Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s news conference in Calgary’s Hudsons pub (Photo: Screenshot of the Alberta Government’s rather pixelated video).

No wonder they call it the Liquor Cabinet!

You’d think it might have occurred to someone in the United Conservative Party strategic brain trust to factor former agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen’s very recent, very public troubles with office drinking into the equation when they decided to hold a news conference about a part-time employment wage subsidy program in a Calgary pub.

UCP leadership aspirant and former Wildrose party leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But apparently not. 

So there was Premier Jason Kenney, seemingly unperturbed by the optics, up on his hind legs yesterday at the downtown Calgary premises of Hudsons Canada’s Pubs – a row of beer glasses for a backdrop – to announce applications were about to open for the second phase of the so-called Jobs Now Program subsidizing businesses that hire part-time workers.

The aspirational sign on the podium – no irony apparently intended – said “Alberta’s Recovery Plan.” (Emphasis added.) The sign visible behind the premier, reading “strong and free,” almost certainly wasn’t a reference to the beer sold by the bar. 

Well, since its inception, the UCP seems to have had a fixation with the vote-generating potential of alcohol – perhaps inspired by the success of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s buck-a-beer scam. 

“The Alberta Jobs Now program is helping more than 14,000 Albertans get back to work and now we’re improving it so even more people can benefit,” Mr. Kenney enthused in the government’s news release.

However, the tweaks touted in that statement won’t necessarily mean more benefit for people employed under the $370-million scheme – half financed by Ottawa through a Workforce Development Agreement, although not much was made of that significant fact at yesterday’s press conference. 

The changes include extending eligibility to new businesses and non-profits and an end to the requirement that new hires must be unemployed, cutting in half to 15 the minimum number of hours of work required for qualifying employees, and reducing the number of days the new employees have to be kept on staff. So while the benefits to unemployed workers will be somewhat reduced, the subsidy for business – especially fast-food corporations – will be enhanced. 

NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And speaking of fast food, according to the premier, his friends in the hospitality industry appear to be getting the largest serving of the subsidy program’s gravy – 22 per cent in the first phase of the program, compared to 11 per cent for construction, the next highest category.

The NDP’s main gripe, though, was that the government took so long to roll out the second application intake. “This money for the training of new employees could have been in the hands of employees and in our economy during the first waves of the pandemic, but the UCP waited over a year to get a single dime out the door,” said Opposition Labour Critic Christina Gray, noting that last month the province lost 9,000 jobs. 

According to the premier, this is because the hospitality industry was hit harder than others by COVID-19. “That’s created a rupture in their workforce,” he claimed in response to a reporter’s question. “A lot of folks who used to work in restaurants like this, who kinda gave up through COVID because of all the opening and closing.”

This is not necessarily the explanation economists give to the phenomenon of employees quitting low-wage jobs at unprecedented rates throughout North America, often called the Great Resignation. “What seems to be happening,” New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman wrote last month, “is that the pandemic led many U.S. workers to rethink their lives and ask whether it was worth staying in the lousy jobs too many of them had.”

There’s no reason to think it’s any different in Canada, it’s said here. 

Alberta Labour Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Mr. Kenney’s old pal from many a COVID-19 press conference, former health minister Tyler Shandro, now enjoying a lower profile as labour minister, was on hand. A passel of the usual suspects from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta Chambers of Commerce, and the pub where the festivities took place lent their names to the government’s upbeat press release. 

As for the UCP’s ability to read the room, either it’s not yet fully developed even after more than two years in power, or they don’t care and are trolling us. Astonished commentators on social media seemed to be roughly split on that question.

“The only thing that would make the optics of this any worse is if Brian Jean showed up with 1/3 of the party demanding his resignation,” commented one gobsmacked tweeter.

Speaking of Mr. Jean, his name came up during the news conference when a reporter asked about the former Wildrose Party leader’s plan to run for the UCP in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election and soon thereafter seek to replace Mr. Kenney as party leader and premier. 

“Mr. Jean did not complete his term as an MP,” Mr. Kenney reminded the journalist, accurately enough. “He did not complete his term as an MLA. At the beginning of the 2019 provincial election, he was preparing to take over the Freedom Conservative Party, a different party. And about a few weeks ago he was indicating his desire to start a, quote, a new centrist party in Alberta.

“He’s welcome to run for the nomination, but I think that members might want to ask about how serious he is, and committed, or whether this is just another unpredictable development in his political ambitions,” said the premier, who alert readers will recall quit his own job as an MP for a more promising position in Alberta. 

“Mr. Jean’s been trying to destabilize our party for going on three years now,” Mr. Kenney complained. “I regard that as a distraction. … I’m not going to be distracted by someone trying to settle scores with internal political games.”

