Alberta Conservatives should enjoy basking in the glow cast by Joe Manchin while they can – the visiting U.S. Senator likely has a short shelf life remaining as “the key swing vote in the U.S. Senate,” as Premier Jason Kenney put it at a news conference in Calgary yesterday.

Not sure what to make of Mr. Kenney’s body language in this shot (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

After a little tarsands tourism on Monday, Mr. Kenney trotted the Democrat from West Virginia onto a news conference stage set up to make it look as if Alberta’s premier is the leader of a sovereign nation, with very few Canadian flags in camera range.

Mr. Kenney soon breathlessly announced the Senator is “probably the most influential member of the Legislative Branch of the United States.”

That may have seemed embarrassingly obsequious, but it was accurate enough … for the moment

Thanks to the fact votes in the U.S. Senate spilt 50-50 in the November 2020 election, the former West Virginia governor who could be fairly described as a Democrat in name only in the two-party American political system found himself holding the key swing vote in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. 

As is well known, he has used this power to stymie most of the good things Democrat U.S. President Joe Biden promised to do to alleviate the environmental and economic challenges facing the Republic to our south, much to the delight of Republicans in the U.S. Government and Conservative Canadians like Mr. Kenney and his United Conservative Party Government.

U.S. President Joe Biden, looking like he’d just thought about Mr. Manchin (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

It was Senator Manchin more than any other American politician, for example, who plunged the knife into the heart of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which will likely go down in history as the greatest disappointment of the Biden presidency. 

Alas for Mr. Kenney, despite his visitor’s current role as chair of the Senate committee on energy and natural resources, the influence of the great hope of the fossil fuel lobby is likely to swiftly evanesce after the U.S. mid-term elections in November.

American commentators seem to think that the Senate will tilt to the Republicans in that vote. Maybe something will happen to make it go the other way. But whatever happens in the 2022 mid-terms, Mr. Manchin’s influence will almost certainly dissipate like a fart in a breeze – an unpleasant memory, to be sure, but gone with the wind. 

After that, Republicans will ignore him. They’re certainly unlikely to persist with their efforts to get him to switch teams if the mid-term election hands sufficient additional gerrymandered seats to their party. His fellow Democrats will revile him. 

And his star power will be gone. He’ll just be another NRA-endorsed politician from a poverty-stricken state, albeit one with some interesting 19th Century history. 

Trump opponent turned Trump toady Lindsay Graham, the Republican Senator for South Carolina (Photo: Office of Lindsay Graham).

Few will remember Mr. Manchin’s visit to Alberta, which will be about as memorable as the August 2015 oilsands visit by South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, later renowned as a bitter critic turned loyal toady of President Donald Trump, that sent the Wildrose Party into such a tizzy when NDP environment minister Shannon Phillips failed to greet that visitor with sufficient enthusiasm. 

Since none of the media virtually or physically at yesterday’s news conference seemed to want to talk to Mr. Kenney at all, the senator probably ended up casting more shade than light on Alberta’s beleaguered premier. Props to Mr. Manchin, though, for politely tossing one of the Canadian reporters’ softball questions to his host so that Mr. Kenney wasn’t completely embarrassed by the lack of interest. 

As for the two of them actually having anything serious to talk about like pipelines, Putin and North American energy security, the underwhelming recycled quotes produced at the news conference tell the story.

Former NDP environment minister, now Opposition finance critic, Shannon Phillips (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The members of Mr. Kenney’s cabinet who had walk-on roles in the proceedings didn’t add much to the performance either.

Unlike Mr. Kenney, who is in the midst of a party leadership review vote he didn’t want right now and faces a general election next spring, Mr. Manchin, who is 74 and has been known to use a Maserati Levante to escape from protesting environmentalists, won’t have to run again till 2024, if he chooses to.

And why bother? As he once told a reporter when another West Virginia politician demanded his resignation: “I don’t give a shit, you understand? I just don’t give a shit. Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that?”

So long, Joe! Hope you had a nice visit. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Yes, an interesting study in contrasts, someone who is important meeting someone who thinks he is. Well at least Kenney got to meet someone important.

