Mr Kenney Runs Away

The last two weeks have been particularly tiring for Mr Kenney, the leader of the UCP, he spent most of it running away.

Mr Kenney hightailed it out of the Legislature, not once but six times, to avoid debating Bill 9 which would create protective bubble zones around abortion clinics to protect women from abusive protesters.  He kicked up a dust storm of excuses to explain why he’s not bound by a resolution passed by his party which would out kids who want to join gay-straight alliances at school.

Apparently social issues scare him witless.

Running away from the Legislature

It’s interesting to contrast Mr Kenney’s willingness to hide from the debate on Bill 9 bubble zones, with the determination of his caucus to stay to the bitter end on the debate on Bill 24.

The Notley government tabled Bill 24 in November 2017.  The Bill made it clear that the right of parents to pull their kids out of class if the curriculum dealt primarily with religion or human sexuality, did not extend to voluntary clubs like gay-straight alliances.  Consequently, schools were prohibited from notifying parents that their kids had joined a GSA.

The UCP did not support Bill 24.  UCP MLA Angela Pitt prefaced her comments by saying, “the United Conservative caucus does not take any piece of proposed legislation lightly.  We carefully review it, we ask questions, and we wonder if it can be improved.  We also look at each piece of legislation with an eye to determining if it has forged the right balance for Albertans of differing views.”*

The UCP vigorously debated the Bill and voted against it.  Even Mr Kenney, who was not yet sworn into office, participated in the debate by asking a colleague to read a lengthy statement into the record on his behalf.

But something changed between then and now.

This spring the Notley government tabled Bill 9, the bubble zone bill.  Mr Kenney, now a sitting MLA and the Leader of the Official Opposition, marched his caucus out of the Legislature again and again to avoid having to vote on the bill.

Contrary to Ms Pitt’s earlier statement the bubble zone bill did not trigger the Opposition’s duty to review, question and if possible improve each piece of proposed legislation; nor did it engage the Opposition’s obligation, as described by UCP MLA Prab Gill, “to defend…over 4 million [Albertans who] are depending on the decisions that are made in this House.”**

Why not?

Mr Kenney says he won’t debate legislation that’s a political ploy.

This is ludicrous.  Citizens most need a strong opposition party when the government is proposing controversial legislation.  It’s easy to nitpick issues we all agree upon (like pipelines to tidewater) it takes courage to debate issues that are contentious or controversial.

Running away from the UCP

Mr Kenney blamed his dereliction of duty as an elected representative and Leader of the Official Opposition on the NDP government playing wedge politics, but this does not explain why he rejected Resolution #30, his own party’s resolution to out kids to their parents before they’d be allowed to join a GSA.


The Lake of Fire (again!)

Mr Kenney and his apologists made the following arguments:

  • The resolution was poorly worded–and yet it was clear as a bell to the three UCP MLAs who argued it would forever tar the UCP as the Lake of Fire party if it passed. Surprise!
  • It’s the result of parental backlash–this ignores the fact GSAs are clubs, not curriculum. Parents still have the right to pull their kids out of classes primarily focused on religion or human sexuality.
  • The UCP members who voted for the resolution fell into an NDP trap–in other words 57% of the UCP delegates were too stupid or too stubborn to heed the warning of their own MLAs who said, “Stop! It’s a trap!”
  • Half the delegates left before the vote came up, so Mr Kenney isn’t bound by the resolution–there is no evidence that half the delegates left before the vote, but if they did they should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning their party when it needed them the most.
  • (This one is my personal favourite). Mr Kenney said the resolution is entirely consistent with his own position on the issue and in the next breath said he’d have voted against the resolution if given the chance. What?  If the resolution is consistent with Mr Kenney’s position he would have voted for it not against it, right?

Nowhere left to run

Mr Kenney has shown Albertans he doesn’t respect the democratic process which requires the Leader of the Official Opposition to hold the government to account by debating and voting on proposed legislation, instead of dragging them into the hall where they can count the ceiling tiles.

He’s shown UCP party members that his Grassroots Guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  When he said, “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader” what he really meant was “Guess what–I’m the leader and I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy.”

As someone astutely noted on Twitter, the signature on his Grassroots Guarantee wasn’t “Jason Kenney” but “Just Kidding”.

So, let’s pause for a moment:  If Mr Kenney is this arrogant when he needs our votes, what’s he going to be like if he actually gets them?

*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2017, p 1798

**Alberta Hansard, May 9, 2018, p 882


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26 Responses to Mr Kenney Runs Away

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I’m so confused about Jason Kenney. He is against what the government is doing, yet leaves the Legislature. Where does he stand? Also, is he a federal MP or a provincial MLA? Happy Mother’s Day to you.

