The Emotional Mr Kenney

“When it comes to politics, all I can offer is emotion.”  — David Sedaris, author of numerous books including “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”

If we didn’t know any better we’d think David Sedaris was talking about Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney is campaigning hard to become Alberta’s next premier.  His stump speeches hit all the right buttons (in every sense of the word).

Take for example his Grande Prairie speech.

“Accidental government” 

Mr Kenney tells his supporters that the NDP is an “accidental government” which tripped into power by mistake, rather like the time Ms Soapbox boarded a plane to Sarnia and ended up in Sudbury (long story).

Mr Kenney says the NDP’s accidental victory was the result of two things:  Albertans didn’t bother to show up at the last election and those who did split the vote between the Wildrose and the PCs.

He’s wrong on both counts.


Mr Kenney

Voter turnout in the 2015 election was 57%, the highest in 22 years.  The NDP won 54 seats, the Wildrose took 21 and the PCs took nine.  Even combined, the WR/PC total seat count would have left the conservatives 14 seats short of a majority.

The fact is there was nothing accidental about Albertans giving the NDP a majority in 2015;  and if Mr Kenney continues with his nasty polarizing campaign Albertans may be inclined to re-elect the NDP for a second term.

The NDP is repeating the PC government’s mistakes

Mr Kenney castigates the NDP for raising taxes like Don Getty instead of reducing services like Ralph Klein.

Implicit in this statement is the promise that Mr Kenney will bring back Klein’s 10% flat tax and slash the public sector to ribbons if he wins in 2019.

This promise obscures the fact that while a 10% flat tax sounds enticing, only 7% of Albertans will get a tax cut.  The remaining 93% will continue to pay the same taxes they pay now.

Mr Kenney is spinning the same hocus pocus we heard from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—cut taxes for the rich and jobs will magically create themselves.  It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.  Cutting taxes for the rich simply dumps the pain of service cuts onto middle and lower income earners.

Alberta’s damaged economy  

Mr Kenney trots out the gloom and doom statistics—200,000 Albertans out of work, Albertans losing their homes and businesses, and god help us, we’re in a recession!—but he never puts them into context.

The impact of this recession on labour markets is milder than in past recessions (Alberta’s unemployment rate was 10% until almost 1990) and Alberta’s GDP per capita will be much higher than that of any other province ($77,000 versus $53,000).

Finally, the NDP government did not create the oil crisis, but they’re working very hard to keep the wheels on because past conservative governments failed to create an economic/fiscal structure that would carry the province through the downturns.

Alberta families are under siege

Mr Kenney implies the NDP are targeting hearth and home.  He characterizes the NDP’s education policies, particularly its support for gay-straight alliances, as undermining parental authority, and hints that the NDP will make “fundamental changes to who we are and what we value” if they’re re-elected.

Oh oh.

After raising the spectre of a socialist Big Brother he doesn’t pursue the point because, well, what more could he say without sounding like a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist?

The Alberta Dream

Mr Kenney says “Alberta is an idea.”  An idea?   Yes, if you work hard in the spirit of economic freedom, you will prosper.

You won’t need a socialist safety net to catch up you if you fall on hard times because your family, your faith community and volunteer organizations will lift you up.  Presumably if you have no family, faith community or volunteer organizations near by,  you’re toast.

Mr Kenney says “we want our province back” leaving Ms Soapbox to wonder what he intends to do if Team Orange refuses to give it back in 2019.  Will he whip up his supporters, urging them to storm the ramparts?

Of course not.

Instead of engaging in polarizing rhetoric Mr Kenney should dial back the emotion and outline exactly how he intends to eliminate the debt and bring budgets into balance while at the same time ensuring that all Albertans, not just the top 7%, are living the Alberta dream.


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25 Responses to The Emotional Mr Kenney

  1. aratureis says:

    Is it possible to share this to my Facebook page? So many people need to be reading it. Thank you for your well researched and well-considered work.

    Yvonne Spies

  2. Ed Henderson says:

    Before the last election, at least until December 14, 2014, I think the Wildrose was about to upset the PC’s and form the Government of Alberta. Instead the Wildrose, in all their dumbness, decided that the Wildrose leader and 8 other Wildrose MLA’s should follow some dumb advice from a cranky old know it all and cross over to the PC party.
    I do not think the Wildrose would have been able to get the same majority that the PC’s had enjoyed but I feel that they would have had a majority and I’m confident they could have attracted some re-elected PC MLA’s to cross over to build up their majority.
    But that went out the window when Danielle Smith panicked. I guess it’s better that she showed her true colors a few months before the election.

