So who was in command of the good ship Alberta during those troubling weeks last summer when it became apparent the fourth wave of COVID-19 was raging and the premier had disappeared somewhere abroad to “recharge his batteries”? 

That remains a mystery almost as mysterious as the never-answered question of where Premier Kenney was vacationing for three weeks in August as the COVID caseload tripled. 

Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If, indeed, anyone was in charge at all. 

New documents revealed through a Freedom of Information request filed by the Opposition NDP show it wasn’t Travis Toews who was manning the premier’s watch, as many might have reasonably assumed since a cabinet order issued the month before indicated the finance minister would normally serve as acting premier when the premier is not available. 

But Mr. Toews’ calendar, accessed through the NDP FOI request, indicates he acted as premier at no time during Mr. Kenney’s absence. He was standing in as minister of jobs, economy and innovation, which can’t have all that arduous since the ministry was essentially set up to give Doug Schweitzer a cabinet title and a little something to do after Mr. Kenney shuffled him out of the far more important justice portfolio in August 2020.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

How about Sonya Savage? The energy minister is designated as the No. 2 replacement for a missing premier. Well, we don’t know yet. The NDP hasn’t got their FOI request for her calendar back. But no one in the government having yet shouted about how she was in charge, it seems likely she wasn’t. 

In the meantime, we know from Mr. Kenney’s post-vacation Facebook Live performance on Sept. 3 that he claimed to not only be recharging his batteries during his vacation, but to be resting and reflecting, catching up on sleep, hanging out with friends, and getting caught up on some non-government reading. 

When his protracted mid-pandemic disappearance became embarrassing upon his return, however, Premier Kenney changed his story and claimed he was in constant contact with his senior officials. As the NDP pointed out, though, the record contradicts that story, with no notations in the premier’s calendar for scheduled calls from the home front. “Executive Council also confirmed in writing that there was no email correspondence between the Premier’s Office and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health during Kenney’s vacation,” a statement yesterday from the Opposition said. 

In mid-September, Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried said on social media that he had advocated tougher measures behind closed doors, but got nowhere with his efforts. He apologized for not treating the crisis with appropriate urgency. 

Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The government “clearly had 30 days’ notice that a crisis was looming … and nothing was done while we lacked any leadership at the helm,” he stated. 

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said yesterday that “being premier of Alberta is not a part-time job, especially when a deadly crisis is bearing down on the province.”

“If Kenney needed to rest and recharge, he needed to designate a senior cabinet minister to act in the event of a crisis,” Mr. Shepherd said. “But no-one seems to have been left in charge.”

We do know that Education Minister Ariana LaGrange was left in command of Tyler Shandro’s portfolio when the former health minister took a vacation that overlapped the premier’s holiday during a major public health crisis. 

This selection has been criticized as not a good choice, however, since Ms. LaGrange is widely considered one of Premier Kenney’s least effective ministers – at least if one defines effectiveness as dealing with problems, rather than passively ignoring them. At any rate, she did very little. 

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

That interesting factoid was also revealed as the result of an earlier NDP FOI filing. 

As for Mr. Kenney’s mysteriously relaxing vacation, the prevailing theory – never confirmed or denied – is that he was in Europe. Ottawa Frank Magazine, the Parliamentary and media tip sheet that appears only behind a paywall, says he was at a dude ranch in Colorado. 

The NDP called on the UCP Government to disclose who will be in charge during the upcoming holiday season. “We must never be in a situation where the government is unable to protect Albertans,” Mr. Shepherd said, arguing that this is exactly the situation Mr. Kenney created when he disappeared from the radar last summer.

Lakeland Conservative MP: Wonderful staff; wonderful surprises!

Well, as some wag recently observed, who among us hasn’t taken a few days off and returned to find that somebody had broken into our house and painted the bedroom just the colour we wanted? 

Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs (Photo: Facebook/Shannon Stubbs).

I speak, of course, of the recent troubles experienced by Lakeland Member of Parliament Shannon Stubbs, who stands accused of bullying staff members and overseeing a “miserable, unhealthy, toxic” workplace in her Parliamentary offices. 

