Running on Half a Platform

Can we stop campaigning on half a platform?    

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney are united in one thing—the conviction that they must free Alberta from the “socialists” and return it to its position of unparalleled greatness where it will once again become “the shining beacon of hope” to Canada if not the entire world.

Their plan to “Make Alberta Great Again” consists of ripping up all the government’s policies.

Their vision for the future is neoliberalism…or their half-baked version of Fredrick Hayek’s philosophy that entrepreneurs, free of government oversight, will create wealth that will trickle down to everyone.

Like Margaret Thatcher they believe social issues are irrelevant.

Social issues

A political leader cannot claim he’ll make Alberta the “shining beacon of hope” if he’s not willing to set out the social side of his political agenda or worse, allows his supporters to do it for him so he can disavow it later if the public doesn’t like what it’s heard.


Brian Jean Wildrose Party Leader

Based on comments from the Wildrose, notably Derek Fildebrant, Albertans understand that the Wildrose considers social issues “stale” and not worthy of falling within the top 100 things the party needs to worry about.

The leader of the Free Enterprise Party is less forthright but NDP MLA Marie Renaud and blogger Mike Morrison (among others) are pressing Kenney to express his position on social issues.

When Renaud asked Kenney to state his position on abortion he said two things: (1) such questions were simply an NDP effort to distract people with “hot-button social issues” (ie. irrelevant) and (2) he valued human life.  Interestingly Kenney failed to mention that as a federal MP he supported a motion to set up a parliamentary committee to study when human life begins and thus re-open the debate on abortion.

Kenney didn’t respond to Morrison’s invitation to join him at the Pride Parade and answer questions about students’ rights to access gay-straight alliances and all-gender washrooms but Kenney’s position on LBGTQ issues is crystal clear.


Jason Kenney Free Enterprise Party Leader

In June 2005 Kenney presented a passionate argument against the Liberal government’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

He said “through all recorded human history, in every civilization, in every culture, in every religious tradition, in every secular tradition, in every legal and political tradition, marriage has been understood universally and without exception to mean a committed lifetime sanctified relationship between a man and a woman.”

He took a moment to add that “the ontological meaning of marriage as a heterosexual union, which is by its nature therefore open to the transmission of life and culture” did not unjustly discriminate against those who seek “recognition for unions in non-traditional relationships”.  (Presumably those who sought such “recognition” should simply disregard the fact he was voting against their right to do so).

The proxy question

The questions asked by Marie Renaud and Mike Morrison matter because in addition to eliciting a politician’s position on a specific issue (a woman’s right to choose or LBGTQ rights), they’re proxy questions for social issues in general.

A politician’s response to such questions is a good indicator of how he will prioritize issues and allocate scarce resources with respect to income inequality, homelessness, poverty reduction, domestic violence and support for the vulnerable and less fortunate.

A politician who refuses to answer such questions or dismisses them as “stale” or “irrelevant” is campaigning on half a platform and lacks the humanity and the humility to govern.

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24 Responses to Running on Half a Platform

  1. I get so annoyed with politicians. They all are very careful to say what people want to hear, even if it is a ridiculous statement or even against what they are planning to do if elected, or they give half an answer, even though they know the whole truth. The whole campaigning portion of any election is a stage show.

    • I agree Linda, campaigning has turned into a reality TV show. Heavy on slogans and scandals and light on thoughtful dialogue and debate. I just read an interview with Stephen Carter, a political strategist. He said Canadian politics will go the same way as US politics, nasty and toxic. He gave the example of Jason Kenney saying the NDP are responsible for the recession and said Kenney knows this isn’t true but “he’s found an audience of people who are furious” and who are prepared to believe it. That’s what got Trump elected. Doesn’t bode well.

  2. Robin Wortman says:

    In 1974 the Syncrude Agreement between Imperial Oil, Alberta Energy Company (Alberta taxpayers), Petro-Canada (Canadian taxpayers), and Ontario Development Corporation (Ontario taxpayers) included provision for native (the acceptable term at the time) participation in the project and an upgrader so that high paying jobs would remain in Alberta rather than simply exporting bitumen. Premier Peter Lougheed understood the importance of including social provisions for province building rather than simply leaving industry, e.g. Enbridge Northern Gateway, to fend for themselves in a dynamic and sophisticated public environment. Industry’s interests, particularly if foreign-owned do not equate to Alberta’s interests, if so, the province wouldn’t be in a debt and deficit situation today. The Notley Government is more like the Peter Lougheed government of 1971 to 1984 than the current PC Party or Wildrose Party even pretend to be; it’s not in their political DNA. Hon. Sandra Jansen has shown progressive-minded Albertans where their new political home is now, if we want to build a better Alberta for the people who live here instead of the majority of shareholders who live outside Alberta.

    • ABCanuck says:

      Very, very well said Robin!
      I personally believe Notley is the best premier Albertans have had since Lougheed – by far.

    • GoinFawr says:

      Great comment Robin.
      Yes this whole ‘you’re against business if you expect your elected representatives to fulfill the mandates given them by their constituents over the interests of foreign investors’ meme is starting to wear very thin indeed. Regional gov’ts looking to protect the interests of those living in the region under their jurisdiction is not somehow ‘anti-trade protectionist’; it’s their job. And the same holds for municipal and federal levels of gov’t.

      Kenney’s backers are just desperate for Alberta to get back to the wholesale stripping of Alberta’s children’s birthrights.

  3. Jeff says:

    Ripping up all of governments policies. Lol if that’s your fear,isn’t that what the NDP are doing right now. Crying about what past governments have done and pointing fingers is a poor excuse example by a government today not only guilty of the exact same things they accuse others of, but taking it to the extreme and putting millions of people at risk along the way. The trump wave and theory will receive invigorate common sense in economics and investment and motley and Trudeau will part out Canadians like a junk car.