This raises an interesting question for Albertans – which is preferable? A politician they can’t stand who won’t stick around? Or one they can’t stand who won’t leave? 

Join the Conversation


  1. Yeah, you do have to wonder about the optics of an event with UCP ministers in a pub, shortly after they had to get rid of a minister for drinking to much on the job (and for other things too lest we forget, but the UCP doesn’t not want to mention this, there is a lawsuit too). In my opinion, they have already jumped the shark a while ago – at this point it just keeps on getting weirder and more uncomfortable for everyone.

    For instance, unprompted today Kenney starts trashing Jean again. I get the sense he is quite worried about something – perhaps that Jean will do to him what he once did to Jean. Kenney even used the dreaded D word – distraction. I suppose Kenney knows a lot about distraction, but isn’t that also the word politicians often used to try downplay something really bad just before they are forced to resign?

    I don’t know if Jean would be much better than Kenney, but at this point it is hard to believe anyone could be much worse.

  2. Excellent!

    Let Jean run so that Kenney can kick him out of the UCP caucus a few weeks later.

    Great optics for the general electorate.

  3. There are some serious issues and flaws with the UCP’s Jobs Now Program. Notice how the restaurant and hospitality industry got a large chunk of the funding. Restaurants Canada, who has ties to the UCP, and supported their minimum wage policy, (rebrand it wage disparity, or two tiered pay scale, for youth and adults), is likely foaming at the mouth over this. Where really is this funding going to? Are employees the benefactors, or are the restaurant owners? I’d go with the latter. Also, if the employees are hired, it’s not for full time hours. This is another shell game by the UCP, with their masquerade of thinking they are creating employment in Alberta. Their $10 billion for corporate tax cuts didn’t bolster employment in Alberta. That money is just lost revenue for Alberta. Corporations have even taken the money and fled Alberta. The CEOs likely paid off any debts they had, and pocketed the rest of the money.
    With the head honcho of the UCP, how did he get into his position as UCP leader? Likely by cheating Brian Jean out of that role he once held. It would be nice to see what the investigation by the R.C.M.P comes up with. In any case, these pretend conservatives and Reformers prove that they cannot be trusted. That would include the head honcho of the UCP, as well as Brian Jean. Peter Lougheed was right about not being able to trust Reformers.

    1. Anonymous, our point about the UCP “thinking they are creating employment” is well taken. There’s an old trick in this kind of scam: count every person who gets hired, add up the total, and publish that aggregate number. Ignore everybody who gets fired when the wage subsidy money runs out. Never, ever, EVER count that second number!

      This looks like some kind of revolving-door scam to help Kenney’s new masters at Restaurants Canada. It’ll guarantee them a source of cheap labour–at least till the Federal funding runs out.

  4. Has Jason Kenney made any job announcements during his tenure as premier that didn’t involve minimum-wage jobs–or worse, when it comes to youth workers (thanks to him)?

    1. Tom: That’s a very good observation. Certainly the most of the actual jobs created the UCP talks about are low-wage positions. When they announce higher-paying, career jobs, they tend to be theoretical, something that will happen at some point in the indeterminate future as a result of the UCP policies. This is true of even some of the minimum-wage jobs they announce – viz., the 59 jobs per year that supposedly will someday be created by Amazon. DJC

      1. The UCP were also careful NOT to count the high-paid jobs that went to the United States with Encana–when they moved the company HQ to Denver and renamed itself Ovintiv.

      2. To be fair, I guess there’s those good union jobs south of the border he was promising if Keystone went through. Too bad about the money he gambled away, though.

    2. I’m all for criticizing our not-so-illustrious Premier for his many failings, but I do feel a certain amount of fairness is in order. So:

      – an example of a jobs announcement that is about more than minimum wage jobs: [I’m not educated enough on such matters to have an opinion on whether this project is good for the environment or climate action, so I’ll let more informed readers opine on that]

      – on booze politics, let’s not forget that Premier Notley was not averse to making announcements about craft brewing and other related beverage applications of Alberta barley and other grain crops; however, her Cabinet & caucus didn’t have anyone outed as an in-the-workplace drinker

  5. Kenney is truly the fast food premier. In the almighty words of the Motor City Five “fuck Hudson’s”

  6. Bumbles and some of his UCP members appear to inhabit a world where booze-soaked dining and partying are the norm; they apparently can’t imagine that, for many others, imbibing expensive alcohol often and to excess is far from normal or desirable behavior.

    That Bumbles and the UCP can’t avoid sending the wrong message regarding their love of alcohol has caused this attachment to alcohol to become a proxy for their incompetence, ineptitude, and a general lack of judgement.