    • Dwayne you absolutely nailed it! Kenney put himself in a sticky position when he rejected Resolution #30. Time will tell whether his socially conservative base is going to forgive him for it.
      Thanks for the Mother’s Day wishes. 🙂

  2. ed henderson says:

    Susan, in the last Alberta provincial election the voters appeared to have voted for people running or election under a particular banner simply because they wanted change. Change from arrogant representatives who’s sole goal appeared to be their parties welfare.
    What makes you think that voters will change their way of voting in the next Alberta election? I do not think the NDP is going to walk away with the next Alberta election like the last simply because voters are aware that they will be screwed, blued and tattooed no matter which political gets in so why not change them out again. The PC parties weak attempt to escape their past by changing their flag from PC to UCP will likely work with many voters.
    I don’t have much respect for Mr Kenny, I watch with suspicion.

    • Ed you raise an excellent point. In 2015 people were so fed up that many voted for the NDP as a protest vote against the PCs. In 2019 the NDP need to convince people to vote for them based on (1) their track record (things like the progressive tax, $25/day daycare, labour peace, etc, and (2) we can’t risk letting Kenney and the UCP form government (the NDP will point to Kenney’s free market economic model, flat tax and socially conservative policies). The key will be convincing other progressive voters that a vote for anyone but the NDP is a vote by default for the UCP because the Greens, Liberals and Alberta Party won’t get enough votes to form government, but could split the vote enough to let the UCP squeak in.
      The real underlying concern for me is that people are becoming so disengaged, being inundated with Trump news 24/7 doesn’t help, that they won’t vote at all.

  3. J.E. Molnar says:

    Jason Kenney said he’d let the grassroots decide UCP policy under his boastful “Grassroots Guarantee, but reneges. He said he’d release all his financials and donors surrounding his PC leadership run, but we’re still waiting. He said he was against outing gay kids, but his party votes against measures to protect them. He said he believes in decorum in the legislature, but leads disruptive walkouts over Bill 9. He said Alberta should reign in operating spending and cut the amount of money spent on each Albertan to match levels in British Columbia (which would amount to a 20% cut to public services), then denies ever saying it.

    Jason Kenney is prone to say a lot of things, but consistently does the opposite or denies ever saying them. Until his tongue is notarized — Albertans are wise not to believe a single word he says.

    • J.E. this is why Kenney is not as good a politician as Harper was. Harper had enough sense not to paint himself into a corner whereas Kenney says all sorts of things which get him into trouble. He recently said the reason why his Grassroots Guarantee disappeared off the internet was because his system was being upgraded and it was an IT glitch. Anyone with even a speck of knowledge about IT knows that a “Page not found” message means it’s been removed, not glitched away, but let’s assume for argument’s sake this is true, then one would expect Kenney’s IT guy to repost it once the glitch had been fixed, and yet here we are a week later and it’s still gone. The stupidity of removing the page in the first place is that Kenney gave countless interviews to the media touting the Grassroots Guarantee, confirming that he’d be “essentially” bound by what the grassroots said. If his supporters let him get away with this they’re as dumb as the Trumpite who knew Trump as going to deport Mexicans but didn’t think he meant her own spouse.

  4. David says:

    Among his political talents, Mr. Kenney seems to have an uncanny knack of disappearing and waiting for the dust to settle when anything politically uncomfortable for him becomes a major news story. For the most part it has worked fairly well for him so far until now, he just waits a few days until something else happens in the news and quietly reappears after that and thus avoids pressing and awkward questions from reporters. His excuses have varied, often he has been out campaigning, sometimes out of the province and on occasion just taking a break from campaigning. They are all worded to try give the impression the unavailability was planned well in advance and not that he is hiding out.

    Of course when Mr. Kenney has something he wants to say or an issue arises that he feels will benefit him, he seems relatively available and willing to speak. Mr. Kenney is somewhat Janus like in personality. On the one hand quite a recluse at times and at other times somewhat of an extrovert. I would imagine it must drive some in the media crazy, but they have been fairly silent in their criticism of him, perhaps wanting to preserve their limited access to him. It was a strategy that also worked well for Harper, although the media seemed to be much more vocal and critical of him when he did it. Perhaps the Ottawa media is less willing to put up with this sort of thing than in Alberta, where some past Premiers seemed to make it a full time job to control and manipulate the media for their own benefit, sometimes fairly successfully. Perhaps we still have vestiges of being a one party state, where the media is cautious about what it says about certain politicians.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Kenney could not run and hide during the UCP convention, although he did seem to try and be less visible when the controversial policies were adopted and seemed to fight that battle mostly through his lieutenants. However, it did not end well this time, with Mr. Kenney tying himself up in knots trying to say the policies were not what they seemed and if they were he would not implement them despite his “grassroots guarantee”, even if he might have sort of supported them, but maybe not really. For someone who has often been so strident in his social conservative positions, it must have been a fairly awkward moment for him. It certainly left many who thought they knew where Kenney stood (both supporters and opponents) were wondering where the heck does he stand.

