If he is to survive politically, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney must thread a needle – appeasing enough of his United Conservative Party’s base to keep his job without frightening so much of the electorate he loses the next election.

Mr. Kenney during his remarks (Photo: Screenshot of UCP video).

That work commenced seriously yesterday with Mr. Kenney’s speech to a small and carefully curated crowd of supporters, many members of his own political staff, at the Red Deer hotel where his leadership review was supposed to have been held in a single day of voting at the party’s annual general meeting. 

Despite clever lighting designed to leave the impression a vast throng stretched far off into the darkness, reports from the Cambridge Hotel in the Central Alberta city indicated there were only about 100 people in the room. 

Judging from the images on the video posted by the party on social media, no one who opposed Mr. Kenney’s continued leadership was admitted to the renamed “special general meeting.” 

Mr. Kenney’s remarks were clearly aimed beyond the room at the hearts and minds of enough of the UCP base to survive the challenge by party rebels nominally led by former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, now sworn in as a UCP MLA after a four-year hiatus from politics.

Mr. Jean and his supporters are encouraging UCP members to deny Mr. Kenney their support in his performance review by voting for a leadership election in balloting that will now stretch into mid-May after the party board changed the voting procedure to tilt the field in favour of Mr. Kenney.

No Kenney opponents seem to have been admitted to the room (Photo: Screenshot of UCP video).

The premier proudly described himself as a “movement conservative,” carefully pushing the buttons such ideologues demand in the Republicanized, Trumpified modern Canadian conservative movement. 

So, for example, he defended the UCP’s nearly universally reviled Kindergarten-to-Grade-12 curriculum as a reasonable response to an effort by the previous NDP government to ideologically rewrite the school curriculum. 

This is a false interpretation of what happened to the curriculum review started under Progressive Conservative governments well before the NDP came to power, but it illustrates Mr. Kenney’s likely narrative leading into the election expected next year.

“We ended their war on faith-based education,” Mr. Kenney began, tendentiously spinning the NDP’s support for public education. 

“We did shred the NDP’s ideological rewrite, and we did begin carefully developing a modernized curriculum that gets back to basics in math and reading, with balanced content on our history and institutions, instead of divisive woke-left ideology like critical race theory, cancel culture and age-inappropriate sex education.”

NDP Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley, one of two politicians Mr. Kenney mentioned repeatedly throughout his remarks (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Clearly the culture war virus, like the one that causes COVID-19, has had no trouble crossing the 49th Parallel into Alberta, where “critical race theory” has never been an issue. 

Unsurprisingly Mr. Kenney also falsely portrayed the NDP’s response to the pandemic as a wish for endless lockdowns and use of COVID-19 “as an opportunity to divide.” 

NDP Leader Rachel Notley, he said, “wanted hard Australian-style lockdowns for most of the past two years … Quebec-style curfews.” (If anyone can recall Ms. Notley advocating either of those things, drop me a line.)

Mr. Kenney had nothing at all to say about the Albertans who died in the pandemic, their relatives, or the health care workers who struggled to save their patients’ lives. 

But Mr. Kenney did renew his call for a takeover of Albertans’ Canada Pension Plan assets, and for the creation of his own provincial police force. He repeated the usual folderal about the ethical superiority of Alberta’s oil over the dictator-conflict version of that fungible commodity from “Vladimir Putin’s Russia and OPEC dictatorships.” 

He elevated the late premier Ralph Klein to near sainthood. I heard no mention of Peter Lougheed.

People noticed that Mr. Kennney, or whoever wrote his speech for him, got a lot of dates wrong.

The late Ralph Klein, Progressive Conservative premier of Alberta, the other one (Photo: Private collection).

Given the nature of the small audience, it is unsurprising no guffaws, or even restrained snickers, could be heard at the premier’s assertion that “socialists are experts at tearing things down; we Conservatives build things up.” Just ask any medical professional in Alberta about that – if you can find one. 

