The senior cabinet conclave on the Sky Palace patio as snapped by a mystery photographer from somewhere above them in downtown Edmonton (Photo: Twitter).

When Jason Kenney was busted yesterday for breaking his own pandemic rules the night before with a group of United Conservative Party cabinet heavyweights and a couple of guests during a boozy rooftop dinner at the notorious Sky Palace in Edmonton, one wag commented that these are tough times for Alberta’s premier. 

“I don’t think he’s had a week this bad since May,” tweeted Progress Alberta political commentator Jim Storrie.

A closer view of Jason Nixon, Tyler Shandro, Jason Kenney, Travis Toews and a an unidentified man, plus various bottles (Photo: Twitter).

Apparently the UCP brainiacs who thought the scofflaw dinner would be easy-peasy to get away with, seeing as it was atop the roof of an 11-storey building, hadn’t bargained on someone having one of these newfangled inventions called telephoto lenses.

But a public-spirited paparazzo somewhere in one of the office towers of downtown Edmonton thought to train their lens on the rooftop of the Federal Building, the confusingly named 66-year-old provincial government office tower that includes the rooftop Xanadu secretly constructed as premier Alison Redford’s residence circa 2013.

After Ms. Redford was driven out office by her own caucus in 2014, the Sky Palace was converted to a boardroom and office space, which is nowadays frequently used as a working hideaway by Premier Kenney. 

The mystery photographer’s snaps soon found their way to several media outfits, which were delighted to publish them. 

The photos show Mr. Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Government House Leader and Environment Minister Jason Nixon, Finance Minister Travis Toews, and a man and woman thought to be Kenney Chief of Staff Larry Kaumeyer and Deputy Chief of Staff Pamela Livingston, at a nicely set table on one of the Sky Palace’s rooftop patios.  Nearby, what appear to be a couple of waiters go about their duties without masks.

The shots immediately sparked an uproar on social media, since the group appeared to be breaking several of the government’s latest pandemic rules for social activities that the rest of us have been sternly advised to stick to so the Calgary Stampede can be held next month. That the linen covered table appeared to be generously furnished with bottles of red wine, sparkling water, and a twenty-sixer of Jameson’s Irish whisky raised many eyebrows. 

In fairness to these members of the UCP elite, Mr. Kenney’s constantly changing pandemic restrictions are confusing. But that is unlikely to mollify either those Albertans who have been doing their best to obey the COVID-19 rules or the UCP’s restive rural base and rebellious members of the party’s caucus who think all restrictions should be dropped immediately. 

Progress Alberta political commentator Jim Storrie (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Kenney had just put down a rebellion in the latter group, afraid for their jobs with the UCP polling well behind the NDP led by former premier Rachel Notley, so it will be interesting to see if this is enough to stir them up again. 

Social media commentary was harsh, comparing the rule breaking to those mid-pandemic holiday trips to Hawaii and Mexico taken by a number of UCP MLAs last December.

The premier’s crack team of issues mismanagers doubtless didn’t help by rushing to social media to insult people who commented negatively on the dinner as “hall monitors,” and repeatedly insisting, in what should be the motto of the Kenney Government, no rules were broken. 

Several rules were in fact broken, including seating arrangements, exceeding the limit for participants from different households at such a gathering, masking requirements for servers, and the fact the patio in question couldn’t be accessed without going through the building when “outdoor gatherings must not have an indoor component.”

Well-known political commentator and podcaster Dave Cournoyer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Still, as political blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out, “Ralph Klein would have just apologized and moved on.” 

Instead, he observed, “Jason Kenney will just plain refuse to admit he’s done anything wrong and then his staffers will spend the next five days tweeting about it.”

That would appear to be exactly what is happening. 

While the unexpected Sky Palace brouhaha was undoubtedly the result of ineptitude, it did have the effect of diverting attention from the troubling appointment of Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy to the board of Alberta Health Services yesterday. 

Dr. Mintz is the UCP’s favourite economist, beloved by Canadian conservatives and their media auxiliary for espousing their utopian market fundamentalist ideology almost perfectly.

Charming though Dr. Mintz can be, he is known for such preposterous views as his 2015 claim the NDP’s moderate economic policies would turn Alberta into Greece and that environmentalists in the rest of Canada meant “Alberta has better reasons for Albexit than Britain did for Brexit.” It’s not clear where he will go with that idea now that the United States seems to have gone green as well. 

University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz, whose appointment to the Alberta Health Services Board was announced yesterday (Photo: Imperial Oil).

The Fraser Institute fellow’s view that that diversity makes countries weaker seems to be startlingly out of sync with the Canadian zeitgeist at this moment in history. 

Dr. Mintz still sits on the board of Imperial Oil Ltd. Back in the day he held about $1.4 million in Imperial shares.

Dr. Mintz led Premier Kenney’s expert panel charged with coming up with ideas to respond to low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, a body that also included former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. 

After some fanfare about how the panel was getting to work in March 2020, its deep thoughts seem simply to have evanesced like the gassy bubbles in the mineral water bottles on Mr. Kenney’s table. The only update on the Alberta Government page devoted to the panel’s efforts appears to be a note that says, “this program concluded on June 18, 2020.” 