    • Ed you’re probably right. Jason Kenney says he’s going to carefully pre-screen all UPC candidates. He desperately wants to the kind of bozo eruption that cost Danielle Smith so much in the 2012 election. Some Wildrosers say Kenney’s pre-screening process is a violation of their right to free speech. He replied with something to the effect that there’s a difference between an individual’s right to free speech and a UPC candidate’s right to stand for election under the UPC banner. This could get interesting depending on who Kenney accepts as a candidate and who he rejects on the basis of something they said.

  3. GoinFawr says:

    “…rather like the time Ms Soapbox boarded a plane to Sarnia and ended up in Sudbury (long story).”
    Ah, Sudbury isn’t so bad, I mean, if you meant to go there, anyway.

    “Mr Kenney implies the NDP are targeting hearth and home.”

    And they are, by recognizing the simple truth that “hearth and home” don’t necessarily fit into Mr.Kenney’s narrow, Luddite, and woefully outdated paradigm; never did, really, but folk like him just try to keep forcing square pegs into round holes and feigning amazement when it doesn’t work out.

    “Finally, the NDP government did not create the oil crisis, but they’re working very hard to keep the wheels on because past conservative governments failed to create an economic/fiscal structure that would carry the province through the downturns”

    A question for Mr.Kenney and his ilk: Remind me again, which gov’t managed to (for better or worse) get the Kinder Morgan pipeline approved?

    Whenever Kenney opens his gob to start quacking it always reminds me of this quote from long ago:

    They “… said we were going to socialize everything, that the government would own the farms, the corner store, the barber-shop, and the beauty parlor, and that everybody would be working for the state. When that didn’t happen, they had to give some explanation. So the explanation was that we had betrayed our principles, we were no longer socialists and we were now reactionaries, having departed from our original ideals. In effect, we were now traitors, because we didn’t do the horrible things they promised we would. They had built up a straw man and now they were knocking it down.” – T Douglas.

    • GoinFawr: great points, especially the Tommy Douglas quote. The WR have been telling farmers and ranchers the farm safety legislation is the first step in an NDP plot to confiscate their property. That’s why the WR insisted the UCP merger agreement include a specific reference to protecting private property rights. What I find more objectionable is when disaffected NDs pick up the mantra saying Notley’s NDP betrayed their principles. They don’t realize it takes time to turn around decades of poor government…especially in Alberta.
      PS. You’re right, the little bit of Sudbury I saw from the back of the cab wasn’t bad. The cab driver took me back to the airport at no charge…and didn’t stop laughing all the way back.

      • Keith McClary says:

        Of course it’s different when corporations want to run power lines or pipelines (for export) through your farm.

      • Keith,you’ve highlighted an important point…the balance between private property rights and the public interest which is addressed (albeit not to everyone’s satisfaction) through regulatory bodies like the Surface Rights Board and the NEB, etc. This is a very important topic, one that merits a separate post.

  4. Mackenna says:

    Your excellent column should be in every newspaper in Alberta. Here is how Kenney’s trickle down philosophy panned out when he and Harper were in power.

    “Out of nine governments studied, the Harper government finished last in job creation, last in exports, seventh in government debt, second last in personal income growth per capita, in business investment, in youth employment. All indicators were measured using annual data from 1946 through 2014, as obtained from Statistics Canada and other public sources.” From Globe Debate: A new study sheds light on Stephen Harper’s economic record

    The Lougheed era architect of Alberta’s Heritage Fund doesn’t have anything good to say about the neocons who’ve practically destroyed it.

    • Thanks for the support Mackenna as well as the links. The Globe story was particularly interesting in that it admitted the study was a good one but it didn’t get much coverage in the main stream media because it was written by union economists. This reminded me of a comment Kenney made in the Grande Prairie speech. He urged the audience to read the UPC agreement for themselves and not listen to what the media is saying about it, especially not the CBC. Everyone laughed at this reference presumably because they believe the CBC is “liberal” and thus, fake news. Kenney is dragging Alberta’s conservatives into the bizarro world created by Donald Trump–all institutions are corrupt, trust no one but me. It’s not easy grappling with such bias.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        To your Trump point, these excerpts below from Jay Rosen seem relevant to campaign communications by AB’s and Canada’s RW political leaders. And of course, since Harper, they’ve all decided that politics is about constant campaigning, in power or in opposition, rather than governing. I’m not saying Kenney/Jean/Fildebrandt have gone full Trump, but they and other RW political leaders have been working from the same perspective for decades now. This became especially apparent since Harper when we saw his overt changes to how the PM dealt with media, e.g. controlling who asks questions, refusing questions, doing his own PM videos.