The allegations were forwarded to the House of Commons human resources office by no less than Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. For her part, Ms. Stubbs denies it all, accusing Mr. O’Toole of retaliating for her bad reviews of his leadership. 

Be that as it may, she admitted that someone from her staff did go into her home to paint her bedroom in 2016. 

“The painting of the house was a wonderful surprise that I didn’t know about,” she explained to the Globe and Mail. “It was a wonderful gift of kindness from staff members. I never asked or directed staff to paint my bedroom.”

I wonder how they knew what colour to choose? And who paid for the paint? One certainly hopes no one was yelled at for putting the furniture back in the wrong place. 

Seriously, people, you can’t make this stuff up and, this being Alberta where all one requires to be elected to the House of Commons in 94 per cent of the province’s ridings is a Conservative nomination, you’ll never need to. 

Join the Conversation

19 Comments

  1. Kenney doesn’t seem the type to give up power easily. So, it is not a surprise no one else really had power while he took his greatest summer break ever, wherever it was. I suppose one would have to be secure in their power to give it up even briefly and over most of the last year Kenney seems anything but secure. Well, who was in charge then? Of course, no one.

    I suppose that dog in a manger approach permeated the provincial government from the top down. Who was in charge while the Health Minister was also away, was somewhat confused and the gap was not effectively filled either.

    Well at least Federally things are going slightly better for the Conservatives. While O’Toole’s popularity does seem to be going into a bit of a post election slump, at least it is not at Kenney levels yet. However, he does seem to be asserting his authority by having a list of naughty and nice MP’s. Ms Stubbs sure seems to be getting an early Christmas lump of coal. Perhaps she should focus on enjoying the paint job in her Alberta home. I don’t think her future will involve spending so much time in Ottawa unless she really likes the far back benches.

  2. These pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP sure don’t have any clue as to what they are doing, and Albertans end up paying for it. How will the UCP government handle being sued, by Albertans who lost their loved ones, as a direct result of the government’s own negligence? Time and time again the UCP hasn’t learned from the past waves of Covid-19 that hit the province of Alberta. The UCP’s slogan, Best Summer Ever, turned into Worst Nightmare Ever. I can only imagine what the 5th wave of Covid-19 will be like in Alberta. People better brace themselves. It will be really ugly. Had Albertans bothered to listen to us folks who said the UCP weren’t good for Alberta, we wouldn’t be in this horrific mess to begin with. Peter Lougheed had a genuine and legitimate disdain for Reformers. He knew you couldn’t trust them. He was right. It was the same thing under Ralph Klein. Albertans didn’t listen to people who told them that he wasn’t good. Albertans seem to be gluttons and suckers for punishment. When the damage is done, they always point their fingers at someone else. These pretend conservatives and Reformers they blindly support, are never to blame.

  3. Looks like CONs enjoy all kinds of perks from their positions, including having interior decorators among their staff to beautify their abodes, if the need should arise. Of course, such tasks when and if they occur will be treated as delightful acts of kindness towards the respective Dear Leader. Mind you, sending out staff members to perform all kinds of errands is not usual at all, regardless of the ideological or partisan bent. Sherpas will be sherpas until released.

    This brings us to the dilemma faced by Shannon Stubbs, who engaged in a public screech to the national media demanding that Eric O’Toole GTFO because he lost the election that should never have been. Stubbs’ displeasure was noted because the CPC post-election result under O’Toole was worse than Andrew Scheer result in 2019. Well, slightly worse. But CONs need any reason to turf a leader, so Stubbs was ready with a poorer than usual excuse to bounce the CPC’s current poobah. O’Toole, in keeping with his sudden interest in workers’ rights and tolerant workplaces, called for an investigation into Stubbs’ toxic conduct with her staff. Then, O’Toole called everyone to join him in a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever”. The only thing workers of the world have to lose is their chains…and all that good stuff.

