Departing “executive director of issues management” Matt Wolf, centre, will be leaving Jason Kenney’s service next Friday (Photo: Twitter).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s personal online troll is moving on. 

It can’t be because he was an embarrassment. Matt Wolf’s been an embarrassment as long as he’s worked in Alberta. 

Matt Wolf’s most famous tweet, published just before the fourth wave of COVID-19 hit Alberta (Photo: Screenshot of Twitter).

It may be as simple as this: The man whose most famous tweet, penned just before the deadly fourth wave of COVID-19 broke over Alberta – “The pandemic is ending. Accept it.” – has lately become a running joke in Alberta.

For months, opponents of Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government have taken to calling its large cadre of “issues managers,” press secretaries, and sundry online propagandists The Matts™ after Mr. Wolf. 

It seems likely the moniker will survive Mr. Wolf’s tenure in Alberta politics. 

Every day that Mr. Wolf stuck around, the harder it would have become for Mr. Kenney to have much hope of persuading anyone he’s really an OK guy, suitable to be trusted with another term as premier.

That the premier’s “executive director of issues management” was paid close to $200,000 a year in base salary and seemed to do precious little other than author nasty, mean-spirited, often genuinely cruel tweets, though not nearly as many of them since the Accept-It debacle, couldn’t have helped.

Harsh social media attacks by Mr. Wolf and other UCP staffers brought a new, highly personal, tone to Alberta politics that some argued bordered on bullying and harassment. “This government openly attacks critics and that’s a shift and I think that’s bad for democracy,” University of Calgary political scientist Melanee Thomas told CTV in 2019 in a story about Mr. Wolf.

That said, to channel the Bard, his efforts were mostly full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Mr. Wolf caught peering at opponents of the UCP from the basement of the Legislature Building (Photo: Twitter).

Arguably, though, there would have been no hope at all of fixing the premier’s image problem with Mr. Wolf still literally in the basement of the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, tweeting out a stream of abuse, derision, and gaslighting. 

Still, while this is a fair and rational observation about the impact Mr. Wolf had on the Kenney Government, whether that is the actual reason for his departure is speculation. 

There were plenty of theories circulating on social media last night, but no one really knows – just yet, anyway. 

Was he pushed, did he jump, or has he left for a more generously compensated position doing the same sort of thing for Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s fast approaching election campaign? 

The semi-official story – such as it is, for the moment entirely connected to leaked tidbits on social media, mostly Twitter – is that he quietly gave notice several weeks ago and is leaving on good terms. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“Being told by sources he isn’t being shown the door, it’s amicable, and that Wolf is reportedly still a supporter of the Premier and gov,City TV reporter Saif Kaisar tweeted yesterday afternoon. 

A screenshot alleged to be of an internal memo announcing the impending departure said Mr. Wolf “has made the difficult decision to leave the government” and went on to say his “service to Alberta has been essential.” Many would disagree, of course. 

“As one of our most respected colleagues, I know he will be greatly missed within the Legislature,” the memo added. The author of these words was not identified. 

Mr. Wolf was one of a number of senior political staffers imported from Ontario soon after Mr. Kenney was chosen leader of the UCP in the spring of 2017. Shortly before that happened, 21 Wildrose Party political staffers were given their walking papers. 

The new crowd included some who had worked with Mr. Kenney in Ottawa, including Mr. Wolf, who was initially hired as the leader’s deputy chief of staff. Previous to that, he was issues management director for Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign, War Room director for the UCP campaign, an advisor to the federal Conservative campaign, Sun Media executive producer of programming that included the Ezra Levant Show, and an issues advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office from 2008 to 2010.

Mr. Wolf’s replacement, Tara Jago (Photo: Twitter).

His online resume indicates he was also Vice-President Public Affairs for Hill+Knowlton Strategies for three months in 2019 and War Room advisor to Mr. Ford’s campaign in Ontario for two months in 2018.

As unappealing as was Mr. Wolf’s online persona, it seems unlikely he will have difficulty finding remunerative employment in Conservative politics, where the kind of nasty negativity in which he specialized is highly valued. 

It probably means something that word of Mr. Wolfe’s departure was leaked late on a Friday. His last day will be next Friday, Dec. 3. 

According to the farewell memo, he will be replaced by Tara Jago, strategic advisor to former agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen and before that issues manager for former health minister Tyler Shandro.

If past performance is a guide, not much is likely to change in the way issues are managed by the premier’s office.

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32 Comments

  1. Several likely reasons for the Wolfman’s sudden departure …

    He’s part of the UCP government’s severe image problem. The raging and online harassment has proved to be a deepening liability for Kenney. Now that Kenney may face a massive lawsuit in the coming days, the worry is that Wolf’s continued presence will not pacify the growing tide of legal actions that are coming.

