Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: Nothing to say yesterday (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hardly seemed to know what to do yesterday. As a result, he did nothing. 

Mr. Kenney was scheduled to make a big announcement about health care – widely assumed based on hints dropped by the premier himself to be a relaxation of holiday restrictions just in time for a fourth wave of COVID-19.

Former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean (Photo: Louise Marchand, Creative Commons).

If this seems unwise with the wildly infectious Omicron variant of the COVID virus now starting to show up in Alberta, it’s completely on brand for Mr. Kenney – he’s done the same thing before with terrible results. Who can forget Alberta’s “Best Summer Ever”? 

The same day, Premier Kenney had to decide what to do about former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, who has just won the UCP nomination for the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election on a platform of forcing Mr. Kenney out of office and taking his job.

Mr. Jean was on CBC Radio’s Edmonton morning drive show yesterday morning saying it’s time for Mr. Kenney to do the right thing and go voluntarily for the high jump. “Mr. Kenney knows in his heart what is the right thing to do for the party, for the members, and for Albertans,” Mr. Jean told host Mark Connolly. “He knows it because everybody else in Alberta knows it!”

Fuelled by the fact no one in the Premier’s Office has uttered a formal word of congratulation since Mr. Jean announced his own victory Sunday night, rumours were flying yesterday Mr. Kenney would refuse to sign Mr. Jean’s nomination papers.

This would be an epic and embarrassing flip-flop, though, for a premier who back in November said Mr. Jean could run if he wanted to and promised he’d approve his nomination … as long as he passed the party’s standard vetting process.

So if they’re going to dump him now, vetting is about all they’ll have left for an excuse – which is going to look pretty lame since the guy was making no bones about his plans when Mr. Kenney said it would be OK for him to run. 

Still, this too would be on-brand for Alberta’s premier.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

Since Mr. Kenney must have known reporters at his 3:30 p.m. COVID news conference were bound to be poor sports and ask about Mr. Jean, it may have come as a relief when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summoned Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers to a Zoom call about the ominous advent of Omicron. 

At any rate, Mr. Kenney’s minions first delayed the news conference to 5 p.m., and then announced it had been cancelled. 

They didn’t even say if they were going to give away free COVID rapid-test kits, which was supposed to be justification for relaxing restrictions to please the UCP base when the precautionary principle suggests toughening them up. 

So, at this hour, we don’t know what Mr. Kenney is going to do next, if anything, about COVID. And we don’t know what’s he’s going to do about Mr. Jean either. 

But whatever it is he does about either question, it will probably make a lot of people he’d rather not annoy unhappy with him. 

Avid Twitterist Ben Harper (Photo: Twitter).

Well, it takes a special talent to paint yourself into two separate corners simultaneously, but Jason Kenney seems to have managed just that. 

Young Ben Harper, the former Conservative Prime Minister’s son and possibly still a well-compensated “policy advisor” in the premier’s employ even though he’s also a student at New York’s Columbia University, seemed yesterday to want us to think Mr. Trudeau has a plan afoot to cancel Christmas. 

Some of Mr. Harper’s past tweets have suggested he may not be the brainiest member of Mr. Kenney’s strategic brain trust. Just the same, one wonders if this is the emerging UCP line on Ottawa’s response to Omicron? And, indeed, if Mr. Harper is the new Matt Wolf, whose last day on the job was Dec. 3?

Those things too, after all, would be on brand. 

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  1. Being a fan of movies, I recall a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now entitled “The Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”. In the movie, Eleanor Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, recounts the trials and failures her husband encountered while making his epic film. Right from the outset, the movie’s production presented one hellscape after another for the director, cast, and crew. When the Big Studio wondered what was going on with the film, they sent the legendary screenwriter John Milius to the Philippines to find out what was going on. Milius discovered many things, among them that the production was a disaster, Coppola was writing every scene the moment it was being shot (clearly there was no screenplay at that point) and the cast and crew had entered a state of utter despair over the work’s future. Milius meet with Coppola and recalled that the meeting felt like the one that had famously occurred between Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt and A. Hitler. Von Rundstedt saw nothing good after his tour of the Eastern Front and reported to Hitler that the Russians were close to breakout along all points of the front and the collapse of the German forces was imminent. It was no longer a matter of months but days before the fall. Milius mentions Hitler’s delusional mindset could defy any rational discussion of the matter, leaving him convinced that the tide would suddenly turn and defeat would become victory. Hitler was so committed to the belief that disaster could be averted, that Von Rundstedt left the meeting convinced that fanatical resistance from every soldier would turn the tide and make defeat victory. Hitler’s powers of motivation notwithstanding, he was completely nuts and blind to the inevitable. However, Milius was convinced Coppola was on the right track and his genius as a filmmaker would overcome the trials facing the production. Apocalypse Now was completed and was acclaimed as a legendary masterpiece of cinematic storytelling.

