Last night when writing about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s latest issues at Queen’s Park, I made a quip about his only saving grace being was that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was in an even worse position. Given the way things have gone with COVID in Alberta, the worst case counts per capita in North America and Kenney’s lacking response, it’s understandable. And that’s before you added in the caucus upheaval he’s been facing, this threats to call a snap election to quiet them and finally his own quips about wanting a new base.
In normal times that would be enough to sink a government or a leadership, but when you add the urgency of COVID, it’s just not that simple. While it’s true that some governments are struggling under the weight of the pressure of COVID, the need to keep a government functional during COVID has had a strange inverse effect, keeping a government propped up. Look at Ottawa as a prime example of that in the minority context. In the majority context, the idea of bringing down your own government during a global pandemic seems especially irresponsible and crazy, and that seems to have kept most such talk at bay. Well, that was until last night when Jason Kenney’s really bad, terrible, crappy 2021 got that much worse:
Losing your caucus chair at any time is not good for a leader or a government, but having it happen now, in this way, is particularly bad. But that being said, this wasn’t that shocking. Todd Loewen was one of the 18 or so UCP MLA’s who were already mad at the government for doing too much to fight COVID, so if anything it says a lot about Kenney’s weak leadership that he didn’t toss Loewen as caucus chair back then. Also Loewen is not a new name to Alberta politics. He’s a longtime former Wildrose member and has been running for office since 2008.
What makes this shocking is that Loewen is going so far as to call for Kenney to resign as leader and Premier, in the middle of a pandemic. Reading the letter in full is quite the yarn because basically he tries to blame Kenney for everything, including the “dysfunction in caucus” that Loewen himself helped to create with that group of 18. He tries to suggest that this UCP government hasn’t brought “balance and reason” to their decisions, which came across as quite the passive aggressive attack against Alberta’s COVID measures.
It was quite ironic to me that in his letter, Loewen makes zero direct references to the global pandemic that’s swept over us for the past 14 months. There are illusions to it, but they are phrased in a way that could easily be talking about the other issues this government has had, which Loewen doesn’t stray away from. In the end, Loewen lays everything at Kenney’s feet and gives him all the blame.
I have to admit having a very strange reaction while reading this letter from Loewen. In normal times, this would be a relatively reasoned letter for such a situation. Sure, I totally disagree with Loewen’s positions and such, but in normal times this would totally make sense. A lot of the things that Loewen laid out as problems were done by the Kenney government prior to COVID. But Loewen and those other 17 UCP MLAs were relatively quiet about them back then, when the party was riding high in the polls and their positions were secure.
What changed all of that was COVID, which brought this government back down to Earth and then suddenly all of those things that Loewen and others supported became firing offenses. That’s where the strange reaction comes for me. For all the attempts to make this sound like some kind of high-minded principle on his part, it falls flat because the historical record shows that he was more than fine with all of those things until, well, he wasn’t.
The irony is that while Loewen’s letter might be totally self-serving, the premise that Jason Kenney shouldn’t be Premier isn’t a bad one. It’s possible to arrive at the right conclusion for completely the wrong reasons, and that’s what we have here. Loewen is basically upset that Kenney has done too much to try to save lives when he has done so little compared to the rest of the country. In the name of “freedom”, Loewen is apparently willing to let people die needlessly and is now calling for the resignation of a Premier who he apparently believes isn’t trying hard enough to make that happen.
In short folks, this is a total clusterf*ck, a terrible clusterf*ck that comes when peoples’ lives are literally in the balance. In normal times, this would be the kind of thing that would trigger the fall of a Premier. But in these times, when probably Alberta would be better served to have a better Premier, this just creates more heat and fire achieving nothing. This is just the likes of Loewen casting about trying to save their own political hides, ones that they were fine to put in the hands of Jason Kenney’s leadership when everything was going great. This is a true case of “a pox on all their houses” if there ever has been one, because this is the mess that the UCP has created all by themselves. They have no one else to blame but themselves for their actions and inactions, and if tearing themselves apart from the inside is where this all leads, well then, I guess that was meant to be. Maybe if they could put that other crap aside and actually deal with COVID properly, they wouldn’t have an approval rating in the mid-teens. But apparently that’s a bridge too far for Loewen, Kenney and co. It’s all a mess and they own it, no matter how much Loewen and others try to divorce themselves from it.
UPDATE: 10:55 am EST – Well, looks like we’re seeing some more ripples coming from Todd Loewen’s resignation from the UCP backbenches:
Wow, have to wonder how many more of these kinds of statements are still to come. Stay tuned!
UPDATE #2 – 2:22 pm EST – Speaking of ripples, here comes another backer of Loewen, one that might have other ambitions on mind in doing so:
Well, well, well, this seems all too much to be a coincidence. Quite the development indeed, especially given continued speculation about Mr. Jean’s future political ambitions. Stay Tuned!