    The legal action brought forth by Ariella Kimmel included prolific drunkenness and sexual harassment among UCP MLAs and staffers. It also includes a pointed detail that when Kimmel’s concerns were brought to Matt Wolf and Jason Nixon (Kenney’s trusted advisors) they “lost” her complaint. Does Wolf’s moving on have anything to do with this aspect of Kimmel’s lawsuit?

    At the recent UCP AGM, Kenney sent a pack of loyal goombas, torpedos, and mooks to support his laundry list of initiatives. Wolf was among these loyalists and their sole jobs were to be Kenney’s cheering section and his muscle to keep dissenters in line. Word is there was some trouble and Wolf was around when it happened.

    Is Wolf’s departure an indication that others will soon be thrown overboard? I’m speculating that the War Room’s days are very, very numbered at this point. Given the coming lawsuits from the environmental lobby, the War Room, in particular, has been a source of a lot of disinformation targeting the various environmental groups.

    Kenney is trying to clean the house fast, sloppy, and will likely break a lot of the furniture in the process.

    I think my next popcorn selection will be Cracker Jacks and cheddar. Yum, yum.

  2. He isn’t being shown the door, but the best that can be said is, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    Curious, how is that sexual harrassment lawsuit by Ariella Kimmel coming along? Curiouser that a woman will take Matt Wolf’s place, and that she was one of Devin Dreeshan’s staffers. Does this have something to do with that? Also, she was formerly Tyler Shandro’s staffer? You’re right — more of the same. They’re shuffling the deck chairs again.

  3. When a truly scurrilous, abusive, excrement flinging sociopath the likes of Matt Wolfe is considered “one of our most respected colleagues”, we can’t help but wonder how low the bar is for their least respected.

  4. These pretend conservatives and Reformers sure are an embarrassment to the legacy of the true conservatives we had under Peter Lougheed. The UCP sure pays these people well, for things that we see no value to. The money these people, like Matt Wolf get should be helping struggling seniors, and those on AISH to improve their quality of life, but the UCP made Ralph Klein moves with cuts to them. Ralph Klein, a Liberal turned Reformer, is a hero to the UCP, and they don’t care who they harm with their foolish policies. Where’s the sense in that?

    1. Valerie: Sure, most of them are horrible people. But they are not nearly as horrible as those who voted for them. And how about the professional and political classes of all stripes who enabled it, or the absolutely foul civil service which sold out long ago? What will this place will be like when its unfunded $260 billion clean up liability comes due?
      What kind of water treatment miracle do you think your city fathers can come up with, even assuming the glaciers last another couple of decades? This place makes the Giant Mine clean up look like a “friends of the park” Sunday afternoon pick up.

      And there is even a new more catching Delta variant on the way. As I have before, I can only offer the poetry of Milton to describe the UCP and its supporters:
      “The sheep look up, but are not fed,
      But swollen with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
      Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread”
      – Lycidas”

      1. No, Matt Wolf and his rowdy band of internet raiders are CATEGORICALLY worse than the folks duped into voting for the UCP.

        At best, he’s a professional asshole. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Go back to Ontario with the rest of Em

          1. They’re not monsters, they’re our neighbours.

            There are many more solid hardworking people in this province than the loudest reactionary voices that make it to the media.

            For some reason the far right has always assumed alberta belonged to them but it’s never been the case, especially now.

  5. The recent appointment of an abundance of “Parliamentary Secretaries” to various cabinet ministers means Kenney has opened up his Horn O’Plenty and dumped out more rewards for the loyalists. One name that stuck out for me was Dan Williams.

    Williams is fanatically SoCON on every level. Since it’s likely Kenney needs to pacify his SoCON base because he is less of a Gov. Abbott than he makes out to be, handing out plums to Williams and others like him could calm the angry UCP mob.

    Rumours are floating around Ottawa that the Liberals could allow the provinces to make their own rules involving handguns. Any chance that Alberta could become a Conceal & Carry province? I’ll call that one a very good possibility.

    Yee-Ha.

  6. “His online resume indicates he was also Vice-President Public Affairs for Hill+Knowlton Strategies for three months in 2019 . . . .”

    The large global PR firms and their human strategists are paid to manage and manipulate public consciousness in order to further the strategic aims of governments and corporations. Apparently lying and fraudulent misrepresentation are the standard tools of the trade for the PR strategist.