        Jay Rosen:

        excerpt: ‘…if the people in charge care only about the reactions of core supporters their task is all too simple: put down the liberal media. An easy win. And the one campaign promise the president seems able to keep.’

        excerpt: ‘What matters is the strength of the bond with core supporters, not the ability of the Administration to answer questions, parry doubts, or mount a convincing case for its program. This is one reason that lying has become a White House routine.’

      • Thanks for the Pressthink link Sam: I was struck by a couple of comments: the press briefings are nothing more than an unending public display of Trump’s dominance and Trump doesn’t care about broadening his appeal, he simply wants to deepen the attachment with his base. Rosen points out that the media has not yet adapted to this new reality. Rosen’s comments align with Jason Stanley’s argument about why Trump’s form of propaganda is effective in a liberal democracy. Stanley says the media and the academic class lacked the ability or the will to describe authoritarian propaganda (ie. denouncing Trump as a liar or a buffoon completely misses the point). Instead he says we need to talk “not just about the importance of honesty and accuracy, but also about power, value systems and in-groups vs. out-groups.” Stanley ends his article with the comment that this new approach “also requires us to confront the failures of elite policy that have led to an erosion of democratic norms, primarily public trust, that make anti-democratic alternatives suddenly acceptable.” Here’s the link. It’s worth a read.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        And of course, the other parallel in AB that Trump’s media strategy brings to mind, is that for Kenney/Jean/Fildebrandt, their loving media Fox News equivalent columnists/news headlines can be found the Postmedia chain newspapers. And that of course that paragon of reality, Rebel Media(Canada’s wannabe Breitbart/Infowars). It’s not yet as bad here in the Great White North, but the evidence, IMO, strongly suggests we’re sliding there.

  5. Baldwin says:

    Jason Kenney in 2009 as Minister of Immigration saw no reason for Canada to apologize to the descendants of the British home children for abuse and exploitation suffered by many of a cohort of some 100,000 child emigrants sent from England to Canada in past years. The Australian government apologized as did the British government, but according to Kenney “The issue has not been on the radar screen here….” I don’ know what screen he looked at, but it was not one the proudest moments during the career of the accidental minister.

    • RJ Pisko says:

      Right . . . so right.

      • Baldwin: That should give all Kenney supporters pause. An apology costs nothing, and yet he won’t do it because it’s not on his radar screen. Why is it that matters of human decency don’t make it on to Kenney’s radar screen?
        A friend with links to the PC caucus tells me that some of the PC MLAs who stand proudly behind their new leader aren’t quite so comfortable in private. They’re worried about policy. They known they have nothing to offer on the economic side and can’t go near the social issues without risking a bozo eruption. That leaves Kenney’s UCP with nothing to say other than “make Alberta great again” (don’t ask us how because we don’t know). When you think about it, there’s really nothing on Kenney’s radar screen except getting into power.

  6. J.E. Molnar says:

    The Jason Kenney brand vigorously promotes wedge and dog whistle politics to lure voters into submission. Spewing nothing but insidious red meat conservative orthodoxy, sprinkled with a dash of smear, Kenney invokes the politics of “on-your-own” economics and “back-to-the-future” conservatism.

    Continued demagogic dystopian rantings by Kenney will not ingratiate him with the new brand of progressive Alberta voters. You nailed it Susan when you said, “Mr. Kenney should dial back the emotion and outline exactly how he intends to eliminate the debt and bring budgets into balance…” My guess is we are unlikely to see a sensible, pragmatic plan from him anytime soon.

    • You’re right J.E. that would force Kenney to pull a rabbit out of a hat. There’s no way to reconcile his belief in free enterprise, trickle down economics, etc with the fact that Thatcher and crew have been at it since 1979 and it hasn’t worked. That’s almost 40 years of getting nowhere.
      The wedge/dog whistle politics works like a charm, doesn’t it.

    • Bob Raynard says:

      I agree, J.E. By the time the government rolls out their next budget the UCP will exist, if it is in fact going to exist. Thus it would be very reasonable to expect the official opposition to release their alternate budget. I am not holding my breath, however. Life is much safer for Jason Kenney if all he does is criticize the NDP.