    I doubt Mr. Kenney’s positions or ideas have changed much, but he has probably realized can not sell some unpopular policies to the voters, so if he can’t hide, the next best thing might be to equivocate and try to forget about that “grassroots guarantee”, it served its purpose for him in the past, but now it is no longer needed.

    • David, I think two things happened at the UCP policy convention that Kenney didn’t anticipate. The success of Resolution #30 demonstrates that Kenney’s populist screed went over a little too well with the social conservatives who now believe Kenney will defund abortions and make life miserable for the LBGTQ community and other vulnerable groups. This in turn alarmed the moderate (progressive) conservatives who want Kenney to lower taxes and focus on the economy but leave social issues alone. Kenney is in a real bind here. It doesn’t matter which way he goes he’s going to tick off one of the two voter blocs he needs to get elected. I expect he’ll become even more extreme as he keeps dropping in the polls–in the dying days of the federal Conservative campaign Kenney and Harper went all out on the niqab ban and other divisive tactics to scare Canadians into voting for them. I suspect we’ll see a replay of that here but framed in Red Scare language.
      Just what we need eh, more polarizing politicians.

  5. Patricia Gray says:

    This is classic Harperism. Do not engage, do not engage, hide your intent and then govern by fiat.
    Elvis really has not left the building.

    • Patricia, your comment “hide your intent” really struck home. Today’s Globe and Mail has a story captioned “Steven Harper finally lets his sharp conservatism fly”. It reported that Harper is now the chairman of the International Democratic Union, “an organization of centre-right parties” from around the globe. Hungary is a member which seems fitting given Harper’s praise for Viktor Orban when Orban was re-elected (Orban is famous for touting the ideal of an illiberal democracy). I suspect Kenney isn’t much different than Harper in his conservative values.
      I asked my daughter why young people are becoming more supportive of an authoritarian government. She said it’s because they’re under the misguided belief that the dictator will do what they want him to do to others, not what someone else wants him to do to them.

  6. Bob Raynard says:

    Another great column, Susan. I always look forward to Sunday evenings to see what you have to say.

    Although I believe all of your criticisms are valid, I think an unfortunate consequence of listing all of them tends to dilute the one that is by far the most egregious: Kenney’s flip flop on his Grassroots Guarantee.

    When pressed, all politicians are prone to tell an audience what they want to hear, even if they would rather not say it; J. E. Molnar’s timely reminder of Kenney’s promising to reveal the names of his donors is an example of that. The Grassroots Guarantee, however, was one of the founding principles of the UCP. Jason Kenney was not pressed into saying it in the pressure of the moment; he set out, on his own initiative, to promote the idea. He was not under any pressure when he had the plastic sign with the grassroots pledge printed; he was not under any pressure when he choose to name his website ‘Grassroots’.* These are promises he made voluntarily, and pushed them hard enough to get people to support him. The Grassroots Guarantee is one of the pillars of his vision of the new party. It is right up there with scrapping the carbon tax. If Jason Kenney can turn his back on his Grassroots Guarantee in the blink of an eye, I really can’t see that anything would be sacred to him.

    I am far from a social conservative, but I can’t help but sympathize with them. It must feel like a real betrayal to give such unconditional support to the man that promises that their ideals will be respected, only to have them so blatantly rejected. I do wonder, in his heart, how stupid Kenney thinks his supporters are.

    *It came down a week ago allegedly because of some IT issue. How slow are his IT people?

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Bob you are absolutely right about this ‘Grassroots Guarantee’ and Susan actually talks about it as well.
      Only people that really want to dream in Technicolor could believe Jason Kenney. Those in the party that took it as a serious guarantee should really take some time to admit their naiveté. Seriously? Jason Kenney is a bully and he would allow them to have a voice?
      Well I have news for them – If you fell for this garbage you should evaluate very critically your abilities to be in politics. My Boston Terrier would not fall for this guy.

      • Bob Raynard says:

        Yes, the process has given me a new wording for an old phrase: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…oh you must be Jason Kenney.

