Monday Aug 02

Winter 2020

Albertans Seem Traumatized by Kenney and His Raw, Charmless, Conservatism

Column by John Anderson

Alberta, Canada’s Premier Jason Kenney is not a likeable guy. You add botching the handling of a couple of historical crises, and he really risks being loathed by his fellow Albertans.  The premier of Alberta is getting close to that position, and the world is a better place for it. 

On day-to-day matters, Kenney is the conservative he has always been. There are cutbacks: like the 24% to the Rental Assistance Program or the canceled the $25 dollar a day childcare program.  This is neither unsurprising, nor the reason for his plummeting popularity. 

Oil has been a catastrophe for Kenney. Alberta’s oil-dependent economy is in ruins with low oil prices, and no pipeline to cheaply export the tar sand oil, and he’s managed to own this failure. 

Kenney went for broke - pun intended - on the Keystone XL pipeline, which Joe Biden killed once sworn in as president in the United States.   Kenney gave $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to Keystone XL, around the time that Trump was being helicoptered out of the White House with COVID. The fact that Kenney didn’t see the writing on the wall about Keystone did not play well to out-of-work, pandemic-weary Albertans.  

On COVID, Kenney is messing up a pretty easy playbook. For a Canadian Premier, the successful formula for handling COVID-19 is to do the following: (1) Hold press conferences and talk like you care and know something, (2) Take the pandemic seriously by wearing a mask, and telling the public to social distance and get tested if they get a fever, and (3) Avoid leisure trips to foreign countries. 

Kenney never got a copy of the playbook.

Large cuts to healthcare funding, and labor war with healthcare workers didn't play well with the public.   Pandering to COVID deniers, saying COVID isn’t quite as bad as people say it was, also not a good look.  But what really did him in was allowing elected members of his government, along with his own chief of staff, to go on sunny holidays over the Christmas break. 

Canadians resent people in warmer climates during our long winters.  With Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, being 500 miles north of Montana, we are not talking about polar and not ‘polar vortex’.  The middle- and upper-income Canadians who go on sunland vacations are always resented a bit.  But for an elected politician to go to a resort in the Dominican Republic during a mandatory stay at home order that they ordered?  Let the unadulterated loathing commence!  


To make matters much worse for Kenney, he did press conferences defending the vacationing members.  No demotions, no public scolding.  He decided to own it. 


Thanks to all of this, the Alberta NDP are back in a big way. Now up 17% in the polls to the United Conservative Party, NDP leader Rachel Notley is once again looking very appealing to Albertans who seem traumatized by Kenney and his raw, charmless, conservatism. 


Conservative parties have won every election in the last 90 years, except one: Rachel Notley’s stunning 2015 win against two divided conservative parties - Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives.  After those two parties merged in 2017 to create the United Conservative Party, Alberta was supposed to go back to the natural order of conservative rule. The idea that the NDP looks able, if not probable, to win in 2023 must shake the corporate establishment that has ruled mainly unchecked for decades. 


While Kenney is tanking, ACORN Canada is preparing to start interviews for our first Alberta ACORN organizer, and our small but determined Calgary group has its first action planned. The timing could not be better for ACORN to enter into Alberta.  The main cities of Calgary and Edmonton are rapidly growing, both now well over a million people, and the entire province is becoming less white.  Add to that the collapse of the oil industry in Alberta, which is crippled by low oil prices and a lack of a pipeline, and the ingredients for major change are there.  If ACORN can play any part in turning Alberta, the bastion of Canadian conservatism, into a worker friendly, environmentally sustainable place to live, we would be so down for that!!


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