In health care, based on past statements, Dr. Mintz is likely to advocate more privatization, fewer public sector jobs, forcing public sector workers to take pay cuts, and eliminating regulations that protect workers.

None of this bodes well for the future of public health care in Alberta.

NOTE: This story has been updated to include tentative identities for the previously unidentified additional participants in the rooftop dinner. 

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18 Comments

  1. No matter how anyone tries to spin this, it’s impossible to deny what this photograph portrays. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This is worth more than a thousand words. What the UCP has been telling Albertans to do during the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta, and what the UCP are doing, as this picture has revealed, is quite the contrast. The UCP have shown that they are the most slimy and underhanded government in Alberta. If anyone still thinks people should trust the UCP, they are very mistaken. You just can’t trust the UCP anymore. They have gone to the lowest levels. Their ability to use any common sense, or show a moral compass isn’t there.

  2. Yes, this is what you would call bad optics for Kenney, fine dining on the terrace for the political elite, while most of us wait at home for our Uber fast food order. This is sure not a good populist message and even a pseudo populist like Kenney must realize this. Perhaps Kenney was away from Alberta when the head of AHS got fired for giving priority to enjoying his cookie, instead of dealing with public concerns. This is much more than a cookie.

    Years ago, perhaps before Kenney came to Alberta, someone got a picture of Premier Getty who was supposedly working out of the office, enjoying himself on the golf course in the midst of a serious financial crisis. A picture as they say is worth a thousand words and it was down hill for Getty’s political career from there.

    Maybe Kenney was under some misimpression that the so called Sky Palace was high enough that his dining misadventures would be private. While it is much taller than the Legislature, unfortunately for him, there are several taller buildings nearby. No doubt some curious person with a camera in one of these buildings noticed this very unusual dining party.

    If Kenney is smart, he will quickly apologize and fake contrition as if his political fate depends on it. It could very well. Kenney might have been celebrating a few weeks without any more UCP defections and perhaps was looking forward to the Stampede, but he is still on a knife’s edge here. People are not happy with all the UCP screw ups and one more at this point could just do him in.

  3. I’m feeling immoderate.

    I still can’t get over kenney’s ridiculous defence of Sir John, Eh. The twisted chutzpah of the man! As people FINALLY concentrate on what the hell happened in the IRS system, now we find out the feds won’t lead the radar site survey of all the old school sites, just hand out money from an already-approved pile of money and let the First Nations do it themselves. Or something. Leadership from behind. Complete abdication of responsibility of the political elites at which the non-acting-tapdance-around-the-point Trudeau is supremely practised at.

    I heard Murray Sinclair yesterday and of course just prior to the 2015 election, harper would not approve monies for his TR Commission to further investigate child disappearances and records. Trudeau compounds the bullshit. And the Catholic and other churches refuse to this day to hand over their records and photographs of children at their residential schools. Records paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Can you smell a now-panicky cover-up? Is the jig finally up? Not if they can help it.

    An even more parochial set of mind-numbingly stupid people who have awarded themselves privilege are shown in your lead photo. Alberta’s Village Idiots, the UCP top brass, snarfing down, without regard to restrictions, a good meal and wine at taxpayer expense, probably haw, haw, Federal money. Does it surprise me? No, the more conservative of our citizens who have “made” it used to build exclusive clubs and snift brandy and smoke fat cigars as they plotted how to make more money off the land and the peasants who lived on it under their sufferance. Been in several such places in Montreal in my career, once to get told off by the business establishment (there’s a story there I can assure you). If there are more entitled gawps in the country than this lesser primate UCP bunch who happily exited Alberta for vacations and home renovations last Christmas against restrictions, I don’t know where they are. Perhaps in Ontario where beer and hot dogs seems more like fatman Ford’s style as he carves up green spaces for his lowbrow developer friends.

    They all need to be flogged with a vintage IRS birch to put some sense into them! They truly have broken the public trust; on this occasion and on the many more issues and times in the past and on Covid, so ably documented on this blog for the Alberta UCP crew of entitled snarfers. No excuses are valid unless they all admit to being stupid — after that, there’s probably a 1-866 help line for recovering Cons.

    As for Dr Mintz and all the supine “academics” serving the fatcats for a living: get stuffed. The time for moderation in tone dealing with those who run society strictly for their own selfish hides is over. I support the grannies with placards! And lest we forget, Horgan, your very nominal-NDP premier of BC, is allowing last vestiges of old growth forest to be harvested for private profit against protest and establishment court orders.. So the damn NDP needs to wake up as well, while the Greens have gone completely off the rails.

    Looks as though Capital has won. But we might as well let them know – we are not happy. In Alberta, next time, instead of a telephoto lens, send up a drone to video kenney and the boys, and watch them scatter in panic at being caught red-handed. They seem to be the epitome of the “don’t do as I do, do what I say” self-appointed grandees.

  4. Economics is the dismal science.
    Mintz is so focussed on the dismal, he forgot the science.

    One wonders if any enterprising journalist has FOI’d the Economic Recovery Council?

