Jason Kenney hoists a glass of something with Labatt’s President Kyle Norrington at the brewer’s Edmonton facility on Aug. 9, the last time anyone saw the Alberta premier in person (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

With COVID-19 case counts in Alberta marching higher by the day, now closing in on 8,000 active cases, the chorus of grumbles about what’s become of Premier Jason Kenney is increasing in volume.

Mr. Kenney was last seen on Aug. 9 at a press conference called to announce expansion of an Edmonton brewery that promised to create 25 jobs. That may not sound like a lot, but you crow about what good news you’re handed in times like these. At least Labatt’s gave the premier a free beer, or something, to drink. 

Alberta NDP Health Critic David Shepherd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Since then, though, with the Delta variant of the coronavirus cutting a swath through Alberta, Mr. Kenney’s been nowhere to be seen. 

We haven’t gotten quite to the point where they’re putting the premier’s portrait on milk cartons, but the Internet memes have been getting funnier, media reporters have been getting crankier, and the premier’s staff have been nervously insisting he’s on holiday, he’s fine and he’s in charge, albeit remotely. 

“The alarm bells are ringing, yet the lights are off in the Premier’s office,” NDP health critic David Shepherd said in a news release. “Albertans deserve more than Jason Kenney’s out-of-office replies.”

In truth, I imagine that the Opposition isn’t all that unhappy the premier’s gone missing. It gives them the opportunity to make the point, in Mr. Shepherd’s words again, that Albertans “deserve a strategy for finishing the fight against COVID-19 so we keep businesses open, protect our kids in school and keep the economy going. It’s time for the UCP to show up for work.”

Theories, many of them insulting, abound. The simplest explanation, it seems to me, is that Mr. Kenney’s hiding out in the Conservative Party of Canada war room, plotting strategy for federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole for the rest of the fall campaign that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may or may not be regretting, depending on how you interpret the still murky returns from recent polls. 

Occasionally Mr. Kenney appears up in a social media video published by his staff – but so far they haven’t resorted to showing him holding up a copy of the day’s newspaper to prove he’s still alive. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Kenney will need to resurface soon, or darker theories will begin to circulate. 

Nokia CEO Kari Kairamo, known by his proud countrymen at the time of his death in 1988 as the Lee Iacocca of Finland (Photo: Kuvasiskot studio, Creative Commons).

I can’t help but recall the time in late 1988 the Globe and Mail decided to send me to Finland to fill the pages of a business section on that country’s industries and I got the OK for an interview with Kari Kairamo, Nokia’s high-profile chief executive.

But when I got there, “the Lee Iacocca of Finland” was nowhere to be found. Two exceedingly nervous Nokia PR flacks summoned me to a very nice restaurant on Helsinki Harbour and informed me regretfully and uncomfortably that Mr. Kairamo was indisposed. 

I feigned outrage and said I was returning to my hotel room to call the editor who had sent me all the way to Finland for the interview – which was not strictly accurate, but readers will understand the bargaining tactic.

They handed me a cellular phone the size of the Yellow Pages (for those of who still remember that bulky document) and I made the first cellular telephone call of my life to a puzzled early morning copy editor who wasn’t in on my bluff. 

Long story short, by the time I’d arrived in Finland, Mr. Kairamo had committed suicide. The problem was, the company hadn’t yet informed its shareholders while the board figured out what the hell to do about it. 

I sincerely hope it wasn’t the prospect of an interview with a Canadian reporter that drove the poor man to despair. He had nothing to fear. The story was broken by someone else long after I’d left Finland. 

Readers are expected to know who Lee Iacocca was. If you don’t, you can look him up yourself. 

I’m not suggesting, of course, that Mr. Kenney is anything but hale, hearty and full of beans. I expect the premier will resurface shortly, if only to tell to the good doctors of the Alberta Medical Association why they are wrong to plead for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations of health care workers.

As Mr. Kenney is sure to explain when he emerges from his vacation, refreshed and well rested, we don’t do that in Alberta, especially when it risks splitting the United Conservative Party caucus asunder.

Alberta reported 629 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, raising the total of active cases to 7,931. Seven more people died from the disease. Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw hasn’t been heard from since Aug. 13 and Health Minister Tyler Shandro since July 28. 

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  1. Yes, where the heck in the world is Jason Kenney?

    He is probably doing ok, but the extended silence also makes me wonder a bit. Wasn’t Gorbachev on a late summer vacation when the mice back at the office got up to no good? So maybe the UCP has put Kenney on a mandatory “vacation”. If so, I suppose it beats the late PC’s “work plan for improvement” for their departed boss.