    For example, “Hill & Knowlton, then the world’s largest PR firm, served as mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign. Its activities alone would have constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manipulating American public opinion. In addition to Republican notables like Gray and Fuller, Hill & Knowlton maintained a well-connected stable of in-house Democrats who helped develop the bipartisan support needed to support the war.”

    “How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf” https://www.prwatch.org/node/25/print

    Where it is observed that, “bipartisan support”, PR, and a subset of the general public that is forever naive and gullible are participating in a neverending, repetitive charade. Because, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” and “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.”

    Therefore, it should be a priority that “Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self-defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control.”

    1. Someone’s going to call me “jingoistic” or a warmonger — or both — but, with respect, I disagree with your apparent opposition to the 1991 Gulf War.

      There are a lot of reasons why nations go to war, most of them insufficient for the sacrifice, but one big, powerful country invading a tiny neighbour, unprovoked and for no other reason than to steal one of its key economic assets? It’s really just an armed robbery writ large, and the rest of the world is justified in acting to put an end to it. Granted, Kuwait was not, and is not, a paradise of democracy … but there are gradations of evil, and there is no moral equivalency between the Emirate of Kuwait in 1990 and the murderous kleptocracy of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Saddam wanted Kuwait’s oil fields, and he was willing to use force to get them. Had he been allowed to keep them, there’s no telling what he might have done next. Saudi Arabia, perhaps?

      So, the United Nations acted in rare consensus to condemn and take effective action against the invasion. It is indeed tragic that the lives of hapless Iraqi conscripts had to be sacrificed to Saddam’s megalomania, but it has been ever thus in international affairs. But if there has ever been a just war, at least after 1945, this was, IMHO, one such.

      1. I suppose you may be superficially correct in your interpretations and assumptions, if it is also assumed that the motivations behind the geostrategic maneuvering on ‘the grand chessboard’ are not always readily apparent and are subject to both consensus and disagreement depending upon both the quality and quantity of information available and its interpretation. Further, things are apparently hardly ever as they appear to be, see for example,
        “US and British Support for Hussein Regime”

        https://archive.globalpolicy.org/iraq-conflict-the-historical-background-/us-and-british-support-for-huss-regime.html

        The incident itself was a case study in the application of the Carter Doctrine, such that,

        “Today, the prevailing perception in Washington is that Iraq and Iran are aggressive, dangerous states. Deterring their ability to encroach on Saudi oil fields—hence denying these states additional oil revenues—is one aim of the continuing American presence in the region. The underlying concern is not just about possible disruptions in oil supplies, and ensuing price shocks, that the actions of hostile regimes could occasion. The larger issue, from the standpoint of the United States, is that if Iraq or Iran were to enrich themselves by taking control of additional oil reserves, these regimes would soon become more menacing to the United States than they already are, even if they were eager to sell to the rest of the world all the oil they seized.”

        https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-persian-gulf-understanding-the-american-oil-strategy/

        The trite observation is the one that concludes that, currently, for the political economies of this world, control and exploitation of energy supplies in the form of hydrocarbons represent wealth, power and leverage (political and economic).

  7. Certainly Matt Wolf won’t be unemployed for long. After Doug Ford’s re-election campaign, Wolf can either stay in Ontario or work for Scott Moe. After all, Moe does what Kenney does, just later and worse.

    1. More likely he will be headed back to Ottawa and in the service of the CPC. So much Erin O’Toole’s promise of a kinder, more inclusive CPC.

      It will be more of the same. However, now that everyone knows who Matt Wolf is, and his social media shenanigans, this could be an indication of another knife in O’Toole’s back.

  8. Agree with all the above. A stain on democracy in Alberta, a shame Albertans of the UCP persuasion must bear and wear (You really are too dumb to vote).

  9. What an unattractive, both physically and ideologically, human being…..

    I am thinking that Jason Kenney will try to scrub his image now, 18 months before the next election.

  10. Tara Jago is just as abusive, sarcastic, and untrustworthy as Matt Wolf. Or any of the other Matts. This whole experiment was authored by the Republican party and their unending stream of liars and snotty press secretaries.

    I repeat: not ONE of the UCP Press Corp or Issues Managers should keep their jobs.

    Not Matt. Not Tara. Not Steve. Not Ben. Not Nicole. Not Haydn. Not Amanda. Not Brian. Not Jess. Not Brock.

    Not David Staples or Brian Lilley, either.

  11. Wolf’s departure is a sign of something.

    One possibility is it could be a sign of a temporary change in approach by Kenney to try appear less belligerent, in order to try win back support amongst voters and within his own parties. I doubt that Kenney will really convince anyone that he is a nice guy, but without Wolf around, there is a chance to set a better tone. Fortunately, Kenney doesn’t need a miraculous recovery in public support to get the party to decide to keep him as leader, just a small improvement to convince them a bigger turn around is still possible.