    What tone-deaf gaffe will they pull next? It boggles the mind that they can’t even get what should be simple messaging straight. Do they not have any professionals working for them who are worth their pay cheque to advise them on where and how to conduct press conferences? Or, is this just the Bumble and Stumble show, where no contrary advice is allowed or tolerated?

    The upcoming UCP AGM should be interesting.

  7. I would like to remind Jason Kenney that Donald Trump does not drink. Also, “Presidents are not kings, and (he) is not President,” a misplaced quote from Judge Tanya Chutkan.

    We’re getting closer to the time when UCP press conferences will be held at a landscaping company on the outskirts of town, across the street from a crematorium.

    But first, the coup attempt.

  8. Unlike the social credit party these reformers just won’t go away. Brian Jean wants another chance at getting even with Jason Kenney for defeating him. They have already started with the name calling. Paul Hinman, another defeated reformer wants back in so he can convince stupid Albertans that we should separate from Canada. He claims we will be a lot better off but ignores the fact that us seniors would be giving up our Old Age Security payments, Canada Pension Plan payments, and Public Health Care benefits. How stupid does he think we are?

    I know from spending 32 years in the world of finance you can’t expect 4 million people to be able to provide what 38 million can. Of course it would never occur to him that in another oil industry crash we wouldn’t have Ottawa to bale us out like they have been doing.
    It certainly isn’t hard to understand why the former MLAs taught us not to trust a reformer, Albertans should know better than anyone after watching them help their rich friends steal all our oil and tax wealth, but I’m betting they will be dumb enough to give Brian Jean another chance. No one has ever said Albertans are really smart.

    1. Alan, I’m sorry to say there are plenty of stupid people in Oilberduh. I’d guess it’s about 20% permanently stupid (can’t think at all), with another 20% FUNCTIONALLY stupid–who’d rather get someone else to do their thinking (even though they can think–if they’re scared or mad enough to try). So Hinman, along with Brian Jean and Jason Kenney, are competing for the (limited) attention of very roughly a million people in this sorry excuse for a province.

      So I’m afraid the answer to your rhetorical question is, Hinman et al think we’re VERY stupid. After all, they know their peers.

    2. ALAN K SPILLER: It is true that sows return to the mire, after they have been washed. Albertans just refuse to learn. Peter Lougheed never trusted Reformers, because he knew they were like the Social Credit Party he worked so hard to replace. These pretend conservatives, Ralph Klein types, and Reformers certainly aren’t doing Alberta any favours, yet Albertans are dumb enough to keep electing them. Where’s the sense in that?

      1. Mike and Anonymous there really are a lot of stupid seniors in this province. The American oilmen I was involved with called us the dumbest people on the planet for letting Klein give away our oil and tax wealth, and while these ignorant seniors go around believing solar panels won’t work a friend put some on his roof in 1975 and has saved thousands of dollars, especially after Klein deregulated electricity. He hasn’t had to pay the stupid fees attached to our bills.
        Now Shell Canada is making these making these fools look like total idiots by building a massive solar power grid at their refinery at Scotford near Fort Saskatchewan and the Travers Solar Panel project will provide power for 150,000 homes and Devon is running its Rec Centre and streetlights on solar power.
        My father was a Power Plant Engineer and had been promoting solar power for southern Alberta bout 60 years ago. He got laughed at for even suggesting it. Too bad he wasn’t alive to see it now.

        1. Alan, I’d say your dad was an intelligent man who was willing to take the long view. That made him a rare and special person.

          Unfortunately, people with a vision and a long-term dream are usually overwhelmed by the braying jackasses who can’t think beyond the next hay pile. Oilberduh has more than its share of such people, and far too many have managed to get elected, right from the 1930’s when Bible Bill Aberhart was first elected premier. A radio preacher and something of a radical free-thinker (or maybe he didn’t bother to think at all!), Aberhart managed to pass four bills that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. Of course, the braying jackasses loved him because Aberhart was fighting Ottawa and the Eastern banks.

          Some things really don’t ever change.

  9. “Mr Jean has been trying to destabilize our party for going on three years now.” Facile scapegoating of Brian Jean notwithstanding, the UCP has been tending to destabilize for going on three years now.

    “I’m not going to be distracted by someone trying to settle scores with internal political games.” Blinkered by massive chips on both his shoulders, which has been known to happen at drafty public houses when playing taps, it’s quite true Jason Kenney is “not going to be,” is not now, nor ever was distracted by “internal political games.” Indeed, he’s been a player in the intestinal scoring of at least four political parties.

    Kenney, quaffing head at the local watering hole, is being both hip and critical. Heesh amazhing, for a *hic* polyptician.

