Now that he’s on the way out the door to a doubtless rewarding but ultimately unsatisfying career as a bit-player on multiple corporate boards, Jason Kenney is rewriting history. 

Brian Mulroney, another former Conservative first minister whose reputation’s required some polishing up (Photo: University of Toronto).

He spent part of the day Saturday doing that at the Canada Strong and Free Network conference in Red Deer, the small Alberta city best known for being conveniently located exactly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton.

What the heck is the Canada Strong and Free Network, you ask? It’s the rebranded Manning Centre, which does business nowadays without the imprimatur of Preston Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right. 

As such, the Red Deer hotel where the festivities took place was an excellent venue for Mr. Kenney to tell a few tall tales in the presence of a friendly audience disinclined to be overly critical. 

According to the CBC, among the pearls of wisdom dropped by Mr. Kenney for the Canada Strong and Free Networkers was that he’s worried the “hyper-charged” anger of the alt-right on social media could turn conservatism into “a caricature of a kind of nasty, angry populism that will lose consistently at the polls as well.”

“I know this is an old fashioned sentiment, but I actually believe civility is a conservative value,” Mr. Kenney piously proclaimed. 

Michael Ignatieff, the former federal Liberal leader accused of not planning to hang around (Photo: Connormah, Creative Commons).

“And there is a growing sense of profound incivility,” continued the guy who handed out earplugs to his minions in the Alberta Legislature when the Opposition spoke and relentlessly attacked the prime minister who agreed to pay for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

Indeed, this is pretty rich coming from the fellow who created War Room to battle the “lies and disinformation” of the “enemies of Alberta,” and ginned up the “Public Inquiry Into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” to find … well, in the end, no evidence whatsoever of the “well-funded foreign campaign” he claimed “defamed Alberta’s energy industry.”

Perhaps most offensive, under Mr. Kenney’s leadership government “issues managers” were consistently used as a troll farm to attack and insult anyone who dared to criticize United Conservative Party policy, including ordinary citizens who in no way could be described as political activists.

Well, better to be remembered as that Conservative premier who worried about the growth of profound incivility, I guess, than as the Conservative premier who messed everything up. 

Anyway, Mr. Kenney told his listeners, this isn’t really his fault or theirs. It was “liberal mainstream legacy media” that “went out of their way to become disaffected from almost everybody right of centre.”

Let me know if you ever find any liberal mainstream legacy media in Alberta.

Preston Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As for Mr. Kenney’s big plan to fix health care by privatizing large chunks of it, which he must have hoped would be his political legacy, he blamed COVID for its partial failure. 

“We could have gone further and deeper into health reform had it not been for COVID,” he lamented. “And I think Canadians are now waking up to the reality that we do need fundamental health reform.”

There is probably some truth to this. But God help us all if the pandemic had hit after “reforms” like the ones Mr. Kenney had in mind had been implemented!

As the weeks and months and years go on, expect Mr. Kenney to blame COVID for most the failures, unforced errors and miscalculations that made it possible for UCP rebels to persuade so many party members he had to go if the party was to survive.

Now, thanks to Mr. Kenney’s hubris and arrogance, we are apparently about to be saddled with an unelected premier who favours ivermectin over public health measures and thinks Alberta Health Services must be broken up to keep it from conspiring against the government!

Perhaps like Brian Mulroney, Mr. Kenney will eventually hire a well-connected Ottawa lobbyist to polish up his reputation and ensure we don’t blame him for Danielle Smith. 

I saved the best for last. Mr. Kenney also claimed he never really planned to stick around in Alberta anyhow. 

“I was never intending to be in this gig for a long time,” he told his credulous listeners. “Frankly, it was always my intention if I’d gone on to the next election to leave, probably about a year or 18 months after that.” 

Well, there may be some truth to this tale. To slightly rephrase the Conservative attack ads about Michael Ignatieff, who led the federal Liberals from 2008 to 2011: “Kenney: He didn’t come back for you!”