    I wonder if in the twilight of his political career, this moment caused a bit of introspection for Kenney. Perhaps he recalled when he too was a big fish, albeit in a much smaller pond. Remember when he got his picture on the cover of Macleans, as one of the leaders of the resistance? Something about fighting carbon taxes I recall. Now, how did that go?

    Political fame and power can be fleeting, maybe more so for those who too desperately crave it. Mr. Manchin’s I don’t care attitude is probably better suited for long term survival and ones own mental well being. Of course, US Senators can sometimes stick around forever, it can be a great political gig, although if he does Manchin will probably never again be in such a position of power as he is now. I suspect he is enjoying it while it lasts.

    Meanwhile back on the farm, former Golden Boy Kenney’s reputation is starting to badly tarnish – a fighter who has actually won very few battles. It doesn’t take much to get reelected as a Federal Conservative in one of Canada’s most conservative cities. Heck a flabby cat could probably win re-election there if it was painted conservative blue, but being Premier of a province seems to be a tougher job.

    Maybe after meeting Manchin, Kenney can put his self importance in better perspective and do his party and Alberta a favour and call it a day. Its probably as good of a day as he has had in a long time and I think there will be few if any good days ahead for Kenney if he stays longer.

    1. “I wonder if in the twilight of his political career, this moment caused a bit of introspection for Kenney.”

      I don’t think Jason Kenney is capable of introspection.

  2. All this amounts to is mere posturing by the head honcho of the UCP, and nothing more. He’s trying to save his political career, because he wouldn’t be able to do anything outside of politics.

  3. I guess this is the part all the shiny dogs and ponies are rolled out for the crowd.

    Kenney wants to show off how much influence he has, but why Joe Manchin? I mean Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton would have been better guests for the Kenney Show. Or double down on the crazy and bring on Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene? Or go for the gusto and haul up Alex Jones? He a functioning alcoholic, so he’d be perfect for a Jameson’s kind of day.

    Kenney needs to aim higher if he needs to steal this clown show.

  4. Hopefully the over weight dumpy one, that would be Kenney has a short shelf life as well. It wasn’t a good day for Kenney yesterday, as noted none of the reporters asked Kenney a question rather focussing on the Senator. In addition to this one, Prime Minister Trudeau was doing a press conference in Edmonton and was asked about Kenney and the oil as well what the plans might be with the United States. Trudeau went into a long tirade about how well we work with the Americans and increasing oil shipments and so on, not making any mention of Kenney at all. Is this the first signs of a defeat? At any rate it is fun to watch.

  5. Jason must want to sink what little popularity he has left. As the blogger states, Joe Manchin’s vote killed the Build Back Better Act which would have helped his impoverished West Virginia along with 330 million more Americans. The reactionary U.S. Senate where one man representing 1.8 million can adversely affect the lives of so many. And we think first past the post is unfair.

  6. Joe Manchin just likes being the center of attention. He has no apparent intellect and puts no thought into his actions, other than how it will benefit him and his supporters.

    In other words, a modern conservative politician.

  7. I think it’s really about selling strip mines as carbon sink. His eyes must be on flattening mountains, given what he’s helped do to West Virginia!!

  8. It seems even the GOP isn’t coming to save Ken babe’s hide.

    I mean Manchin is a Dem in a very red state, but if the GOP gains a super-majority in the mid-terms, he may be just another GOP douchebag in a vast sea of GOP douchebags.

    Ted Cruz has presidential aspirations. Tom Cotton has been entertaining them as well. I have a feeling that DeSantis didn’t give Kenney the time of day, so he has no time for tarsands.

    As for the big kahuna himself, Trump 2024, either he doesn’t care enough to even bother saving Kenney. Or, maybe Kenney considered inviting the Bad Orange Man to Alberta more embarrassment than he’s willing to handle.

    Considering Kenney’s antics over the last two years, I thought he had no shame at all.

  9. So this is, what… Mr. Kenney toadying up to Fox viewers? Surely Mr. Manchin must be less popular than butt cancer among every other demographic of humans. Maybe he’s pulling the whole “seem better looking by getting his picture taken with even uglier people” thing?

