Brian Jean Makes a Joke

Two things happened this week that reflect very poorly on the judgment of Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and his supporters.

The first was The Joke.  The second was his apology for The Joke.

Let’s take them in turn.

The joke…

You all know the story.

Mr Jean was at a Wildrose forum in Fort McMurray.  He responded to a complaint about the lack of government support for seniors in Fort McMurray with this:

“Let’s be honest. I’ve been beating this drum for 10, 11, 12 years now, so I will continue to beat it, I promise. But it is against the law to beat Rachel Notley, so …”

The audience broke into laughter and applause and he couldn’t finish his sentence…thank god.

Mr Jean quickly apologized for his joke—many times as it turned out—but the public, which split into two camps, won’t let it rest.

One camp is horrified that the leader of the Official Opposition would make a joke about violence against women.

Stephanie McLean, ND Minister for the Status of Women said the joke was “totally unacceptable” and “out of touch” with what Albertans expect from their leaders.

PC MLA Sandra Jansen said politicians are elected to solve these issues not make light of them.  She said that in 2015-16 more than 10,000 abused women and their children ended up in shelters and 8,076 women and 8,283 children were turned away due to lack of space.

The other camp says it was just a joke, lighten up already.

A Facebook comment suggested if women wanted to be treated like men they’d have to “take it on the chin”;  bringing to mind The Honeymooners, a 1950s sitcom in which Jackie Gleason always got a laugh for waving his fist in his wife’s face and saying:  “One of these days Alice—POW. Right in the kisser!”


Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden 

Why are we so fussed by all this?


Sociologist Rose Coser says humour and laughter “are among the strongest signals of social solidarity and togetherness”.

Cultural sociologist Giselinde Kuipers says humour sets out moral and social boundaries—its pulls some people in and shuts other people out.  “He who laughs belongs,” she says, “He who doesn’t is excluded.”

And that’s why we can’t let it go.

The leader of the Official Opposition gathered his supporters to him and created a sense of “solidarity” by making a joke about beating up a woman, not just any woman but the most powerful woman in Alberta.

Those of us outside of the Wildrose circle were dismayed while those inside the circle rushed to Mr Jean’s defense and blamed the outsiders for not having a sense of humour.

If this is all about having a sense of humour then Mr Jean and his supporters should remember that the TV audience quickly tired of Jackie Gleason and his tag line “POW, right in the kisser”.  The sitcom was cancelled after one season having lost the ratings war to the crooner Perry Como.

If “POW, right in the kisser” didn’t fly in 1955 it certainly won’t fly 61 years later because no matter how you try to dress it up, jokes about beating up women are never funny.

The apology…

Mr Jean quickly apologized for the joke.

He gave Ms Notley full credit for the steps she’d taken on the seniors file saying:

“Now I have to compliment that woman and I shouldn’t have said what I said because I truly admire her for that…[it was] not necessarily in her best interest, because she could have easily just let that go as it was and blamed the previous government.  She did not, so I think Rachel Notley deserves a round of applause.”

Think about that for a moment.

In the space of five minutes Mr Jean admitted he’d made little progress on seniors’ issues in 12 years (this encompassed the entire time he was an MP in the Harper government).  He implied the Notley government wasn’t doing enough for seniors when he knew this wasn’t true* and then he flip flopped  saying he admired Rachel Notley for the way she tackled seniors issues even though it wasn’t in her best interest to do so.

To cap it off he prefaced his praise of Notley by calling her “that woman”—a phrase made famous by Bill Clinton when he denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.


Brian Jean Official Leader of the Opposition

The Joke shows Brian Jean in an unscripted moment.  He reached out to his supporters with a deeply troubling joke that would do the 1950s era Jackie Gleason proud but left the rest of us wondering what it will take to move the Wildrose Party into the 21st century.

*See for example Hansard May 25, p 1148, May 10, p 869 and May 3, p 801 where Seniors Minister Lori Sigurdson describes additional government funding to repair and replace seniors housing, add 2000 long term care beds, home modification programs to let seniors “age in place” and a pilot project providing seniors with transportation so get groceries and see their doctors.    

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22 Responses to Brian Jean Makes a Joke

  1. jvandervlugt says:

    Hi Susan. I read about Brian Jean’s comment and caught the “that woman,” too. I want to say, “and who the heck are you, that man.” I’ve heard comments such as “oh, you’re too sensitive, he didn’t mean it like that, you’re taking it way out of context.” Then if he didn’t mean it, why say it, or make the inference? His comments to me stood in the same arena as Donald Trumps when Trump made reference to the NRA supporters and Hilary Clinton.

    I admire PM Trudeau and the late Jack Layton–Liberal and NDP. Both gentlemen speak/spoke eloquently and respectfully These “other guys,” come across as loud carnival hecklers trying to get people’s attention.