It’s said here that Mr. Kenney’s plan was always to return to Ottawa in triumph after restoring the Conservative Dynasty in Alberta.

It’s just that the masterplan required some revisions after Mr. Kenney’s premiership didn’t go quite as intended.

But now he wants us to think he intended to leave a year after being re-elected? Sure. Whatever

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24 Comments

  1. I recall, many years ago, a younger Ezra Levant, who was then Preston Manning’s legislative assistant, appeared on a CBC News World program, where he was debating Irshad Manji, who was then a graduate student at Simon Fraser University. The subject was about the being careful what you wish for. Levant warned liberals to be wary of their demands of behaviour and language, because they will be hoist on their own petards by the fellow travellers they offend. Levant’s words were prescient and describe perfectly the fall of Jason Kenney.

    Kenney created the UCP and was elected to government by whipping up anger among Alberta’s rubes … rural folk, evangelicals, and the never-satisfied oil and gas industry. However, once in power, Kenney own attempt at a ‘Kansas Experiment’ was blunted by the pandemic. Though he sought to ignore the growing reach of COVID, Kenney eventually buckled and allowed a modicum of public health measures and restrictions, which was just enough to anger his base against him.

    Though Kenney tried to restore his credibility with his base, his gig was up. The weirder elements of the UCP were looking for another leader to satisfy their lust for conspiracies and endless anger. Danielle Straitjacket presented herself and a desirable candidate for their specialized fetishes. In the end, Kenney and his loyalists will be hung up on their own petard, made of anger and a thirst for vengeance.

    While Kenney declares he was brought down by alt-right anger, he completely ignores that he was the one who weaponized this anger. Even his once ally, Ezra Levant, turned on him, denouncing Kenney and his “heavy-handed” assault on FreeDUMB. Even Kenney commented that his own UCP caucus had turned on him, breaking that weird alliance that barely holds together.

  2. The head honcho of the UCP is a Liberal turned Reformer who sure did a lot of damage while he was in power, in Alberta. It’s something that has cost Albertans billions of dollars, from a financial standpoint, and also their lives, with his complacent attitude towards the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. Even if the head honcho of the UCP is gone, the UCP will further try and complete the work of their hero, Ralph Klein, and get private for profit healthcare in Alberta. Public education will also be compromised. CPP will be eliminated. The R.C.M.P will also be gone. Albertans have to come to their senses and stop this. But the question that remains is will they?

        1. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa! Sorry Kenny as a Liberal is hilarious to me. Reminds me how before the Conservatives stopped being Conservatives I used to grouse on a regular basis that the only difference between Cons and Libs was branding and who gets which boutique tax credit.

          Thanks for filling in that blank for me, I had assumed it was a rhetorical attack not a literal statement. Sometimes I’m amazed at the things I don’t know.

          1. I’ve noticed that “true-blue” Conservatives (often older) view political affiliation very tribally, as if it’s an immutable fact like their ethnicity or race.
            Many religious believers do this as well, lumping their variable, random set of “beliefs” in with something like the fact of their race in order to increase the credibility of what is simply another set of man-made and therefore questionable ideas at the end of the day. It’s called wishful thinking, the pointing out of which causes MUCH defensiveness of course and it’s also why ANY criticism of religion is often called RACIST. This is hogwash. Religion isn’t race.
            So unfortunately and embarrassingly actually, conservatism is more like another religion here in bible belt Alberta, with all the attendant shades of purity attached. Meaning the current iteration of UCP types are not REAL conservatives just like fellow believers can be hauled up on the mats for not being REAL Christians, etc. There’s no doubt that Peter Lougheed and the Progressive Conservatives generally were much different (and relatively much better) before uber-religious Presto Manning took them over with the Reform Party. But he did because he could. There have been studies done on the fundamental differences between conservatives and liberals (it’s in the names, conserve means to hold back and/or save and liberal means to be generous and/or let go) and one conclusion is their response to change, that constant of life. Google “conservative brain.” It’s why Liberals are in fact the “natural governing party;” they’ve been more genuinely adaptable and open-minded, a major criteria for effective, fair-minded governance of a democracy.
            We never talk about a “conservative democracy,” only a liberal one for that reason. Coincidentally, which side is trying to destroy it at the moment?

