioning health system. It is to weep.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    May 3rd, 2021

    It is ironic that the only province wide lock down now is our legislature. Meanwhile, the UCP and Kenney continue to resist stricter measures for parts of rural Alberta, even some of those that have a higher per capita number of cases than urban centers that have recently been the focus of a few more restrictions. Although, perhaps in a roundabout way Kenney has a point. So maybe he doesn’t want some of his COVID denying or restriction fighting rebellious rural MLA’s anywhere near him, perhaps including the ones near Bowden, but I am not sure catching COVID from them is his biggest fear.

    I don’t see Kenney being pushed out in quite the same quick and humiliating way Redford was behind a series of closed door caucus and cabinet meetings. The UCP is his idea and creation. He controls it in a way Redford did not control the PC party. Also, he is a career politician with not much else to fall back on like a career in law, so I believe he will fight tooth and nail to stay on. However, things do not look good for him politically at this point. I suspect many UCP MLA’s fall into one of two groups – the rebellious and the nervous. I see the biggest threat to Kenney is a leadership review that gets pushed up by a year or so and the next biggest threat is that some of the rebel UCP MLA’s decide to split away from the party.

    Both are political grenades waiting to explode on him at this point, so perhaps being besieged is why our Premier feels such an affinity for Churchill now. However, as you pointed out, Kenney seems to lack Churchill’s consistent resolve and fortitude to stand his ground and not retreat. There is main passing similarity between the two in having a bit of girth.

    It is not surprising that Kenney chose this time to pull the plug on the legislature. Although it was becoming clear things were not going well, up until now it was the mostly docile local mainstream media covering it and they do not generally give Kenney too much of a hard time on their own. Now, Alberta’s crisis is beginning to be noticed by the national and other media, which many Albertans now often look to as a more credible source of coverage of what is really going on in Alberta. This in turn sometimes eventually prompts a bit more scrutiny by the local mainstream media as well. Kenney would not survive such scrutiny in the legislature well, so his best option at this point is shut it down, hide and hope the crisis subsides. This strategy has worked for him at times in the past. I am not so sure it will this time.

    Reply
  6. Mike J Danysh

    May 3rd, 2021

    True to form, Kenney shows he’s a schoolyard bully and a moral coward–he wilts whenever someone stand up to him.

    I have to say, Notley’s criticism was just a bit overblown–the part about “none or very few” without paid sick leave came out a bit exaggerated. NOT saying she was wrong! Too many people are forced to make a choice–go broke by staying home without a paycheque, or get sick in a crowded workplace because the Covid precautions are either inadequate or ignored. That’s another in a long list of things that have to change.

    Still, Notley was way closer to the truth than Lord Jason. The British Parliament in 1940 had air-raid warnings and bomb shelters. The UK Parliament of 2020/21 uses the same precautions against the “invisible menace” of Covid-19 as everyone else–distance, virtual meetings, masks (for the responsible people), hand-san, etc.

    Lord Jason only WISHES he had a bomb shelter. I guess he’ll just have to make do with the Sky Palace.

    Reply
  7. John Kolkman

    May 3rd, 2021

    14 months into the pandemic, I’m at a loss as to why the Alberta Legislature hasn’t found a way to have virtual sittings? Must be a deliberate political decision, as many other Parliaments and legislatures are doing so.

    I occasionally watch Question Period in the House of Commons on CBC Newsworld. While I can’t say the quality of the questions and answers have improved much, QP is at least watchable without all the shouting, drowning out of questions and answers, and other accompanying hysterics. And while it seems impossible to knock Trudeau off his message track regardless of the question, some Ministers like Anita Anand actually make an effort to give informative answers.

    Reply
  8. Kang

    May 3rd, 2021

    And let’s not forget this is the fifth anniversary of the Ft. Mac fire and remember what a class act Premier Notley was during that crisis. Her character and integrity showed in her support to front line service providers and her generous inclusion of Wildrose Party leader and MLA Brian Jean in her official news conference briefings. Not to mention her administration’s quick and efficient provision of cash to the displaced.

    Contrasting this with the clueless pomposity of the UCP during the Covid 19 crisis should be instructive to Albertans with a functioning memory.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      May 3rd, 2021

      Excellent point, Kang, and it reminds me of another boneheaded move by the UCP. The fire showed there was need of a larger, modern emergency response center, and Notley’s government authorized it. Kenney canceled it. Another entry in Jason Kenney’s To-Deny list.

      Reply
      • Kang

        May 3rd, 2021

        Thank you Mike. Since we both read the Guardian (I do miss the airmail version) I wonder if the following report that air pollution spikes may impair thinking could explain the UCP win last election? It followed the extensive forest fires which gave Alberta air pollution levels comparable to the worst China had to offer. And it seems obvious the old folks who vote UCP and don’t understand public health measures are not really thinking very clearly. Just a thought.
        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/03/air-pollution-spikes-may-impair-older-mens-thinking-study-finds

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          May 4th, 2021

          KANG: Great points. A very frightening statistic is that Alberta now has the greatest per capita rate of people with Covid-19 in all of North America. Rome is burning, and Nero is fiddling. The UCP are as bad as they come.

          Reply
  9. brett

    May 3rd, 2021

    No matter how you slice it Kenney is not much of Premier is he?