    • Joanna, if Brian Jean’s comment really was as innocuous as his supporters would have us believe then why did Mr Jean apologize not one but three times for saying it. He apologized at the forum right after he made it, then again in a news release and then again in a phone call to Rachel Notley. A newspaper columnist pointed out that the only people who don’t get it at this point are Mr Jean’s supporters who insist on defending Brian Jean by retweeting the photo of Notley caught in the cross hairs of a sniper scope and saying things like “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone actually beat the wheels right off of Notley?” I don’t know who these nutbars are but with friends like that Brian Jean doesn’t need any enemies.

  2. John Clark says:

    Perhaps he was visiting his Republican Heritage; trying to keep up to Trump?
    The @WRP beginnings goes back about 15 years; perhaps 20. Original meetings were brought together by the @LDS Church in Cardston, AB.

    The LDS church has only sponsored #Republican Candidates in its history, more recently pouring millions into Romney’s campaign.

    Their program has not changed from that of the founding fathers and the WRP was built on homey lies that the church members in southern Alberta have grown up with and centers around #farmer’s discontent.

    At the heart of the political build was the outrageous lie that Alberta never drew any equalization payments from Ottawa. It is taken even further on their chats around the coal stove. As it rings; Alberta was abandoned by Canada; it is the Chase Manhattan Bank that saved us during the 30s.

    This lie is alive and well and still repeated. The trick is Alberta received a lot of cash from Ottawa but it was not called equalization payments at that time. Nevertheless they have been able to peddle this ridiculous story for years to a point it is starting to ring like its true.

    I was born and raised in LDS church and was Born in Cardston. It’s ok for me to call them out.

    Brian Gene says nothing at all without first checking with the suits.

    Their plan is to do away with equalization payment; that will pay the debt. There will be no debt in their world nor will there be any savings as savings by Government simply pulls money out of your pockets.

    Brian Jean is a decent human being. The WRP is nothing more nor less than the US Republican party in full action in Canada.

    • John, you raise a very interesting point by referring us to the myths around the equalization payments. A little while ago a reader pointed out that the Alberta government does not not write a big fat cheque to Ottawa who sends it to the poorer provinces. In fact individual Albertans, like individual New Brunswickers, pay their federal income taxes which are rolled up with all the other taxes received from Canadians across the country and then divvied up to pay for any number of things including equalization payments made to provinces which didn’t met a certain threshold to generate tax revenue. Wiki says “A wealthy citizen in New Brunswick, a so-called “have not” province, pays more into equalization than a poorer citizen in Alberta, a so-called “have” province. However, because of Alberta’s greater wealth, the citizens of Alberta as a whole are net contributors to Equalization, while the citizens of New Brunswick are net receivers of Equalization payments.” As you point out this, plus the fact that Alberta received lots of cash from Ottawa in the past when it wasn’t called an equalization payment, doesn’t fit the story the conservatives want to tell so they ignore it. Here’s the link:

  3. Jim says:

    Sad to say, in this instance Mr. Jean IS the joke….

  4. ABCanuck says:

    Call me humourless but Wildrose, and probably Wildrose-suppporter, humour such as on-line death threats, posters used as public targets and then run over by golf carts, and the reference
    to beating Premier Rachel Notley never struck me as very funny.

    In fact they struck me more like uttering threats, inciting violence, and hate speech.

    And as such, abject public apologies simply don’t cut it. The RCMP should consider laying such charges to put an end to these despicable, disgraceful, disgusting, and possibly illegal, antics.

    • ABCanuck: agreed!. You know this whole thing got out of hand when it presented Jason Kenney (of all people) with the opportunity to say “What I find troubling about comments like this is that I don’t think they’d be made about a male politician. Hopefully this is a wake-up call to everyone in politics to elevate the language and end the kind of rhetorical double standard that too often applies to women in politics, in general and to Rachel Notley in particular.” Jason Kenney is not known for using elevated language with other politicians. He’s the guy who called Thomas Lukaszuk an a**hole…and now Brian Jean’s joke allows him to take the high road.

  5. Gail says:

    I would like an opinion on Justin Trudeau when he completely lost his temper, and tried to get a man out of congress and accidentally threw an elbow into the woman standing there..a member too of course!

    • Dave Fairfield says:

      Trudeau ‘s encounter in the House of Commons was unfortunate and obviously played up by the NDP, quite understandably considering how the Liberal victory in the last election basically ended their dreams of forming a government. It has nothing to do with misogyny – he’s certainly made great strides in including women in his government. It’s interesting to see your use of “Congress” for our Canadian legislature.

      • Gail and Dave: Justin Trudeau should not have waded into the crowd of NDP MPs to pull Conservative whip Gord Brown through the crowd, however he did not intentionally elbow NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. That was an accident. Brian Jean intentionally said there was a law against beating Rachel Notley. So the difference here is that Trudeau’s transgression (elbowing Brosseau) was accidental while Jean’s transgression (implying whatever he was trying to imply about beating Notley) was intentional. I don’t see them as the same thing.