      • Bob…do you think it would help if we introduced these UCP members to Carlos’s Boston Terrier. 🙂

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Oh my God Susan I just about lost it when I read your message.
        I know I offended some people but you know what? I am tired of being offended by UCP people.

      • carlosbeca says:

        By the way I lost it laughing – believe me, my dear Lucy could smell this guy’s lies at a distance.

    • carlosbeca says:

      Well I forgot to say that to Jason Kenney his supporters are just that – supporters that will obey and do whatever he ‘The Leader’ thinks is right. Anything other than this is just pie in the sky and they should know it.

      Just look at some of the things that Harper, his mentor, has said lately – He has congratulated the closest to a dictator as far as politicians go in Europe – Viktor Orban.
      Just read some of the stuff this man has done in Hungary and you wonder was is it that makes Harper so excited? – POWER and abuse of it – that is what is all about and he has the courage to say that he left the government because he did not want to amass more power. MY GOODNESS – he left because no one wanted him and he was a joke as a prime minister. After 9 years of garbage he left a 1.5 billion surplus and even that is arguable. So much for his economic skills. Jean Chretien run 10 surpluses and 2 of them 10 billion dollars.

      • Carlos, I really hope Canadians and Albertans in particular are watching Harper now. He’s foreshadowing what our world will look like if the Conservative Movement gains momentum here.

      • carlosbeca says:

        You got that excellently right – He had a hidden agenda and we know now how democratic this guy is. He is also a liar just like his ultra lunatic conservative gang.

  7. Bob and Carlos, you’re absolutely right that Kenney reneging on his Grassroots Guarantee is the most serious thing to emerge from the UCP policy convention. It was supposed to be Kenney’s showpiece event demonstrating how successfully he united the PCs and the WR. Instead it proved that Kenney is not a man of his word.
    Here’s the press release for the Grassroots Guarantee as originally published on Kenney’s website. It’s hilarious.
    Grassroots Policy Guarantee
    August 01, 2017
    A little over a year ago I launched our unity campaign by signing a Grassroots Guarantee, stating that “A new united party will only be created if approved by a clear majority of grassroots party members in a fair and open referendum.”
    Ten days ago we held that referendum, with 95% of both PC and Wildrose members voting to create Alberta’s new United Conservative Party.

    Promise made. Promise kept.

    Today I signed a new Grassroots Guarantee – that “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader.”

    We must develop policy the same way that we created the new party – democratically, with the grassroots members in charge. We must get the democratic horse in front of the policy cart.
    Our conservative coalition fractured in recent years partly because Leaders began telling people what to think, rather than listening to them. We must not repeat that mistake. We’ve had enough arrogant, top-down leadership. We need servant leadership that empowers grassroots Albertans, instead of dictating our new party’s policies to them.

    I have clear, consistent convictions, and a proven track record of implementing conservative policy reforms. I don’t flinch when I’m under attack. I will continue to answer policy questions with my own views on the whole range of issues, just as I’ve done at over 700 events in the past year, and in hundreds of interviews. And I will certainly offer my thoughts on key issues – like repealing the carbon tax, balancing the budget, and defending school choice. But I believe it is a mistake to run a Presidential-style leadership campaign with a detailed policy platform before our members can even be consulted.

    I also believe it is imprudent for leadership candidates to start making certain specific commitments for an election two years from now. For example, I obviously want a UCP government to balance the budget and cut taxes, but we have no idea how bad the deficit and debt will be under this NDP government two years from now. As a former Minister of the two largest government departments in Canada, I know from experience that we cannot credibly commit to specific budget plans for the year 2020 right now. To pretend otherwise is to put political gimmicks ahead of sober decision-making. Albertans will see through that approach.
    Hilariously, the pundits and critics are attacking our new party for not having comprehensive policies, even though we are barely a week old. These are the same folks who have taken shots at the unity movement since day one. But we were right to pursue unity in a deliberate, democratic fashion. And we should develop our policies in exactly the same way, based on the fourteen founding principles of the UCP, which reflect the values and aspirations of the vast majority of Albertans.