    It should surprise no one that the UCP government seems to be operating on a broken autopilot system. Who really wants to be charge while the shite keeps hitting the fan? Besides, Kenney didn’t have anyone’s back when the Aloha-gate scandal broke last year. Once the public backlash happened, Kenney was handing out terminations and suspensions like they were going out of style. I mean, that’s what a premier is supposed to do, right? Punish partisan staffers who try to get away with the same crap the premier has been pulling since day one?

    The controversy over Kenney’s vacation destination seems to have taken on immortal life. Was he in Europe? A monastic retreat in California? A dude ranch in Colorado? The best one, thus far, was a claim made by former CPC MP, and soon to be alleged convicted felon, Rob Anders, that a “very religious and pious premier” was in Bangkok, Thailand, engaging in behaviours of questionable judgement, that are now possibly being used against him. Anders can really spin the crazy. He has no liking for Kenney since he was ejected from the infamous “Snack Pack” of ancient RPC lore, so the bitterness is real.

    Btw, kettle corn with caramel and cheddar cheese is delicious.

  4. This stuff really is very interesting. It reminds me of a story I heard someplace where a serviceman wanted to go AWOL so bad, he dived into his own mouth and wasn’t see again until he came out the other end—which apparently took some time. Of course it must take some kinda brains to figure out how to do this, but the real question his bosses wanted to know is where the asshole was.

  5. “I wonder how they knew what colour to choose?”

    Maybe they randomly selected pink, like those randomly-selected letters Ms.Stubbs is reading in the photo, with randomly-matching script.

      1. Oh, those walls were definitely pink then, maybe with a border in completely random matching script taken from all the matching script in those letters as an added extra touch.

        (Knows too much from personal experience of Lakeland…)

      2. “It tells you something important about a core Conservative Party of Canada constituency to which Ms. Stubbs is sending a message. DJC.”
        The background in the linked photo also informs the reader about her taste in home decorating. No pink. The wall features a fetching earth tone grey while the blown up photo of wheat shafts would forcefully accentuate the front of a Wheaties box.

  6. And David Staples is at it again.

    He refers to a recent survey declaring that the majority of Canadians living outside of Alberta would not be comfortable living in Alberta, which he promptly declared as proof that Alberta is the best place in Canada.

    Staples’ Alberta Uber Alles nonsense was impressive, but amounted to no more than the fluffing of the Dear Leader. Staples declares that he grew up in Devon and as borne the brunt of Eastern oppression his whole life. Well, there was that time he was living in Ottawa, attending Carleton University, and enjoying the benefits of the compelling truth that it really is better in Ontario.

    Funny he would leave that little detail out.

  7. If Premier Kenney did not delegate his authority while on holiday and did not perform his duties, has he breached his oath of office in manner actionable by the Lt. Governor?

    1. Gentleman that has the same first name as me, greetings. The Lt-Gov. is not going to help us, nor should she. Senator Paula Simons has a column in the latest issue of Alberta Views that says it far better than I could, and her message is that ours is a constitutional monarchy, and the sovereign — or her representatives in Canada, to wit, the Governor General in Ottawa and the 10 provincial Lieutenant-Governors — can only act on the advice of her democratically-elected advisors.

      Like him or not — and I for one do not — Jason Kenney is the Premier, and we are only going to be able to be rid of him through democratic means, not by allowing the Crown to usurp the authority of the Legislature. Having a shitty but duly elected government remains preferable to an unelected one.

      We can hold him accountable in a May of 2023.

  8. I really do not understand why is it such a big deal to reveal where Jason Kenney went for vacation? The whole issue would go away if someone just said and confirmed, maybe even Jason Kenney himself, where he was for those three weeks.

  9. And it seems that, according to the Twitterverse, there was a late-night session at the Legislature, where legislation was passed that would make it NOT ILLEGAL to buy party memberships for anyone and without their knowledge. While this smacks of another Beaverton headline, apparently it is another one of those it’s so strange it could only happen in Alberta stories.