        2. That Jason Kenney was a Liberal and then a Reformer and then a Conservative Party of Canada member and is now a United Conservative Party member shows just how much he is an opportunist with no real affiliation to any party.

          Jason Kenney is in politics for himself.

          When the NDP win I would not be surprised to see him try to join, to become leader of course.

  3. Well they should have titled this attempt at revising history ” Fairy tales of the Kenney years”. At least he carefully chose an audience that was not likely to heckle him or burst out into laughter at inopportune times, although there might have been some discreet eye rolls or stunned looks at times.

    First to his thoughts on civility, perhaps he should have shared them with his own key communications people years ago. I do recall there not being much civility when Kenney was running for his Alberta PC party leadership, particularly to some of the women candidates, and it did not seem to improve after that.

    As for the legacy mainstream media, the main name that come to mind for me is the struggling Postmedia monopoly. However, their lack of civility is mostly to Liberals, while they again try portray the new Federal Conservative leader as the next great blue hope.

    Yes, Kenney will try to blame all his failures on COVID. Ironically, Premiers in both of Alberta’s neighbours (one on the left, one on the right) got reelected during COVID and seem to have remained popular enough since then. Likewise, in Ontario. So oddly, COVID seemed mostly to be politically fatal mainly in Alberta.

    It is true that COVID did seems to stop or slow some of the Conservative plans to privatise and dismantle public health care in Alberta. I suspect it is also true Kenney did not intend to stick around long as Alberta Premier. If things had gone better, I bet he would have been rushing back to Ottawa before the Federal Conservatives discovered Poilievre as their latest golden boy.

    Lastly I doubt Kenney cares as much about his image as Mulroney, or has the smarts and patience to try rehabilitate it as well as the former PM. While Kenney’s political future looks bleak, he could be the perfect successor to run the former Manning Centre – which seems to be the consolation prize to overly serious conservative politicians with mixed results.

    1. Matt Wolf alone did more to change the tone of social media discourse in this province than nearly anyone else; during his time as kenneys “issues” manager.

      Jason can get all the way out of here with this “civility” bs. That is the refuge of assholes and politicians that don’t care to be labeled as they truly are.

  4. My sense was that Jason Kenney never intended to stay in Alberta for long. He wanted the political cachet of a successful Provincial Premier to launch him into a leadership of the CPC.

    Jason Kenney was a failure because of his inflated ego, among several other things.

    Good Federal Cabinet Minister, terrible Premier. He was too slick by half, very slimy, and his claim to be connected to Alberta was simply a falsehood.

    Kenney was anything but a Leader. That was evident from the people around him, those who he appointed to Cabinet.

    The only downside in getting rid of him is that we will probably go from bad to worse in the form of Danielle Smith. Yet another has been politician whose claim to fame will be pitting one Albertan against another.

  5. Want to bet that the crowd was mostly seniors believing all his lies, like we have seen since the Ralph Klein days. Hurling their sarcastic comments at anyone who is not as stupid as them. To dumb to realize that reformers never offer any intelligent solution to any problem its always someone else’s fault.

  6. Good reminder from Mr. Kenney about the fallacy called the Argument From Hypocrisy – just because someone is a hypocrite does not mean their conclusion is false. In this case, just because Jason Kenney was enthusiastically and joyfully hip-deep in the mudslinging, misinforming and rage farming when he thought it would benefit him does not mean he is wrong when he says these things are harming the “Conservative” movement. (The quotes are there because the party does not pretend to follow the ideology and hasn’t for more than a decade).