    A year ago, I laid out our Five Point Unity Plan. In it, I proposed holding our founding policy convention before the leadership election. That’s because I wanted to empower the membership to set the policy direction and develop our constitution, rather than leadership candidates. Unfortunately, at the end of the Unity Agreement negotiations, I had to concede to demands to elect a Leader before members could be consulted on policy or the party constitution.
    So today I am proposing a Five Point Plan for Grassroots Policy. If I am elected Leader, I will work collaboratively with the UCP Policy Committee, the Interim Board, and the Caucus, to:
    1. Organize regional policy workshops, inviting all members to participate in open, informed debate to generate ideas for local policy resolutions.
    2. Encourage constituency associations to hold local policy meetings, where grassroots resolutions can be proposed and voted on.
    3. Allow all members to comment on and rank preferred resolutions, using a secure online platform.
    4. Debate, amendment, and adoption of resolutions at the founding UCP Convention to form a Policy Declaration.
    5. Appoint a Platform Committee made up of UCP members and MLAs to consult Albertans of all backgrounds and refine the Founding Principles and Policy Declaration into an election platform.

    At the end of this process, we will present Albertans with a well-thought out, detailed, positive vision for the future of Alberta that is informed by extensive input from our grassroots members, and regular Albertans. It will be a blueprint for renewing the Alberta Advantage, pointing the way to an opportunity society that is animated by a conservatism of the heart.

    If this new party is to succeed, we need a lot less “I” and “me”, and a lot more “us” and “we.” It’s time to park the egos, and that begins with putting the members first on policy development.

    • carlosbeca says:

      This is typical Jason Kenney and it does not surprise me at all. What is amazing is that people really fall for this garbage.
      Furthermore these are people that profess to be religious and Christians and are so darn concern about Hijabs and whatever else. They lie as if there is no morals or ethics in the Christian tradition. I am not religious at all but I just feel embarrassed for those who are.
      Not telling the truth is not only immoral but it is disgraceful and it should be the beginning of the end for anyone who uses it as a matter of fact.
      We as citizens have the obligation of keeping our society civilized, ethical, moral and decent so that everyone can flourish.
      Anyone that thinks that Jason Kenney is going to bring that about is just dreaming.

      • Carlos, you’ve raised many good points, I particularly like your last comment that we as citizens have an obligation to ensure our society is civilized, ethical, moral and decent so we all can flourish.
        I heard the CBC interview with James Comey, and while we have issues with Comey’s decision to raise Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the election, Comey said some things that resonated with me. He said ethical leadership is founded on truth and we’re so overwhelmed by lies there’s a risk we’ll stop measuring our leaders by how far they stray from the truth. He gave two examples: George Bush lied when he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Obama lied when he said people could keep their doctors under Obama care. Comey said politicians utter lies and then spend the rest of their tenure trying to explain how they lost their connection to the truth. The exception to this is Trump who lies all the time and isn’t the least bit troubled by it.
        So this brings me back to Kenney. Kenney disavowed his Grassroots Promise, going so far as to remove it from the internet, then he made (another) “bad Trudeau” comment which distracted both his supporters and his critics from the fact he broke his promise. The supporters are glad he’s attacking Trudeau and his critics are mad he’s attacking Trudeau and no one is talking about him breaking his promise anymore.
        Kenney has learned that Trump-lesson very well.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    I loved Jason Kenney saying yesterday that Justin Trudeau does not have a clue of what he is talking about. It is always a snuggly feeling when they love each other with such meaningful words.

    Jason Kenney has certain subjects he refuses to talk about or discuss and he walks away because of course the opponents cannot possibly understand these issues at his level.

    I wonder what he has to say about this one in face of his no-regulation, no-worries about the environment, god will take care of us type attitude.

    I know some of you do not like this article but I suggest you take the time to read it because so far no political party or leader in this province oil history has said a word about this. With 1.3 trillion liters of very toxic waste we think we still should donate a few billion more to the oil companies for a few more jobs for a decade or two and to witness our current and future leaders let them go with the profits and like the writer suggests in the last paragraph – ‘….let us do the dishes’

    Every Albertan should be taken to a tailing pond before voting age because nothing else works.
    Furthermore get Kevin Taft’s book ‘Deep State’ – that will give you a good perspective of what all this oil business really is and what the final outcome is going to be.

  9. Harce says:

    Jason Kenney spoke to average Albertans this week when he said that Trudeau is a trust fund baby who’s out of touch with society. I agree with him and it makes me want to support him all the more. It’s refreshing to have politicians not constrained by so called political correctness who will tell it how it is.

    I’m looking forward to a good 10 years of balanced budgets, tax cuts, abolition of the carbon tax, and a return to the Alberta Advantage under Jason Kenney!

    • Harce, Kenney’s comment did nothing to strengthen Alberta’s relationship with the federal government; rather reckless considering Alberta needs the feds now more than ever to help get Trans Mountain built. However, as you point out Kenney’s rude and unnecessary comment resonated with his base and as such diverted attention away from Kenney reneging on his Grassroots Promise and his role as servant-leader.

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