    Another possibility is Wolf is seeing the writing on the wall and feels it would be better for him to depart at a time of his own choosing than say wait possibly for a new leader to come in and clean house. He is very linked to Kenney, which is not helpful, but at least at this point he still has a connection to power, which could be helpful in finding him a new job.

    In any event, I doubt the approach to communications or issues management will change much with someone new. I think the tone is set at the top and the belligerent style is such a fundamental part of the personality of the top leadership that it is not something that could be easily changed even if they wanted to.

  12. Speaking of David Staples, unlike many of the UCP trained seals, he actually said Suzuki was not advocating violence. Sure, Suzuki was being hyperbolic and that’s it. Was he describing an eventual and possible outcome? Definitely. Should he have said that on a public platform? Maybe it wasn’t a good idea.

    Is Staples falling away from Kenney the way Don Braid and Rick Bell have? I guess he was getting tired of being called an idiot.

    1. Bret L: I enjoyed the writing in many of the articles in your link to what you wrongly characterize as a “progressive left” web site. However most of the articles were more diverting than substantial. Like the one you linked to on Covid, a lot of them set up straw men and knock them down with gusto (amusing). In fact we have had medical apartheid since we learned about bacteria in the late 1700s and it has saved millions of lives.

      Still, the writing is diverting and I’m sure there must be gems among the sand.

  13. Guys like Matt Wolf come and go, can pop up anywhere right of centre—or even like Ken Boessenkool: way, way right of centre.

    But it’s hardly surprising there’s some furniture being moved around in the halls of Alberta power right now—uh—or maybe better likened to deck chairs on the passenger liner RMS You-Know-What.

    In the UCP’s unfortunate circumstances, it might be difficult to notice any difference in Jason Kenney’s rhetorical tone that could be attributed to Mr Wolf’s absence, especially since K-Boy will probably keep uttering some gallingly smug whoppers. The tell will be whether the party’s provisional government allows him to repeat any of them.

  14. If you’re looking for an example whypolitical discourse continues to be debased, just look to Matt Wolf, the premier’s aide. (and of course the party and its leader that makes Matt Wolf’s tactics possible). Why resort to such crudity?

    1. Why such crudity? I wondered that myself, back when the HarperCons took power, back when politicians of the right became much more partisan than we ever remembered it, and parliamentary decorum did a total face-plant.

      Eventually I considered it a two-pronged strategy: first, Harper’s knee-to-groin tactic was intended to shock and awe his partisan rivals, to blunt their opposition long enough for Harper to get dug in and do some preliminary damage.

      The second, longer-ranged tactic was to shock and disgust the electorate to strategically cultivate negative attitudes toward both politicians and government which, naturally, the neo-right (globalizing neoliberal usurpers and imposters of traditional conservative parties) would then use to rationalize weakening government as if democratically popular (an hypocrisy because the neo-right really wants to weaken democratic sovereignty so it can’t interfere with cutting corporate taxes, eliminating environmental regulations, and beggaring organized labour. Undermining national sovereignty is the primary distinction between neo-rightism and real conservatism).

      In short, if citizens were made to hate government, then it would be easier for the neo-right to starve and cripple it.

      Once that was accomplished, the neo-right incorrectly presumed, it would be “The End of History”, capitalism would have permanently conquered socialism, and the organization of stateless corporatocracy could proceed unhindered.

      The first tactic didn’t work so well—or at least not quickly enough to stop the neo-right’s opposition from getting over its shock and awe, parrying with indecorous tactics of its own, delaying and, eventually, thwarting the neo-right agenda.

      The second tactic began to fail only partly because the first didn’t get done in time. Rather, “getting government off private enterprise’s back” didn’t produce the promised “trickle-down” for ordinary folks, and both public weal and environment suffered.

      In short, voters began to realize they need government to deal with the mess left by four decades of neo-right perfidy, obscene profiteering, and environmental degradation. The irony is that the neo-right, instead of government, ended up getting hated because people realized they’re getting played.

      The two-pronged strategy, neo-rightism, and globalizing neoliberalism whence it came has been one, big, fat, costly, flop that’ll take generations to clean up. They say the 1% mopped up, but it’s really a fraction of that; the rest of us instead got mopped.

      I think the crudity we see today is partly habitual and partly the desperation of a failed and discredited neo-right movement in its throes of death. As long as it survives, guys like Wolf will always have a job.

      It will probably never go away completely, but let’s hope it gets relegated back to the dismissible fringe whence it came.

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