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.
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.
“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.
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.