    Seems to me that Mr. Kenney believes one of two things. Either he believes that there are not enough Albertan voters ranging from left to right-of-centre in order to be worth courting, or he genuinely believes that his views are moderate and centrist. The latter is probably more likely; few humans believe themselves to be extremists. If that is his view, he would have to go out of his way to ignore the opinions of most experts in order to maintain his beliefs. …Which would explain quite a lot, actually…

  10. Off topic, but Skippy’s been out there saying the quiet part out loud. He’s accusing his Conservative rivals of using pre-paid credit cards to purchase memberships for people without their consent or knowledge. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Sort of like the kind of thing that the RCMP might spend three years pretending to investigate. Here’s a few quotes:

    “Patrick Brown has described the illegal buying of memberships for people in a political race as normal as ‘jaywalking.’ It is not normal, it is serious and it is illegal,” wrote Anthony Koch, a spokesperson for the Poilievre campaign. “To prevent cheating we have asked LEOC to enforce the CPC membership by-laws.”

    I’m kind of sad that Mr. Brown didn’t point out the rich irony of the pointman of the ‘Fair Elections Act’ suddenly starting to care about the integrity of elections.

    Has this been a problem in the past? Well, in 2017, Mr. O’Leary kicked up a stink about this issue, the party investigated… and 1,351 names were removed from its membership roll after the investigation. That’sa lotta cheatin.

    So thanks to Skippy for making this a news story and reminding those of us who pay attention who he is. And who the Conservative party is, for that matter. Damn shame that most people considering voting for him/them can’t or won’t connect the dots.

  11. Mean while Kenney’s buddy Reformer Pierre Poilievre was treating seniors to another round of lies at Spruce Meadows, and they were giving him standing ovations for doing it. Once again he brought out the Reform party’s favorite one that he will destroy the CBC . In other words assuring these fools that in true Reform Party style he will destroy jobs instead of creating them, and because it won’t effect these seniors they gave him a standing ovation, without caring about who it would effect.That’s how stupid they are.

    Most of my senior friends listen to the CBC and won’t listen to anything else. During the Vietnam war the Americans were praising our CBC for telling them the truth about the war when their own stations were hiding the facts from them. Making it sound like they were winning when they weren’t.
    I doubt any of these seniors after being upset with Kenney were smart enough to look into Poilievre’s background . At the age of 16 he was selling reform party memberships for Kenney and was an assistant to reform loser Stockwell Day in the Alliance Party.

    1. I’d quibble about semantics a little. I understand the word ‘stupid’ to mean ‘the opposite of smart.’ If someone is stupid, it is not reasonable (and quite mean) to blame them for being stupid. I don’t actually think right wingers are stupid, I think their decisions make better sense if we assume them to be simultaneously victims of epistemic injustice (some information has been withheld from them in order to limit the choices available to them) while also being guilty of epistemic delinquency (the choice to willingly and knowingly believe easily falsifiable absurdities).

      I understand some people use ‘stupid’ as meaning ‘making foolish and blameworthy choices.’ Maybe I’m getting caught up in semantics, but I’ve noticed that conversations stop being productive when someone is called ‘stupid’. Just a thought.

    2. “I doubt any of these seniors after being upset with Kenney were smart enough to look into Poilievre’s background.”

      I doubt it, too. I see a real lack of effort or awareness in voters. Look at a candidate’s history, connections, etc. Look at the party’s platform and policies. Know if they align with your own ideas about what you want personally and as a society. But many are blindly loyal to a party or caught up the rhetoric or fooled by the spin even if that decision will end up shooting themselves in their own foot.

  12. The blogger and his readers have taken a run at the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. Sample quotes from Senators educated to grade eight or higher.
    Legitimate rape rarely causes pregnancy. Todd Akin (R-MO)
    Slavery was a blessing in disguise for African Americans. Jon Hubbard (R-AR)
    Science is a lie straight from hell. Paul Brown (R-GA)

    1. Legitimate rape rarely causes pregnancy. Todd Akin (R-MO)

      Todd Akin. Dead. Oct. 3, 2021. The question is does death really cause death?

      Slavery was a blessing in disguise for African Americans. Jon Hubbard (R-AR)

      Never really got out of the Arkansas State House. Tried for a congress seat but lost. I guess stupid doesn’t travel very far in Georgia. In Florida, however, it can get you into the White House.

      Science (Evolution) is a lie straight from hell. Paul Brown (Broun) (R-GA)

      Seems this guy’s a medical doctor? Faith-healing, no doubt.