    Surely someone must have seen him speeding down the highway in his blue pickup……leaving his troubles and the town behind him.

    Albertans will probably be better off without him for the next few weeks.

    Reply
  10. Hammer

    May 3rd, 2021

    Why not run, as he may run into people like myself. Both of my children in K-6 contracted Covid at school, brought it home and gave it to Mom and Dad. I live in an average size bungalow and none of us are able to isolate at home, why even bother it is too late. We are now prisoners of our yard, kids are still showing signs, my wife is really sick and thankfully I am showing only minimal signs , as i was blessed and I mean it, with the AZ shot in late March. We did everything by the book, from masks to sanitizer to distancing etc… I do not blame anyone, but I truly believe that if the UCP had put in more stringent restrictions in March, a lot of people in my situation may have avoided a lot of grief, fear and sickness. And for those antimasker anti vaccine folks come on by to my house and you can see first hand what this virus does to a family.

    Reply
    • Abs

      May 3rd, 2021

      I am sorry that your family is suffering from this nasty virus, Hammer.

      This virus is airborne. Children get sick at school because the virus is airborne. Children pass the virus on to their families, and families like yours suffer the consequences.

      The person who needs to see this most is the little man in the Sky Palace. But no, he’s hiding, too scared to come out because of the situation he created. Covid is for kids, not for that wee gutless wonder hiding under his desk. Dragon incoming…

      Reply
  11. Just Me

    May 3rd, 2021

    Well, I guess ole Winnie Churchill has left the building…padlocked.

    Premier Crying & Angry Midget has spent a good deal of his entire political career declaring himself to be the successor of the Churchillian legacy. There can be no doubt that, if Alberta was in the middle of the worst of the Luftwaffe’s Blitz, it would be Kenney who, like Churchill, would stand solid against the worst the Nazis could throw.

    Revised…

    It looks like if Alberta was in the middle of the Blitz, it would be Kenney who would not only pull a Chamberlain, surrender to the Luftwaffe, declare that he was always an ally, and declare that it was PMJT who caused him to surrender, anyway.

    I have no doubt that those who still support Kenney are, as Alfred told Bruce Wayne, the people who “want to watch the world burn.”

    Reply
  12. Bruce Turton

    May 3rd, 2021

    From a 1976 pamphlet turned book later by Carlo Maria Cipolla: “A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons, while him/herself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.” Some church types, or rodeo types or Premiers and sychophants come to mind.

    Reply
  13. Scotty on Denman

    May 4th, 2021

    My significantly smarter partner—well, sometimes I wonder if it’s like from-the-mouth-of-babes kinda thing, what she says. Then I slowly realize how slow I am—happens all the time (don’t ask me how many—I can count, just maybe not that high).

    So we’re discussing (and shuddering in horror at) what’s going on in Alberta right now, and I wondering: where’s this going? And she said: well, if Covid gets worse and worse and nobody [not Kenney’s base or his rivals] likes whatever he does, he’ll have to resign. And I chuckled: oh, how naive my dove is, I said (to myself—I’m not crazy), Kenney’s a lifer, no way he’d ever…uh…ever…re—, re—, resi—, uh, what was the question?

    [slowly]…I mean, how bad could it possibly get that that’d ever happen, eh? I mean, jeez!—hafta be pretty darn bad for K-Boy tuh ever—uh—ever resign, right?…right?…right?…[slowly…]…

    …[slowly]…uh, right. It’d hafta be just really, really bad.

    But, coos my dove, if he doesn’t do something, it WILL get really bad. It’s ALREADY bad and he’s doing nothing, right?

    …[slowly coming up to speed]…yeah…but THAT bad?

    Well, she says patiently, whatever “THAT bad” is, if it keeps getting worse and it’s already very bad now, it will get “THAT” bad. Right?

    Okay, then, what’ll happen, then?

    He’ll have to resign. She has that ‘it’s-just-that-simple’ non-tone to her voice as she clicks the TV geeker.

    It’s just taking me a while to catch up with this radical prognosis. I’m not sure why: things are looking frightfully grim in my second-favourite province. It seems unimaginable that it could get worse—but that’s prob’ly how anti-action Kenney and his anti-masker/anti-vaxer think. What if it does? What’s up with the “if”? If something doesn’t get better soon—but, what’s with the “if”— it won’t be getting better, not anytime soon, not with rodeo season a comin’ up… Why am I trying to find ways to save Jason Kenny’s political career when the arrows aren’t pointing that way, the wind ain’t blowin’ that a way? Why can’t I believe he’d ever resign over this mess? So many questions…but I just want my Alberta friends to be safe. Right?

    Okay, okay…he’ll have to resign…I guess…if he has to. Nghh! (I retire to the kitchen to snivel up a medicinal herbal tea.)

    It just seems so unlikely, how the K-Boy is, how hard he’s fought to get this far in his career n all. And yet Canadian lives are at stake. It’s just so hard to believe.

    Please, all our Alberta friends and compatriots, take extra good care of yourselves. Now your government seems to be abandoning you, please be extra careful. You can do it but, anyway, our prayers are with you. For now, stay safe—a better day is coming—somehow.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    May 4th, 2021

    The UCP can’t face criticism for their numerous shortfalls, can they? No, they can’t. Shameful.

    Reply

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