  6. I always thought Ralph Kramden was obnoxious, as is any other person who thinks violence is a joke.

  7. Linda, when I posted the picture of Ralph waving his fist in Alice’s face I thought that even though we know this is a picture of two actors and Jackie Gleason really isn’t going to punch Audrey Meadows in the face, it’s still vile. It’s 2016, I’m appalled that anyone would find the idea of a man beating a woman funny and tell us we’re being oversensitive if we don’t agree.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    This unfortunately does not surprise me. Brian Jean has always shown a predisposition for redneckism and being proud of these old values that are disgusting and have killed many women and destroyed the life of many families.
    Yes it is already 2016 and we continue to have thousands of cases of men beating women and if you are downtown a lot, like I do, you just have to take the bus or go to food courts to see psychological abuse over and over and involving very young couples.

  9. Carlos you’re right in your observation about violence against young women. The Canadian Women’s Foundation website says the rates of violence against young women aged 15 to 24 is 42% is higher than the rates for women aged 25 to 34, and nearly double the rates of women aged 35 to 44.

    The CWF says some people still don’t take violence against women seriously (it’s a joke) or think it’s a private matter but points out that attitudes can change. The CWF draws an analogy to drinking and driving which was once viewed as almost a joke but as a result of public education and advocacy is now considered unacceptable.

    Calling out Brian Jean and his supporters for making a joke about beating Rachel Notley is one way to bring about this attitudinal change. Here’s the CWF link:

  10. cyberclark says:

    Violence against woman in general increases as the economy fails and the structure of the home starts to fly apart. This has always been the case and I think will continue to be the situation. This is why it is so very important for citizens to report what they suspect is a domestic situation going on next door.

    Looking at percentage however the @native population seem to take the brunt of it. This from my experience is mixed in with their #social dependence on booze and butane. Throwing money at them isn’t going to cure it their incomes per-ca-pita I understand is much higher than the average Canadian home. Corruption is allowed to prosper where the Chief hires members of his/her family as council and create new positions if the family isn’t covered. This throws the balance of the community into the ugly life style they are obliged to renew.

    North, I think it was Little Buffalo was recently rebuilt as it was condemned because it was not fit for human habitation. It was covered om part by the media who neglected to mention that some 15 years previous exactly the same thing took place. Filth caused by throwing garbage and honey bags out the door until the mounds were so high access to the houses had to be waded into. The most previous incident if you can call it that, the clean up crew wore hazmat equipment but 15 years ago they just drove a cat though the mess and leveled it.

    We have a lot wrong in our society but I won’t pander to the natives as they are the authors for the better part of their own misfortune.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Cyberclark I understand where you are coming from with this comment, and I am not going to even attempt any discussion about it because this to me one of those issues that has to be dealt with in person, but I will make a couple of short comments. Many first nations seem to be locked in a vicious circle of drug and alcohol abuse with the known consequences of family disintegration and psychological destruction. The problem is deep and complex. On the other hand we, the pure society, are locked in political correctness, paralysis, deceit and avoidance. We are caught in the same vicious circle caused by feelings of superiority and do nothing about it even when it comes to accountability. I wonder why when we are so sure that, like you said ‘they are the authors for the better part of their own misfortune’. Maybe, just maybe we are in the same circle of incompetence and inaction as they are. Maybe deep inside, we realize that our self confidence has been taken away by the unconscious guilt caused by what we has a society forced on these people.
      Just imagine the following:
      Some country invades Canada and in order to eliminate you and your family, they take your kids away at 5 years old. They isolate them from you, ban them from speaking their native language, brainwash them to believe their culture is barbaric and physically and sometimes sexually abuse them. Who would you be today if this had happened to your family? By the way this is not something that happened in the 1500s. The last institution was closed in 1997.
      Just a thought.

      • cyberclark says:

        You are allowing yourself the comfort of a time warp of sorts. Yes what we did to a larger part of these people is horrible. It was brought about by political evolution. Firstly, the white majority thought breeding the race into oblivion was the way.

        Then misguided religion got mixed in with the politic this led to boys in one school girls in the second. The produced a generation of ACDC adults.

        I remember sitting on a hillside in Coppermine NWT talking with a young man. I asked him which church he went to. He said Anglican. I asked him if there was a special reason for this decision and he said “Yes, they have showers”

        Then the natives so called wanted self government and they got it. Because of their self Government they are exempt from much of the common law hence their ability to graft and corrupt as much as they do with the people of their tribe mired in repeats after repeats.

        I haven’t seen a government yet that will do more than clean up a town by bulldozing it into a cess-pit. The leaders on this group are given prime time TV to spout off about how the white people are picking on them but at the heart of it it is their own inability to run an honest self government. Perhaps that is something else they learned from us?

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well you did not answer my question but Ii will answer yours.
        If I was a teenager today and followed the political/social events of our society I would certainly think that we are definitely in trouble. Furthermore I would not be proud of it.

        Do you really believe that we are an example of honest government?

      • Cyberclark and Carlos This is a very complex and difficult topic to discuss in a blog, but I take Carlos’ point about our government not properly addressing the issues since from Day 1. Trudeau made some pretty big promises when he was elected. I understand that the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has a very broad mandate including looking into the policies and practices of government institutions. Perhaps something good will actually come of it.

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