      There isn’t one study that can be produced that shows Carbon Dioxide is a harmful gas. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)

      As for Michelle Bachmann, frequent presidential candidate and often laughed at, any number of observers declared her insane when she took to Facebook to say a prayer for the re-election of Donald Trump, and then continued the prayer while speaking in tongues.

      Republicans sure can pick them. That means they’re only going to get worse.

  13. Any port in the storm.

    I expect 65 percent of UCP members vote to keep Humpty Dumpty on the throne. Followed by a general election in mid Sept/Oct

    I expect to more of the same. Unless of course the antics, past and future, of the likes of Jonathan Denis keep fouling the turf for the UCP and for Kenney.

  14. Just looking at Kenney and Manchin standing for their photo-op reminds me of something … oh yes.

    “Politics is show business for ugly people”

    “Politics is (like) show business” is a phrase that dates to at least 1954, when it appeared in the headline of political reporter Drew Pearson’s syndicated column. When former actor Ronald Reagan won the U.S. presidency in 1980, the comparison of politics to show business became common.

    “Politics is show business for ugly people” dates to at least 1991, when Texas political consultant Bill Miller used the phrase. Political consultant Paul Begala and comedian Jay Leno also used the phrase “politics is show business for ugly people,” but after Bill Miller’s 1991 use. Variants of the phrase (with “Washington/politics” and “Hollywood/show business” substitutions) include “Washington (DC) is show business for ugly people,” “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” and “Politics is Hollywood for ugly people.”

  15. These displays have the feeling of a great work—opus magnum in the personal sense: the greatest work a person achieves. One stands amazed in non-inspired awe, aghast, at Jason Kenney in extremis, pulling out all political stops: this is Jason being himself. It has a John Turneresque ‘this-is-the-fight-of-my-life’ kind of vanity to it. Nobody doubts its fundamental sincerity. The aesthetic question, however, is not whether it’s art: it’s whether it’s good art…

    If that’s all it were about, this candidate’s work would certainly be disqualified from the political-art category of, say, a Michelangelo who had to do politics with his holy employers concerning exactly what kind of digits his Adam was allowed to point at the outstretched finger of God: in all sincerity, the sin of vanity was never issue enough to blind critics’ of the great Sistine work’s supreme mastery.

    Nope: it isn’t necessarily the insincerity that disqualifies K-Boy’s opus from the ‘Masters’ category —at least judging electors are sufficiently befuddled on that crucial criterion to abstain, perhaps sufficiently long to moot the question. Nope: It’s the vanity.

    Yup: Kenney’s greatest work will therefore have to achieve its greatest rank in a lesser category —like the “Neil Gaiman” or “Graffiti”. Perhaps both (it’s not unheard of…)

    “Yes, I see what the artist is trying to say…,” as critics often say in the artsy fart-in-the-wind way they so often do when confronted with a work of such maudlin excretion. As usual at these openings, ripe Limburger and over-aged plonk pass anodyne under the judges’ snoots to quell the gag reflex. But certainly Kenney’s most opportune category is squarely of the graphic novel order where discherning rosé-rosed eyes do not queshtion whether puffery and gimmickry exisht but, rather, whether the pastiche of either is applied too thick or too thin. And, of course, whether this formatted ‘motionless motion picture’ actually moves the beholder.

    Yet, it doesn’t matter how politically besotted the judges get before casting their rank-votes, JK’s use of onomatopoeic ’sound-words’ very nearly Ka-pows! his opus into the kitty-litter box of the graffiti category. Really, only the larger font-size inked around the American senate’s Munchkin compared to the Alberta premier’s demurred *THWIP*, *SNIKT*, and *BAMF!* could possibly keep this show in the running for the Gaiman category. The jury is still —*BRRMPFH!*— out of it on that one…

