It’s been quite a crazy week in Canadian politics to say the least. The confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and NDP would normally make for big enough news all onto itself to fill a few news cycles, but it appears this week wouldn’t stand for that. Nope, we’ve also had the Conservative Leadership Race continuing apace, and not in the most helpful way to their cause. If you love your politics, you haven’t been left wanting.
But as wild and wooly as things have been in Ottawa, the action in Alberta this week has been outta this world. While Ottawa was out doing the historic, something else all together was happening in Edmonton around the upcoming leadership review for Premier Jason Kenney. In the span of a few days and weeks, we’ve seen:
- The UCP change the entire voting procedure from an in-person convention in Red Deer to entirely to vote by mail because of a massive surge in memberships to participate in the vote
- Businesses encouraging employees to take out UCP memberships to support Kenney
- Government staffers given time off to help the cause
- Fresh details about the shenanigans from the UCP Leadership Campaign that elected Kenney, with direct witness testimony link Kenney to the whole thing that he’s denied knowing about for years
- The RCMP confirmed they are still investigating said shenanigans
- Two UCP MLA’s call for Kenney to resign, on top of the inclusion of newly elected MLA Brian Jean, who won his by-election on a promise to run Kenney out of office on a rail
That folks, that’s a lot. Any one of those things would be enough to tear any party apart, yet here we are seeing all of them happening. But such is the spectacle known as the Kenney Government. With the vote coming up in a few weeks, and the changes to the vote itself not going over well with those who already oppose Kenney, you’d think that we’ve surely heard enough already. But nope, just when you thought that Alberta had enough, the news tells us to hold Kenney’s beer:
Wow, wow, WOW!!! Where to start with this? Well, first maybe with the thought that I bet that many people agree with Kenney that he doesn’t “need this job” and they would be alright if he did just go off into the sunset. That didn’t come off as he maybe thought it would, but that wouldn’t be the last time that happened with this leaked audio. He went onto call some of the agitators and members of his caucus “kooky people generally” and when quoting an old quip from Preston Manning, said “there’s more than a few bugs attracted to us, this party, right now.” And what makes that more stunning is that when the CBC asked Kenney’s press secretary about these comments, they replied with stating that those comments “are consistent with previous public statements on this matter” from the Premier. No denial there, just pure ownership. Not exactly the best way to try to keep your tent together.
If those comments had come from another politician I likely wouldn’t have batted as many eyes. But those words coming from Jason Kenney, trying to paint himself as the reasonable, rational, “mainstream Conservative”, just blew my mind. Seriously, this is a guy whose gone out of his way to bend over backwards for these people he’s now calling “kooky”. Also, Kenney has shared many of the same views as those “kooky” people around issues like LGBT rights. The same Jason Kenney that proudly worked to deny gay couples the right to be with their dying partners in San Francisco, something he continued to wear as a badge of honour for a long time after the fact. That guy. That’s the guy calling himself a “mainstream Conservative”, and trying to set himself aside for the “kooky” ones. I know a lot of actual mainstream Conservatives who would take issue with how Kenney is presenting himself. That doesn’t just strain credulity, it shatters it into tiny pieces.
And yet, at the same time, speaks to exactly the problem that Kenney is facing right now. All of this situation is one of his own making; his penchant for holding his MLAs and Ministers to a different, lower standard than everyone else when it comes to COVID or ethics rules, his constant demonization of others and his attempts to placate those who he now scorns. That is all on Jason and no one else.
That is exactly the kind of thing that leads to someone in your own caucus staff making a secret recording of a caucus staff meeting on a Tuesday, only for that same recording to be leaked and reported in the media before Thursday was out. Seriously, the idea of any staff recording such a meeting at all is a serious breach of trust for any political staffer. To then turn around and leak it, clearly in an attempt to knife your leader publicly just multiples that action. And then the fact that has happened, and barely anyone has batted an eye that it happened, tells you how dysfunctional things are in UCP-land right now.
The responsibility for that kind of disfunction always falls on the shoulders of the leader. When that disfunction leads to a leader giving a speak to his staff that includes lines like “I don’t need this job”, it speaks to how far beyond the point of no return things have gone. Seriously, if you think that telling your party to basically “take this job and shove it” or “you need me more than I need you”, should anyone be surprised when the party takes them at their word and shows you the door?
What we’re seeing playing out in Alberta is going to be quite the case study for future politicos to study because we’ve seen Jason Kenney’s UCP go from being an unbeatable, inevitable behemoth to a disfunction, crumbling entity. And as was the case with the merger that brought the UCP into being, it’s demise also appears to be credit to Jason Kenney’s work. We’ll see how much crazier things will get out west before it’s all said and done, but one thing is clear; there are more boots to drop in Alberta and like many good pairs of work boots, odds are they’ll have some crap stuck to them too. Stay tuned.