    No one can say if this is an effort by Kenney to use his “Waaaay Baaack” time machine to thwart an ongoing RCMP investigation, where he did exactly the same thing to win the UCP leadership back in 2019. Kenney’s reality-distortion field must be really impressive if it can gaslight the RCMP, all the courts, and investigators in the land into falling under Kenney’s swoon. Apparently, there were a number of UCP MLAs that sought to challenge the legislation as being, well, dishonest, illegal, criminal, idiotic, etc. Based on their sudden moment clarity and standing in opposition to this obvious act of Kenney-inspired lunacy, I guess it’s clear who’s not getting any gifts from the Dear Leader or plum political appointments in the future.

    Kenney seems to be taking quite a few pages from various political playbooks, in this case, the one written by Robert Mugabe. There was a time when Alberta thought of itself as the “Texas of the North”. It now is possible to refer to the place as the Zimbabwe of the North.

    Shaking that popcorn bag…damn. Need more popcorn.

  10. Well, I am hoping to take the day off on Friday to go skiing in the Rockies. If I do, I will be sure to make sure my out-of-office message is up to date and enabled on my email. My out-of-office (OOF) message is nothing special: it lets people know that I am away for a specific duration; that I will be slow to respond to email messages; and that, for urgent requests, people can contact a list of provided delegates. An OOF message is a common courtesy to help set expectations for those waiting for a response. Not only is my out-of-office message nothing special, but it is typical and common. Pretty much everyone with any degree of responsibility in the organization I currently work for and organizations I have worked for in the past uses them for periods when they are away.

    Given that Premier Bumbles has never had a real job in the private sector with significant responsibilities and has subsisted on the taxpayer teat in one form or another for most of his adult life, it is not surprising that the workplace conventions, such as making sure areas of responsibility are covered or accounted for when we are away, that most of us follow in our quotidian, daily work lives are unknown to him. The whole province deserved, at the very least, an out-of-office message that provided assurances that, in the event of urgent need, someone could take charge, at least temporarily. Such practices are, apparently, beneath him or unknown to him.

    Premier Bumbles’ lack of real job experience might also help to explain why day drinking and office shenanigans were tolerated for so long. Most job places frown upon the kind of behavior members of his cabinet and caucus were engaged in until it blew up in their faces with a lawsuit.

    As for other elected officials with an apparent dubious knowledge of workplace ethics and standard behavioral practices, Shannon Stubbs should not be so cavalier in admitting that some of her staff painted her house as a surprise. I would be interested to learn whether this was entirely a surprise and whether it was a gift to her, gladly and freely given. If it is anything less, it has a bad odor and only reinforces the rightness of the action that O’Toole has taken against her.

    I suspect that Ms. Stubbs is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, however. Well, we get what we deserve if we continue to mindlessly elect anything with or without a heartbeat that wins a federal conservative nomination in most of ridings in this province.

    Great column, as usual, DJC. Politics has never been so fraught in this province as it is currently. In particular, I am thinking of the teachers who reviewed the new curricula and are speaking up now that their NDAs have expired.

  11. Things must be going right for Alberta if you are dredging up the good old days of pandemic alarmism.

    I mean its not like Kenny is a front line health worker that is being called at 2AM to save somebodies life.

    1. No, he’s the one who fires 11,000+ front line health workers so there’s nobody there at any time of day to save somebodies life. Then he threatens the remaining front line health workers and encourages a raging pandemic in the province he presides over using the Ralph Klein strategy for creating a demand among anti-vaxxers for privatized health care.

      Things must be going right for Alberta if you aren’t embarrassed to claim that the pandemic is a “good old days”. I’m very sorry that you enjoy the the over 3,200 dead, but I expect nothing more from you.

      Besides, it’s likely that Kenney’s still drunk at 2:00 A.M….

  12. Kenny fired 11000 health workers? Is that the alternate universe where the things said around here make sense?

    Like every other politician Kenney wants to hire people. But to do so you have to have money. In a global economy you get money by taxing people and exporting products and you can only tax people so much.

    So, yes I agree, its too bad the last government before the pandemic trash canned ALbertas ability to obtain to pay off debt by submarining the main industry.

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