Cleverly, though, Mr. Kenney made these comments in a mostly rational voice, presumably to ensure any stray Albertan voter who accidentally tuned into the speech or stumbled across a short clip on a newscast was reassured nothing too bonkers was going on.

Presented in print on a page, his message can be read more accurately: often over the top and intentionally misleading.

Really, a 45-minute speech like this, rife with misstatements, misinterpretations, and downright fibs demands a detailed analysis by a professional fact-checker like those to which former U.S. President Donald Trump’s public statements were subjected. 

Naturally, a significant portion of the speech was devoted to the choice now faced by the UCP, which Mr. Kenney framed as continued success under his leadership or the road to perdition – or at least an NDP government, which is presumably much the same thing – if the party is led by anyone else. 

Newly elected UCP MLA Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We can go into a deeply divisive leadership election later this year, where the principle to debate will be looking through the rear-view mirror and arguing over COVID policy with incredible division in our party … between urban and rural, and likely along legacy party lines on an issue that passionately divides people.”

“It will drive a wedge right down the middle of our party and there’s only one person who wins from that – and her name is Rachel Notley.”

Now, many of us might argue that more Albertans than just Ms. Notley would benefit from such a state of affairs, but we understand the point the premier was trying to make. 

Naturally, Mr. Kenney advocated “the path of unity.”

“Friends,” he said to the cheers of his carefully pruned audience, “I choose the future. I choose unity. I choose to go forward together!”

Well, we’ll see soon enough if the party’s members choose the same thing. The party board has done what it can to ensure that’s easy for members to do. 

In his peroration, Premier Kenney pledged to honour the results of the leadership review vote. 

“I will fully respect it, in all humility,” he said. “If the members decide they want to have a leadership election, I will step aside.”

Is it just me, or do these sound like the words of a politician who knows victory is already a done deal?

Join the Conversation


  1. I took a good look at the audience members in the screenshots, and the number of participants doesn’t look very large. What I also see is a lot of older folks, and they look like senior citizens. If the head honcho of the UCP is elevating Ralph Klein to practical sainthood, we clearly have a problem. Ralph Klein was the one who slashed the oil royalty rates that Peter Lougheed was getting, and this cost Albertans a whopping $575 billion. Furthermore, Ralph Klein also did many other very pricey shenanigans, costing Albertans hundreds of billions of dollars more. Our utility bills went up in price, because of Ralph Klein. Healthcare funding was slashed severely, under Ralph Klein, and this cost Albertans their lives, and put other people’s lives in harm’s way. This was so that Ralph Klein could try and privatize it. Public education, infrastructure and social services funding were also slashed under Ralph Klein, and this caused many problems. The head honcho of the UCP wants to praise someone like Ralph Klein, and this is very disturbing. We cannot trust the UCP to handle the pensions of retirees in Alberta, because the UCP made $4 billion of pension money vanish, without a trace. The head honcho of the UCP was in a previous political position, in the CPC, where $35 billion of people’s life savings also vanished, due to the income trust fund disaster. Why else would the head honcho of the UCP want a provincial police force? He doesn’t want to deal with the R.C.M.P looking into how he landed at his present position in politics. He is also giving blatant misinformation about the NDP. Ralph Klein also gave fabrications about other political parties too, including the NDP. Those in attendance at this meeting were very easy to fool, by the looks of it. The head honcho of the y sure has an overinflated ego, and is full of it. If Albertans continue to be fooled by this, we certainly won’t be better off. Peter Lougheed definitely gave warnings about these types of politicians. Other Albertans did too. The results of refusing to listen, certainly have not been good.

  2. The generational leadership of North Korea maintains the national belief that the Dear Leader is divine. Indeed, each leader, from Kim Il-sung to the current leader, Kim Jong-un, is divinely inspired and empowered to rule over North Korea and even the earth and universe. It is widely known that the venerated Kim Jong-il was not only a talented artist and musician, he was also a great engineer and scientist, credited with many discoveries that surpass any that could be found in the demonic West. He was a mighty warrior, with courage and intelligence beyond compare, who vanquished all of North Korea’s enemies thousands of times over.