    Maybe Kenney, along with those others who last saw O’Toole as a true blue Conservative, have been put in a witness protection program, at least until after the Federal election. As for being in the Conservative war room – for their sakes, it would probably be better if he were not. Last time he tried to help them in a Federal election campaign, he didn’t help much.

    My best uneducated guess is he is in another province, as far from the media as possible, maybe on a winery tour or something.

  2. Well, since we’re talking good stories from the old days I can’t help but recall the times I would play peek-a-boo with the children. You remember; you cover your eyes with your hands, and it all goes away.

    Seems to be official UCP managerial procedure: despite what’s actually happening with Covid, they just hide the Covid managers and it all goes away.
    They believe it, they really, really believe it. And of course, they act on their beliefs.
    What problem? We don’t see no stinking problem!

  3. We are quite happy not to see him. We feel the same about Shandro.

    There is no value add for us. We only get annoyed when we see him speak his nonsense.

    So…I hope he stays away. Perhaps he is in Toronto or Ottawa providing expertise to O’Toole campaign. Good place for him to stay.

  4. While it cannot be argued that Kenney will do anything for a free beer (even grease a giant-multinational to cough up a mere twenty-five jobs) it’s apparent that Premier Crying & Screaming Midget has decided to drop out of sight.

    While there are plausible explanations for Kenney, who loves being the center of attention, being out of sight (federal election and all) I suspect he’s pulling a Doug Ford (staying out of sight in Alberta anyway) and being bunkered down in the CPC War Room in Ottawa. Erin O’Toole is Kenney’s boy who can make the exit strategy from Alberta happen.

    Like when Stockwell Day was leading the CA in that faithful election, the one where Stockwell-mania was supposed to happen, and Ezra Levant went onto the national media and confessed that he was a “Stock-a-holic”. Yes, that was the election where Kenney was going to lead the charge, destroy the Chretien Liberals, and begin a thousand-year Reich … I mean REIGN … of CON rule over Canada.

    There were screw ups aplenty in that election, all of which could be attributed to Kenney’s off-the-cuff approach to everything. So … it was declared that, in defiance of natural forces, the Atlantic Ocean flows into the Great Lakes and best PM candidate can be found wearing a tight-fitting wetsuit and riding a jet-sky on Okanagan Lake. Yes, Kenney has a fertile and an active imagination for amazingly bad ideas. Stockwell Day and the CA went down to defeat and all the campaign leadership (Kenney) could do was blame the left-wing media, because that’s what those GOP talking points say.

    So, while we all wonder “Where in the World is Kenney?” the notion that darker things have happened can be considered. I mean the guy has turned a hardcore conservative province against himself by being a hardcore conservative. Who knew? Given this surprising result, maybe Kenney has decided to throw off his mortal coil and say good-bye to the cruel world? I’m not declaring that is the case, but given what I know about Kenney’s termperment…well?

    The guy is prone to manic behaviour, with great rushes of energy, followed by deep depressions, and moments of self-medication. (His mountain of cough syrup) Olivia Chow, in a print interview, alluded to Kenney’s tendency to run about like the Ever-Ready Bunny, wildly seeking avenues for policies he wants to implement. Given Kenney’s tendency for wild mood swings, which even I have witnessed once, one cannot leave the notion that something dark has happened.

    It’s at this point where some UCP partisan will interject the South Park tagline “They killed Kenny; the bastards!” before waxing on at how the cruel world has destroyed a great man. Personally, if something dark were to come to pass, I would surely have my dancing shoes on.

  5. There are two schools of thought on this. The first is that he needs to get back and do his job. The second is that it makes no difference if he stays away until after September 20 or possibly until 2023. It wouldn’t be the first time a Conservative government in Alberta decided to go AWOL and cancel sittings in the legislature. Granted, that happened during non-pandemic times.

    Some argue that life is better when Jason Kenney isn’t around, and who can disagree? Open for summer, open for good — that’s what the man said. Also, open for summer, Kenney gone for good? Nonetheless, Rome is burning while Nero fiddles, etc.