  7. Surely Kenney will enjoy speaking to neo-right think-tanks more than grunting approval or disapproval on corporate boards where he probably won’t be invited to give another Sasquatch Report. But I suspect he’ll miss partisan politics too much to turn down an offer—most likely a non-speaking one—to, say, manage an election campaign, maybe even a federal one (it seems unlikely Poilievre, who’s been pretty electorally successful himself, would dare manage his own campaign—but, then, what do I know?) After all, K-Boy’s batted nearly 1.000 —until—well, you know…

    Nevertheless, one can’t argue with the string of successes he’s had, including, I would say, his prescient decision not to contest the post-Harper leadership contest which has to count as one of the CPC’s worst stumbles, right from the top of the cellar stairs ‘n’ all (it took nearly two years to trip over that top-flight scatter rug, initiating the slo-mo decline this party has been in ever since).

    Yes, it’s been a tough year for the K-Boy. He’s not exactly one to turn the other cheek but, smack in the middle between Alberta’s right and left cheeks in Red Deer, he can be as holy as Ballam’s and invoke a Sasquatch as invisible to everyone else as a mainstream medium of liberal legacy.

    Not that it’s un-newsworthy but Kenney’s hypocrisies and scapegoatings are as predictable as old hat. With respect Iggy’s sojourn to Canada to lead the Liberals to oblivion, KeK Kangaroo Kenney’s PeeWee Herman impersonation mighta had something to it had things like Covid—and, well, a lot of other things too— not derailed that little SoCon engine that thought it could. Perhaps K-Boy had figured something like this: after taking a lap uniting the Alberta right so’s to exterminate not only the NDP, but even that it was ever government, while deftly skirting the embarrassingly bigoted CPC leadership race, he’d await the demise of whomever won, then ride from one triumph back to the big one in Bytown for the kill. After all, his sojourns to the USA are nothing near so long’s Ignatieff’s (couldn’t afford the cab fare, anyhow).

    Yes, things didn’t go so well for Kenney, but if there’s a comparison to be had with Blarney Bullroney, my wish would be that K-Boy leaves Alberta with Danielle Smith for as long’s old Lyin’ Brian left Canada Kim Campbell—only about four months and one week back in ‘93.

    Kimmy Phaedra’s elevation to Canada’s First Minister was as automatic as Smith would like hers to be in Alberta—mind you, Danielle’s got no seat like she of the Prime Ministerial derriér, nor has she bared her shoulders behind a judge’s robe (which the Globe and Male plainly found hooter than the “hoot” Campbell was quoted as saying about her tut-tut of prudishness).

    Alls I can say is: Go Jason, Go! Please!!

    1. I think they’re trying to reclaim more than appropriate. They’re reclaiming Canada’s history as a culturally homogenous English speaking white ethnostate, reclaiming Canada’s history as an authoritarian nation that enforced injustice upon dissidents using extralegal Police and even Army violence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Labour_Revolt), reclaiming Canada’s history as a state whose existence is predicated upon crushing Indigenous people so that their way of life could be exterminated and all their stuff could be more easily stolen, etc. They can’t tell the difference between “white people losing specific privileges which were unjust right from day one” and “white people being oppressed.” They’re not just afraid of the future, they’re afraid of the present, they’re not just afraid of their neighbours, they’re afraid of their children, and they want Canada-That-Was, or, more accurately, Canada-That-Only-Exists-In-Their-Memories.

      I don’t think this is an appropriation at all; all these sins and more are written in fire and blood across Canadian history. The inevitably-and-revealingly white people behind these movements aren’t asking for anything new, they want “OG Canada” with its rich history of religiously-justified white supremacy and not “modern Canada” with all its secular, multicultural, forward-thinking, environmentally-and-socially-conscious “wokies”. They want a Canada that is openly and unapologetically for them and against everyone else.

      lol believe it or not I revised this post to make it less incendiary.

  8. Kenney claiming he is a “victim” of the loony fringe is like that old saw about the youth who murders his parents, then begs the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. He is the one who set the match to the tinderbox that is Alberta’s raging class; how surprised can he be then, that he himself got burned by the flames?

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