  10. Apparently, the UCP’s copy of “Optics for Dummies” is lost in the mail.

    There’s a lot to read into all this…

    1) Kenney and the UCP are obsessed with being around alcohol and the establishments that provide it.

    2) Kenney loves being around pubs and appreciates the people who work in them. (The James Joyce Irish Pub especially)

    3) And he is so wedged into the pockets of the organizations that represent restaurants, pubs, and anything else where Kenney can eat and drink for free. (It’s called “comp” but whatever)

    So, this sort of nonsense, pandering to the various hospitality industry lobbies, while screwing with the employees working in that industry, is going to continue. Why? Because Kenney loves those who love him, and right now he craves love and adoration where ever he can find it. The life of the terminally single male can be a strange one.

    1. Speaking as another “terminally single male,” the problem is not Kenney’s marital status. It’s his sublime confidence in his own righteousness, bolstered by dismal lack of self-awareness, and fortified by a lot less intelligence than he believes he has.

      1. Well, speaking as an occasionally single whatever, there are many factors that drive and cause such a state. There can be no doubt that Kenney’s own state — no adult relationships at all, no past that would indicate the kind of person he is, no apparent friendships — leaves him as something of an enigma. It’s considered socially rude to be so speculative about one’s private, but then there’s the warranted speculation about certain private lives that caused considerable harm. You know, guys like the two Jefferys, Dahmer and Epstein, both terminally single and inclined to a special kind of weird. Now, I’m not saying that terminally single males are typical of their ilk, but sometimes there’s a very good reason why people are terminally single. In Kenney’s case, he has a complete disinterest in relationships, unless they are transactional and for his benefit. That alone is enough of a red flag. There’s also the complete disinterest in the relationships between others that could be harmful. Kimmel has admitted to having had an off/on relationship with Devin Dreesen, which I suspect was toxic. Kenney doesn’t seem to care, maybe the same way people don’t care about relationships where one partner harms the other? At some point, that kind of toxicity boils over and gets on everyone.

  11. Isn’t it nice to know that Oilberduh is now run in equal measure by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Propagandists, and by Restaurants Canada?

  12. There is something that I have taken away from the apparent disinterest with the problems and chaos that occurs around workplaces where day-drinking is the norm and the frequent use of alcohol is rarely, if ever, questioned. Typically, from my experience, such workplaces operate on the what I call “The Drinking Buddies Hierarchy”. With that hierarchy, if you are seeking advancement in your career, it’s best to get in with the drinking buddies that run the place.

    Usually, it starts with a manager, at some level, who enjoys (really enjoys) social-drinking. If you want to get in this manager’s good books, become his drinking-buddy and all will be well. Now, the barfly culture is a fascinating one, where the regulars are well-known and trusted. Why? Because everyone indulges in the same vice (possible to excess) and everyone gets to witness each other’s idiotic behaviour. Of course, when this group has the goodies on each other’s behaviour, it all turns into a circle of trust, where no one tells lest they also be told on. A culture of silence is created at the bar and all become reliable brothers in arms. Since Kenney has already dropped the nugget by declaring that politics is a very social pursuit, therefore, there must be drinking, he has already established that his cabinet and inner circle are his drinking buddies. Of course, there must be a few sober members around, otherwise, things will go completely off the rails. But they are allowed as a necessary evil, of course. Besides, if word gets around that there are too many drunks in the room, people will think badly of the group.

    Kenney’s appearance at a pub to announce a policy initiative is par for the course. Given the current climate in his government, he sees nothing wrong with being in a pub. If anything, he is doubling down and daring more criticism to come his way. He’s clearly trolling everyone.

    There is a fearlessness in this approach that will surely win over the alcoholic voters, as it’s essential to convince them that there is nothing wrong with their obsession with the Devil’s Elixir. I mean many of history’s greatest figures were often three-sheets-in-the-wind on the regular, and they still functioned. Oh, and FreeDUMB, too.

  13. I just watched Kenney on global news whining about not being allowed to let the coal mining go ahead. This guy is a total nut case and it’s too bad we don’t have Lougheed to put this fool in his place. Lougheed knew it would be stupid to even think about it. As one of my friends pointed some time ago these fools would risk the water supply for tens of thousands of people by creating maybe 1000 jobs for Albertans. Jobs that could be created by setting up a solar panel construction factory in the crowsnest pass without destroying our mountains.

    1. Crow’s Nest is likely the dumbest place to put a solar array. The preference should be in Southern Alberta, where sunlight is abundant and the farmers are … oh wait. Farmers may be against such solar farms because of FreeDUMB. Well, mountains can’t vote and never complain, even when they’re blown up.

  14. Just Me. I meant a solar panel factory not a solar panel grid. I agree it would be dumb to put a solar panel grid there.

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