    Yeah, the leadership of North Korea likes to keep things really over the top when it comes to embellishing their accomplishments. This brings us to Jason Kenney’s pre-leadership review cheer-fest.

    Kenney was over the top in describing his accomplishments. Not as grandiose as the North Korean leadership, but you know he really wanted to. The problem was that, while he did his best to paint Rachel Notley as the successor to Mao Tse Tung, threatening a cultural revolution upon Albertans, and unleashing a purge that would see millions perish, Kenney just doesn’t have the crazy to go that far over the top, Trump-style.

    While Kenney is trying his best to fire up a US-style culture war in Alberta, there may not be enough crazy folks in Alberta to save his hide. I suppose he could have shouted out that the NDP and their ilk are baby-eating Satanists. While they eat up that stuff among the GOP’s garden variety lunatics, in Canada those kinds of public pronouncements might get you a stay in a rubber room. Kenney had to be careful because his crazy is starting to show.

    He did ask those listening to not expect him to be like the “All Mighty”, but what the hell? Dude. We know you have flaws, but you’re also an idiot. I mean pulling a disappearing act while the ‘Greatest Summer Ever’ turned into the greatest cull ever doesn’t have good optics, however you spin it.

    Fifty percent plus one is good enough to keep the leadership. Really? Since everyone pretty much expects Kenney to game this review vote and lie his way to victory, anything short of 99% in the win column is highly questionable.

    But keep on dreaming, Ken babe. Maybe you could pull that old nugget about Kim Jong-il defeating the Whale God at the bottom of the ocean, before pulling the Moon closer to the Earth with only a golden rope and his bare hands. It’s worth a try.

  3. By all appearances, it would appear that Bumbles has adopted the primary strategies of Trump and the GOP: to lie and to accuse your opponents of the very thing you are doing. The sad thing is that, other than blogs like this and similar publications that do not belong to the mainstream media, you will not find their mendacious utterances characterized as lies. If the mainstream media are not actively cheering, they are downplaying or ignoring this dishonesty. This inability by the National Post and other mainstream media to call these lies for what they are is troubling. I do not have high expectations of the National Post, Calgary Herald, or the Edmonton Journal. But, I don’t think it likely that headlines from other media outlets will state the truth: Kenney’s speech was rife with lies and arguments based on false and misleading premises.

    Bumbles makes stuff up out of whole cloth. The fact that Klein did poorly in a leadership review and subsequently resigned did not directly lead to the “socialist” experiment of the NDP. There were many premiers in between then and the NDP government. Or, take for example, his ridiculous claim that the curriculum changes that were started by previous PC governments and continued by the NDP were “a war on faith-based education” and ideologically driven. He is well aware that much of the UCP curriculum is based on and, in some cases plagiarized from, home schooling curriculum that is popular among the religious right in the US.

    We should all be very concerned, not only for the directions that Bumbles explicitly states he wants to take the province, but for the directions he wants to take the province but does not yet dare speak of them If you are paying attention to the events in the US, where, for example, a woman was jailed in Texas for a self-induced abortion even though Roe v Wade has not yet been overturned, you may be as concerned as I.

    Bumbles and the UCP can only stay and hold on to power by lying and by having the help of a complicit media.

  4. Once again we see a large percentage of seniors being treated like morons and letting them do it. They certainly appeal to stupid seniors, as my senior friends and I have noted over the years. Easy to fool makes them perfect targets.

  5. David, kudos to you for enduring the entire speech. Every time I hear Jason Kenney speak I feel like he is insulting my intelligence, and turn off the radio. Did you feel the need to shower afterwards?

    I do wonder how many rank and file UCP members even bothered to listen. Kenney supporters likely did, but the many that have decided to vote against him would wonder why they should even bother since they already know how they are going to vote.