    Which brings us to Kenney’s situation.

    I suppose Kenney probably believes that providence will smile on him, at last, and grant him the victory he believes he deserves. But considering how many self-inflicted screw-ups that Kenney has inflicted on Alberta since becoming its premier, one wonders what does providence have against Kenney anyway? If providence is mad at Kenney, it must be a fiery white-hot violent rage at Bumbles very existence.

    I think it is inevitable that Kenney will declare “The Best Christmas Ever” and lift all restrictions, COVID be damned. He’s an eternal optimist and fortune favors the bold and all that awesome stuff that Kenney is convinced works for him. And if something goes wrong, blame PMJT for being so unbelievably lucky.

    As for Ben Harper (Who I often confuse for the far more talented Ben Harper, musician and songwriter extraordinaire. So, the lad will now be known as Harpo the Younger.) it looks like he could be bucking for Matt Wolf’s old gig at more than half the price. At a cool $100K/yr + expenses, it’s hardly starving student’s pay. Harpo the Elder must be so proud of his spawn.

  2. Don’t expect these pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP, including Brian Jean, to do anything right. Peter Lougheed, who was a true conservative, knew you couldn’t trust Reformers. Ben Harper gets $100,000 a year, for a meaningless position, yet those on A.I.S.H, senior citizens, and students in post secondary institutions, are struggling to get by. Where is the sense in this?

  3. Yeah, I suppose Kenney and his crew must be more than a bit confused now. So many different battles on so many fronts. So, at this point probably the best strategy, even for a gang that tends to be belligerent and likes to get into lots of meaningless battles, is to just ignore at least some of them.

    Perhaps the first one to ignore is the Brian Jean battle, because there is no winning for Kenney there. So, now that Jean unofficially has the UCP nomination in Fort McMurray, it seems he will be travelling around other parts of Alberta as the unofficial leader of the Kenney must go campaign. Think of it like the big blue truck tour, but perhaps without the silly truck prop. At least as they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. As irritating as this all must be to Kenney and his gang, there really isn’t anything they can do to stop it, except hope that Jean trips up at some point, preferably before the UCP leadership review or even better before the nomination needs to be made official.

    It is also probably best to try avoid getting into another meaningless battle with the Federal government now. First of all, because they have actually been fairly helpful with providing all the money for COVID support and now child care. Second, because it truly would be a distraction and Kenney actually needs to be very focused if he wants to survive his upcoming leadership review. So we may have the situation where Kenney doesn’t really criticize the Federal response to Omicron much, but also isn’t very enthusiastic in support either.

    At this point I am not sure how much a less belligerent approach will help Kenney, but perhaps it will at least help to not to dig himself a bigger hole.

  4. (Ben Harper) “seemed yesterday to want us to think Mr. Trudeau has a plan afoot to cancel Christmas.”
    Ben’s work in the twittersphere: “Trudeau cancelling Christmas in 3,2,1…”
    If he keeps churning out such mind bending stuff he could work his way up to Dad’s old job in the Imperial Oil mailroom.

    1. Harper junior will be ascendant. They’re clearly grooming him for the role.

      He’s going to Columbia for god sake

  5. Any lawyers out there? At what point does Kenney’s pandering to the anti-vax kooks constitute criminal negligence? He seems hell-bent on ensuring that we suffer through a fifth wave after learning absolutely nothing from the “Best Summer Ever” fiasco.

  6. I will not be taking health advice from Kenney, a high school dropout from Ontario who has already put the needs of a mostly American rodeo ahead of the health of Alberta residents! Next he’ll be offering us dating advice! Or suggestions on uniting the right! Two more things he knows nothing about!

    1. Pretty sure he went to a private highschool in Victoria. You’re thinking of when he left college because the jesuits wouldn’t kick the pro choice folks off campus.

      Regardless, he’s clearly very smart and a master manipulator. Lots of folks don’t finish college.

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