  5. “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.”
    -Revelation 1:7

  6. DC, perhaps the unidentified guests were those notorious shape-shifters Hubris and Nemesis. By the way, not being a restrained blogger like yourself, I’m going to call that a forty pounder. Cheers!

  7. Now we know why those concerned sometimes appear red-faced and/or sleepy-eyed at press conferences. One mystery solved.

    Let me be clear, no virtues were signalled at this event. Clearly, Lord Kenney of the Sky Palace is past the point of caring what people think of him, because polling shows that situation is beyond redemption. The peasants can’t chase him with pitchforks when he’s high above the ground looking down upon them, a perspective the Little Prince doesn’t get very often. So draw up the drawbridge for one last “yahoo” before he’s run out of town, or a general strike or something. After all, he made the first move in breaking group gathering sizes. If his henchpersons want to arrest all, they’ll have to arrest one. Any questions about the scorched-earth policy that will be in effect for two long, no-good rotten years?

  8. There are no adults at the table in Sky Palaces it seems, but everyone in attendance must take their share of the blame for their own actions, regardless.

    After this little soirée à six, Tyler Shandro announced that urgent surgeries for Albertans will be delayed further, due to his decision to import critically ill Covid-19 patients from Manitoba. Manitoba’s premier, a man of Kenney’s ilk, must surely shoulder the blame for letting things get to this point. While it may seem like a humanitarian gesture, what about a humanitarian gesture for Albertans who have already waited too long for life-saving heart and cancer surgeries?

    The days of boozy working meetings, like most things from the 1950s, are no longer acceptable. Does any good ever come from alcohol-tainted decision-making? We’ve had enough proof over the past two years to say”no”.

  9. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man…

    Excerpt from
    Kubla Khan
    By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    I couldn’t resist, and nor could Premier Crying & Angry Midget it seems. Considering how much trouble the so-called Sky Palace has caused over the years, one wonders why anyone would go near the place? Wait… Rachel Notley didn’t, but then she lived in a typical house in a normal neighbourhood. Calling Kenney and the UCP bigwigs he surrounds himself with normal maybe a bridge too far.

    So, Kenney invited a crowd to a nice dinner and let them partake of his massive cache of cough syrup — that’s mighty generous of him. And the explosion on social media was hilarious, UCP issues managers throwing around insults at all the “nannies” for ruining the Premier’s fun times. What’s Kenney going to do now? Maybe a charm offensive, like throwing a pancake breakfast for Pride Month?

    Here you go, Alberta: you’ve become an ongoing Beaverton satire piece that confounds even the minds behind the Beaverton.

    BTW, I’ve grown tired of the popcorn and graduated to Fritos. A balanced diet is so important.

  10. Albertans are releasing a collective sigh
    To a one they are rolling their eyes
    To be treated as fools
    As Kenney breaks the rules
    While partying in his palace in the sky

  11. Aw c’mon Albertans. The rooftop roustabouts were only lamenting the whupping the Winnipegs gave their Oilers in the NHL playoffs. Nevertheless, game misconducts all ’round and no lap dances.

  12. A “social gathering” of civil servants in government offices with booze and waiters? Aren’t there rules against that (or do they exempt Ministers)? And, who is paying for the booze and waiters?
    I suppose they could say it was a business meeting ( I don’t see any Covid restrictions on those) but then the waiters should be paid by taxpayers (FOIPable) . I bet they were courtesy of some grateful fossil fuel corporation.

  13. Today’s summary:

    Jason Kenney reached peak Marie Antoinette with his comment, “Jameson’s is a budget whiskey.” You mean that wasn’t Dark Horse in the pickup and not “quality #Alberta spirits” in that photo posted to Twitter on November 26, 2019? Let them drink budget whiskey!

    Deena Hinshaw reached peak Three Monkeys with her comment, “I guess I would say I wasn’t there.” Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

    One suggestion: higher railings should be installed on the Sky Palace patio posthaste. And let the budget whiskey flow freely for Stampede, peasants!

    1. Hey Russell,

      The Conservatives are worse than any other parties. In point of fact, since Harper hijacked it, we should really call them Republicans. This new breed of reformers is NOT your dad’s conservative Party. They are fascists. The UCP is NOT a conservative party.

      No one is buying your bullshit that all political parties are bad. That simply isn’t true.

  14. Kenney, in close consultation with ministers and staffers, is always looking for fresh blood to feed his UCP’s sanguine anti-masker/anti-vaxxer electoral base—a dangerous, untameable species which will instinctively engorge itself of red meat to the exclusion of all else, has no qualm against biting the hand that feeds it and, unrestrained, is best kept in the wild. Kenney, therefore, needs be careful not to chew his fingernails past the quick and down to the bone before he sallies out of the Sky Palace’s sausage-packing plant with another gut-wagon load of fresh offal. Unfortunately, the meat slop has a short shelf-life, the wildlife is picky and easily provoked, and delay only makes it worse.

  15. Thanks for finally talking about > Anonymous shutterbug snaps Jason Kenney
    and cabinet insiders breaking pandemic rules at boozy Sky Palace patio table – Alberta Politics < Liked it!

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