    If there’s one politically aesthetic bruit which —in the literal Japanese bonsai criterion: “stabs one’s eyes out”— in this showing, it is the unabashed attempt at authority where, in the typical stridency of any graffito worth its spray-paint, the question of beauty seems ironic: what disqualifies from the classic masters and iconic graphic novelist categories, even in the smallest amount, usually wins the prize, here in “some ungodly bathroom of some ungodly hall” (Thnx, Hoyt Axton), by its largest excess (“so he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow“). Partisan critics might cheer: ‘well done!—he only had a dollar to live on till next month-day!’ before discretely departing for spirited nightcaps elsewhere, yet even here in the graffiti gallery, the aesthetic-equivalent of pongy basements, fetid alleyways and graveyards of the rusted automobile (Thnx, Steve Goodman), the critic’s art must be one of exquisite discernment. Whereas authority depicted, say, like the eight-thousand terracotta warriors of Qin Shi Huang (or: see-how-much-authority-I-got!) is marginally acceptable to the higher orders of political beauty, and the spectral visage of “1984’s” Big Brother (or: see-how-unquestioned-my-authority-is!) is barely teetering on the dusky cusp, what this artist appears to be saying with this crude, Fat-Cap, K-Boy Kekrylon tagging is right down there with, puffery and gimmickry of any day-glow sloganeering—where vanity and insincerity are waived off as merely understood.

    Here, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder: masterfully desperate vanity and powerfully preposterous authority might win the spray-bomber’s “Angel” tag, but in the administrative sense, the cost of cleanup and removal is repugnant indeed.

    Savour this aesthetic train-wreck well, my friends, it shan’t come again—at least pray it doesn’t. It is an art of a kind, even masterful in its pee-yew! way. And it is very probably Jason Kenney’s best work—an opus MAGA.

    Few politicians can wear this prize so proudly.

  16. “As he once told a reporter when another West Virginia politician demanded his resignation: “I don’t give a shit, you understand? I just don’t give a shit. Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that?” ”

    That particular outburst is hardly even revealing, “For every tree is known by its own fruit.” Such as,

    Revolving door politics and the cozy relationships that are cultivated between the political class and private industry, that is the corporate state, means that former politicians are never fearful of not finding the ‘right’ sort of employment, after the transition from public to private life is completed (It is never fully completed, because the revolving door entanglements, as financial, pecuniary interests, between the state and the corporate sector are the remaining overt reality.).

    Even as the soft headed public continues to believe in some sort of fantasy about ‘throwing the rascals out’, or teaching someone a lesson at the ballot box. That ‘penalty’, or ‘lesson’ is often one that is very short lived and it is often one that merely resides in the minds of the soft headed and the most gullible.

    So it is said that, “On August 7, 2014, a report by the Auditor General of Alberta noted that as Premier, she (Alison Redford) and her office had “used public resources inappropriately,” “used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes” and that Redford “was involved in a plan to convert public space in a public building into personal living space.” ”

    “Auditor General finds Alison Redford used public resources inappropriately”

    The reported scandals and the ’embarrassment’ of resignation naturally resulted in the further cultivation of numerous relationships and the paydays that such relationships offer to the well connected, such as:

    “In fact, this newspaper found that it was only in November 2017 that Redford took a position as a “policy advisor” in Kabul to the government of Afghanistan to help reform its Ministry of Mines and Petroleum which has a reputation for corruption and mismanagement. In a statement to the press yesterday, the Ministry of Natural Resources said that Redford now serves as a World Bank Advisor on Gas Sector Reform in Pakistan and also as an advisor in other jurisdictions, as they develop new approaches to upstream regulation and community engagement.”

    The negative ripple effects of revolving door politics are summarized here:

    And where it is (correctly) assumed that Jason Kenney already has in place various exit strategies designed to further inflate his bank account. That is,

    “What’s the easiest path for me? Just to take a walk. I don’t need this job. I could go to the private sector, have my evenings, weekends off,” the premier told the gathering.”

    It is simply the old game of serving oneself and the individuals that private sector lobbyists represent; while, playing the game of appearing to serve the ‘public’ as a pancake flipper. Even a complete buffoon, such as Ralph Klein is well looked after and rewarded for obediently serving the interests of the powerful (Where even allegations of plagiarism can be made to just go away, as in “make it go away” and it is done!).

    “On January 18, 2007, the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais announced that Klein, who is not a lawyer, would join their firm as a senior business adviser who would bring “valuable insights to our clients as they look to do business in Alberta, in Canada, and in North America” ‘

    Like the proverbial iceberg, one has to wonder, just how much political corruption (Including bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism [Ben Harper], parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and/or embezzlement.) exists in Alberta?

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