    • Jeff: it’s hard to tell exactly what the Trump theory is, but it appears to be “business can run government better than government”. That didn’t work when Thatcher, Reagan and Klein tried it. Time will tell whether Trump fares any better.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    Jason Kenney cannot answer questions related to our society because just like his mentor Margaret Thatcher, society does not exist. Individuals have to be the fittest to survive and the markets do the necessary adjustments. This is their main belief and you are either with them or against them. He will bully you out of this competition if you are against him. That is precisely what he is doing right now and it is quite possible that he will soon be the PC leader. He bullied Sandra Janzen out of the party and he is not done yet.
    Sandra Janzen, again clearly displayed the lack of democratic understanding of our political class. If she can not stay in the PC she should have resigned and run for the NDP. Her constituents did not vote for her as an NDP representative. In my opinion crossing the floor should be illegal.

    • Carlos, I understand your point about floor crossing, but unless it’s declared illegal politicians will continue to do it. What’s really funny is how hypocritical politicians are about it.
      Kenney criticized Jansen for crossing, conveniently ignoring the fact that he and Harper welcomed Liberal MP Wajid Khan with open arms.
      Kenney wants to merge with the Wildrose who are the most notorious floor-crossers of all. They only had one MLA, Paul Hinman, when they were first elected. He was joined by floor-crossers Heather Forsythe (PC), Rob Anderson (PC) and Guy Boutiler (Independent); Guy was bounced out of the PCs by Stelmach. After the election that made Prentice premier 2 WR MLAs crossed to join his caucus and then 8 more including Danielle Smith crossed a week later. Rob Anderson has the “dubious honor” of crossing twice, once from the PCs to the WR and then back again.
      No wonder the voters are ticked off. It’s like a game of musical chairs.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I understand what you are saying and my criticism is to them all. They all do it but they should not have the right to. Democracy is like chess, easy to understand but difficult to master. Banning crossing the floor along with the voting system should be first things to change as fast as possible.

      • Carlos, I like your comment that “democracy is like chess”. Sometimes it feels more like mud wrestling. 🙂

      • jerrymacgp says:

        You know, there is some validity to the argument that in our system of government, we elect people, not parties. As one item of evidence: ballots are printed with candidates’ names in larger type than their party affiliation; also, floor-crossing has a long and fascinating history in Westminster-type Parliaments & legislatures (remember, Churchill did it twice). It also serves as a democratic safety valve against monolithic and autocratic party discipline, as well as against parties that go off in directions legislators can’t support.

        As for marriage rights, this idea that only couples that are “open to the transmission of life…” should be allowed to get married, is illogical on its face. Would Mr Kenney then advocate barring infertile couples or post-menopausal women from marrying? They are after all not “open to the transmission of life…”, and yet while such is a logical conclusion from his argument, I don’t think anyone would consider that reasonable.

        It’s also rich that someone who has never been married, thinks he should be able to set rules for marriage. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t play the game, you can’t make the rules”. (This is not a shot against his life choice not to marry, just that he is not in a position to legislate on the matter).

      • I agree jerrymacgp. Another argument I’ve heard against same-sex marriage is that it threatens the sanctity of traditional marriage. For the life of me I fail to see how same-sex marriage has any impact whatsoever on the rightness, goodness and purity of traditional marriage, but there you have it. Kenney and his supporters don’t like it so it’s off the table for everyone else.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        🙂 Susan – mud wrestling is cleaner.

  5. Gary Beaton says:

    This would be the same Mike Morrison who made a fool of himself at City Hall earlier this year when he confronted a community group opposed to an extravagant bus rapid transit infrastructure project? It is to Jason Kenny’s credit that he did not want to have anything to do with him.

    • gaucoin13 says:

      Why would speaking up and asking questions make him a fool, Gary? The ‘Ready to Engage’ crowd are a bunch of cranky grey-hairs and they spent most of their time shouting at Mike while he asked them why their against public transit, a basic right and necessity in a huge city. Kenney is afraid of Mike because he’s a gay man, there’s no other reason.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Kenney is afraid of any democratic process. This man does not understand anything related to fair play. He bullies himself through anyone and anything and we as a society wait for him to be done and applaud.
        Finally he was awarded a $5000 dollar fee but that is not enough. Democracy is way more important than that and he should have received at least a 50 thousand fee. When it hurts then he will be forced to behave like a normal human being. These people do not understand anything but force and that is the way they behave and that is the way we should keep them to obey the law. The more we talk about it the easier it will be to get these people to follow the rules.
        I do not know what happened at City Hall but this comment is related to Jason Kenney’s regular behaviour, which is disgraceful most of the times. Gary I am not sure why you so quickly disapprove of Mike’s protest but not of the permanent Jason Kenney bully show
        Please lets use common sense and not just blind ideological approval.

  6. Gary, I too don’t see what the City Hall episode has to do with this issue.
    Mike Morrison deserves a lot of credit for highlighting Kenney’s refusal to discuss LBGTQ issues. Mike’s open letter was respectful and humorous while at the same time asking questions intended to get Kenney to put his position on the record. Kenney ignored the letter. We can draw our own conclusions.

    • Good article Carlos. Trudeau said the original promise of the growth agenda was that everyone would share in the prosperity it creates, but that hasn’t happened. The big question is what is he (and other political leaders) going to do to fix it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes and it seems that just like Obama, Justin Trudeau is not the one capable of changing course.
        I suspect he will not do much. In the last little while he ha shown clearly that the sunny ways, although well rehearsed, was just a promise. I hope I am wrong.

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