  7. RJ Pisko says:

    SOTSB – you need to become a print columnist – really – Albertans – the sane ones – NEED you. You submit and publish, and you will generate SO much valuable discussion (not to mention support) that the even the right-wing media will fall all over themselves to publish you. In my mind you are blogging your way up there to Naomi Klein and Linda Quaig status as a political journalist . . . 🙂

    • Wow! Thanks RJ! I will give it a try. A few reporters at the Calgary Herald and at least one at the Sun follow me, which is interesting given how hard I’ve been on Post Media. If I get anything published I’ll give my readers a heads up so they can counteract the negative comments I’m sure to get from the conservatives (the kindest one so far is I’m a “looney lefty”, the others don’t bear repeating).

  8. jerrymacgp says:

    Ms Sopabox, fine column… again. Just one quibble: did Mr Kenney speak in Texas or Alberta? Grand Prairie, a suburb of Dallas, is in Texas; Grande Prairie, with an ‘e’ in Grande, is the city in Alberta.

  9. Jerry: See what happens when you don’t pay attention to one tiny letter? I think the woman who ended up in Sudbury instead of Sarnia should book Kenney’s next trip, don’t you?

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Two publications in this province are important reading for those that still believe in democracy – the Alberta Views and Susan on the Soapbox. I call this blog my weekly therapy because I can say what I think, which my son says is left socialism, 🙂 and I feel comfortable that those that disagree with me will be respectful and will accept a fair and open debate. Interestingly enough, in a province so well known for easily accepting cowboy capitalism, not too many people have clearly debated my horrible and catastrophic views on life, according to Jason Kenney.

    I have many times, possibly even on the rude side, stated my thoughts about this man and Brian Jean. I approve of your criticism and I think that Jason Kenney is extremely overrated in the Conservative political environment. Unfortunately, other than Peter Lougheed, I have not seen a right wing person with any solid thought behind them including Manning, the almost guru in Canadian politics. There is a simple reason for that – their ideology is full of holes that are opening as we see the results of policies that sounded revolutionary 20 years ago. Now they are so deep to their knees that to survive they have to be stubborn defending failed theories and nonsense statements like ‘we want our province back’. My goodness Jason, this province has been in the hands of your dear conservative friends for 43 years and you want it back? What a ridiculous statement. What do you exactly know about families? Please do not add your voice to the roman catholic priests that seem to know everything about families without having one. The results are clear and they are without a doubt the worst child abusers ever in the history of our society. Never mind the residential schools run by sweet nuns. So please do not get into something you have no idea what is about. Conservatives and Liberals in the last 150 years have been very clear how much they value indigenous family values. Furthermore do not panic because Rachel Notley is a Liberal and she will not bring in those awful socialist practices that have created so far some of the more advanced societies in the Western World. Yes they are not perfect, but much closer to a decent society than ours.

    Jason Kenney is a loose canon and I strongly believe he knows it. I think he also knows that all the magic theories of helping millionaires is just as empty as a dead snail shell. The issue is that he wants to be an important politician and he will do whatever it takes to get there. I will do the opposite. If any conservative reads this blog please come on in and explain to me and others what is it that Jason Kenney will bring to the province? Lets talk about it.

    By the way Alberta Views has this moth an article about Jason Kenney written by Chris Turner. If you can buy or subscribe to it. It is one of the few sane political publications in Canada and deserves to be encouraged to continue despite the difficulties they must go through to survive.

    No I have no interest in the magazine and I do not know anyone that works for them. I just read it.

    If anyone happens to know, please explain to me what are Jason Kenney’s environmental and economic plans to replace Rachel Notley’s catastrophic practices? I have not been able to find out and I would love to know.

    • Carlos, I’m glad you enjoy the weekly discussion and debate on the Soapbox. You are one of my very first followers and I enjoy receiving your comments which are always respectful even when we disagree, which admittedly isn’t that often.

      With respect to Jason Kenney’s non-existent environmental and economic policies, I can understand why he’s saying as little as possible (he certainly can’t admit we’re hooped unless oil prices rise or a gutsy government imposes a sales tax), but what fascinates me is that his supporters haven’t figured this out yet. They’ve fallen for his “restore the Alberta Advantage” and “make Alberta great again” propaganda. Propaganda is most effective when it builds on a real experience–Alberta got rich under the conservatives and is less rich under the NDP, therefore conservatives are good and New Democrats are bad and anyone who shows them facts to the contrary is a socialist.

      PS I too read Chris Turner’s piece on Kenney in Alberta Views. Very enjoyable.

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