  6. Whatever will Kenney do? It is too late to fire Shandro. And they have already thrown Hinshaw under the bus by ordering her to support re-opening, killing her credibility with the pubic and much of the medical and scientific community. How long before Alberta is forced to surrender its self-proclaimed leadership role and follow the BC NDP in bringing back mandatory public masking requirements? Oh, the shame of it all! But perhaps Jason, in his devotions missed the proverb that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

  7. It’s not just the premier that’s missing. LaGrange, Nixon and Savage seem remarkably quiet. Let’s hope that they are all safe and well. Other than influencing the nurses’ collective bargaining process and telling us that Alberta nurses deserve to be kicked whilst they are down and exhausted Toews remains under the radar.

    It would incautious to assume they could all be off on summer breaks and not scheming and planning how to use the remainder of the UCP mandate to squander Alberta’s coffers and inflict more harm on its people. We’ve travelled a hard journey since the days of the ‘jobs, economy pipelines’ mantra.

  8. What do you all think about the likelihood he’s been stuck in a closet somewhere so Otoole can make some sort of attempt to gain ground on Trudeau without Kenney reminding everyone what a jerk he is ever three days…. ?

    That’s a sentence.

    1. It’s not like Kenney, as premier, actually has to show up when O’Toole comes calling. I mean O’Toole has been to Alberta so many times of late, he probably knows his way around by now. Maybe he even knows where that second key to the Sky Palace is … it’s under the “Please…F*ck Off” mat.

  9. He might be spending this time figuring out to crack that big turd on his desk called vaccine passport.

    He has business and the majority of Albertans defining a fairly immediate need for such a document.

    He has part of the UCP membership absolutely opposed to it. The same UCP group that is also opposed to his leadership.

    He can hardly blame Ottawa since other provinces have either done this or announced the intention to do it. As had the Feds.

    So what will Kenney do?

  10. He is writing his memoirs – it is part of the elite style these days.
    I would imagine very easy to write but still takes time

    I failed, I screwed up and then I failed again and then the next day I disappeared to find a new strategy.
    Then I failed again and I lied to cover up and I got caught and I screwed up again.
    The good thing is that I do not give a shit.

  11. The head honcho of the UCP is embarrassed, and wants to hide, to try and avoid the UCP making the CPC get defeated. Meanwhile, Postmedia columnists still support the Conservatives and their lies.

  12. “Where have all the leaders gone?” It seems that Lee Iacocca’s book was written for the times we live in today. Maybe Jason Kenney is thumbing through a copy right now. Amazon summarizes some key points here:

    • What is each of us giving back to our country?
    • Do we truly love democracy?
    • Are we too fat and satisfied for our own good?
    • Why is America addicted to oil?
    • Do we really care about our children’s futures?
    • Who will save the middle class?

    This will take some time, obviously. See you on the other side, Mr. Premier.

    1. I’d never thought of these events, or really a lack of events , in terms of Lee Iacoccao. Am more reminded of The Three Degrees.

      ‘When will i see you again?’
      ‘When will we share precious moments?”

  13. It is rumoured that Jason Kenney (or a look alike) was spotted at the Edmonton Fringe trying to mount several productions including:
    – How to Smirk your Way into Power
    – Governing for Dummies
    – Confessions of a Has-Been Politician
    – Where’s Waldo?
    All received less than favourable reviews.

  14. I’m surprised the that the conversation wasn’t recorded as this: beer boy: “are you worried about Alberta’s reputation, what with all this Covid?” Kim Jong Kenny: “hold my beer!”.

  15. Let’s not be too hasty, friends, there might be a simple explanation for Kenney’s disappearance. It becomes even more probable when linked to the vanishing act of Tyler Shandro, and the more recent lack of public appearances by Deena Hinshaw. It is, of course, the tail end of summer; maybe they really are on vacation.

    I know, I know—conspiracy theories are way more fun. I’ll even admit that, in Kenney’s case, it’s unlikely he could keep his fingers out of Erin O’Toole’s pie. Either way, I’ll take it. If Kenney & the Klowns aren’t under the Dome, they can’t screw things up by the numbers.

    The only down-side is that, with Kenney on vacation/ in hiding/ plotting O’Toole’s triumph/ plotting O’Toole’s ouster (your choice), he’s not talking past his toes in public. This is less than ideal for the NDP, who will miss having Kenney demonstrate foot-in-mouth disease every second week.

    Still, it’s just over three more weeks—OMG, that’s all!—till the election. Kenney will be bursting with frustration, all ready to smite the unrighteous unbelievers (mostly NDP, but also the rebellious Base, the traitors!). Look for Kenney to come out swinging. It ought to be quite a show, but I’m gonna stand back a ways, just in case.

    Would somebody pass the popcorn?

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