    David, your concluding question is definitely worth reflection. Some pundits have suggested the only way people will have confidence in the vote’s outcome will be if Jason Kenney loses. Any victory Kenney achieves will certainly be tainted. I would be willing to bet that a significant number of people, probably not a majority, but certainly a very loud minority, who vote against Kenney also believe Donald Trump was robbed of his 2020 election win. Combine those people’s distrust of real democracy with Kenney’s history of cheating in an election when it is possible, and it is almost certain that a Jason Kenney victory will result in chaos on the political right. Ironically the divisiveness that Kenney seeks to avoid will only increase under his continued leadership.

  6. There’s a phrase for this: “preaching to the converted.” It’s no surprise Kenney doubled down, then tripled, the stock messages. Yet again, it’s classic Republican tactics and a classic Republican message. “They hate us, and they hate what we stand for. We are the guardians of all that is right and true. Yay us! Vote us!” It might as well have been a campaign speech.

    I can’t help but wonder how ol’ Ralph would really have felt about this BS. Despite all his other failings, Ralph rejected the “firewall letter” that proposed many of the same bankrupt ideas Kenney is pushing today. Ralph wasn’t well-educated, but he was shrewder than Kenney. Ralph at least recognized that Canada is a good thing and staying in it is a good idea.

  7. I’ve got to give you props Dave, I don’t think that I have it in me to listen to Jason Kenney spew nonsense for 45 minutes. It will certainly be interesting to see how this turns out. A lot of people assume that Kenney will use a combination of strong organizing skills and dirty tricks to keep his job. Then again he let Brian Jean back in the party and Brian Jean isn’t exactly a political genius.

  8. We have reviewed the “kenney style” leadership on every issue.

    HE FAILED. Every time.

    He survives on his ability to deceive, obscure, pander and manipulate to win individual contests and use those deceitful wins as carte blanche mandates.
    It is a hell of a review when only your own fan club can vote and you get to control who counts the votes and no one could speak against you.

  9. The lighting wasn’t that clever. I can see that his pants are too short and he needs a new tailor. Perhaps he should revisit that one on Savile Row in London, where he bought his penguin suit? Or did he hike up his pants intentionally to look more like Farley Frick from Maple Crik, his imaginary voter? Alas, I wasn’t there to hear the theme music for this hick-schtick. Was it “Sixteen Chickens and a Tambourine”?


  10. The more desperate Kenney gets, the smaller the crowd gets and the bigger the lies become. Does that sum it up?

    The unity argument is particularly self seving at this point for a politician who has often thrived on creating division, but of course this tactic is no longer working for him so now he will accuse others of creating division. Most, even in the UCP know that even if their party was to miraculously unite, there would not likely be a political victory. They read polls too, at least the ones not there drinking the Kenney Kool Aid.

    Of course Kenney still has control of the party infrastructure and that could be an advantage as he constantly changes processes to find something to gain him the advantage and put his opponents off balance. Will it work? Hard to say, but if it does it would probably be a narrow victory that would do little for unity.

    As for Ralph, at least he had the good sense to go when it was clear enthusiasm for him in his party started to wane. He did not desperately cling to power.

  11. “I can see that his pants are too short…”
    Maybe those trousers are leftovers from the Calgary flood of 2013. Now that water levels are normal again, Jason’s Savile Row haberdasher should drop the hint that he needs a longer pair.

  12. The last act of a desperate little man … hope even with all the back room antics and cheating Jason gets 48.5 support and has to resign !!

  13. He really said nothing. Not a word on how he hopes to move the Party forward from this cliff they are on.

    If I were a UCP member I do not believe I could have remained for the entire show.

    The inaccuracies were rife. The in person audience appeared to be nodding and clapping just as wildly had it been flipper the seal behind the mike. In a way, it was.

    The message was clear and the hope is that Party stalwarts will suck it up like mother’s milk. The upcoming election has to be on everyone’s minds. Did Kenney effectively sell the Doomsday scenario to the rest of the members? We will have to wait until next month to find out.

    Kenney has another BIG problem. He has an incredibly weak Cabinet. And the voters have borne the brunt of their abysmal individual and collective behavior since day one. Health, Education, Resources, Finance, Justice… etc.

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