Jason Kenney: When a Dog Whistler Loses Control of the Dogs

Ever wonder what happens when a dog whistler loses control of the dogs?*

Jason Kenney is beginning to discover that his supporters are way ahead of him on his “conservative values” ideology and it’s going to be hard to rein them in because once the hounds get out, good luck trying to get them back.

Dog Whistle #1: Conservative values trump human rights and dignity

At the recent UCP policy convention, 57% of the members voted in favour of a resolution requiring schools to out gay kids. This result is hardly surprising given Kenney’s “traditional family values” message but it caused considerable consternation for moderate conservatives and went beyond the pale for progressives.

Kenney responded to the blowback in a manner befitting a mature politician–he hurled insults at Justin Trudeau.  When he was criticized for the ad hominem attack (which was incredibly insulting even by Kenney’s low standards) he grudgingly apologized.

Then he tried a different tactic, implying the resolution may have been an aberration because “when you open up a process like we did, there’s always going to be a risk that there’s some things that are passed that are contentious.”

Indeed.  The UCP process required 50% to 85% support for a proposal before it was formalized into a resolution deemed fit for debate.  The risk wasn’t that a contentious resolution would be passed but that it would be proposed and thereby define who the UCP really are.

The resolution was proposed, it passed with a majority and defined the UCP at the Lake of Fire party 2.0.

Kenney tried to close the door on the issue by stating he’s the boss, he holds the pen, and the resolution would form part of the UCP policy platform (or not) only if he says so.


Dog whistle politics

But his supporters wouldn’t let it go.

Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education appeared on Rebel TV to defend the resolution.  Trimble blamed the mainstream media for getting it wrong, arguing that the resolution says nothing about gay kids or GSAs and simply reaffirms opt-out provisions “that have been long standing in Alberta.” This begs the question:  if the resolution is simply a reaffirmation of long standing practice, why did the UCP propose it in the first place.

Incidentally, we’re still waiting for Kenney’s pack to defend the UCP resolution prohibiting “invasive medical procedures” (read: vaccinations and abortion) on minors without parental consent.  It passed with 76% support.

Dog Whistle #2:  All non-conservative politicians are idiots  

Kenney is desperate to look like a politician who “goes high when they go low”, but his supporters know he doesn’t mean it.  This forces him into awkward corners as he struggles to maintain a statesman-like image.

Kenney owes much to an organization called Alberta Can’t Wait.  ACW is a coalition of five organizations dedicated to uniting Alberta conservatives into one party and defeating the NDP in 2019.   ACW supports Kenney and Kenney supports ACW, describing it as “very smart people who have their finger on the pulse of Alberta” and “a voice for united conservatives and free enterprisers”.

Recently ACW raised its “united conservative voice” by tweeting this about the NDP: “In Canadian history there has never been a less qualified cohort of legislators.  It is no disgrace to be a teacher, social worker, laborer or student.  But these are not the occupations from which capable #abpoli leaders generally emerge.”  The tweet referenced a Financial Post article that appeared after the NDP was elected in 2015.

Kenney tried to blunt the elitist tone of the ACW tweet by tweeting:  “I disagree.  Whatever happened to the concept of “citizen legislator?”  I for one would rather have a Legislature full of farmers, teachers, “labourers,” small business people et al than one filled with those deemed “qualified” eg lawyers and political scientists.”

Kenney buttressed his defence of the little people by adding “One of the most effective ministers in the NDP Government (by widespread acclaim) is Brian Mason, who I understand used to be a bus driver.  That’s a job where you’re responsible for other people’s lives, have to be conscientious, disciplined, handle pressure well, etc.”

Kenney sounded ridiculous, but that’s what happens when you try to pretend you’re Peter Lougheed while at the same time trash talking the government.

Dog Whistle Politics

Dog whistle politics are divisive because they send a subtle message to a specific subgroup.  “Traditional family values” is code for “no gays” and “no abortions”.  This code became transparent to everyone when the UCP passed resolutions effectively blocking GSAs in schools and abortions.

Now Kenney has a problem.  He may be able to soft soap his way around supporters who lash out at the NDP government by declaring Brian Mason was a conscientious bus driver, but he won’t be able to gloss over social issues that matter to his base but scare the moderates.

Kenney released the hounds; now we’ll see whether he can stop them from tearing the UCP apart.

*Before anyone blows a gasket, Ms Soapbox is speaking metaphorically, the terms “dog whistler”, “dogs” and “hounds” are figures of speech, they’re not meant to be taken literally.

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30 Responses to Jason Kenney: When a Dog Whistler Loses Control of the Dogs

  1. “This pipeline is the single most important economic opportunity that Canada will have in the foreseeable future,” said Jason Kenney, the leader of Alberta’s conservative party.

    Kenney – like most of these CPC skinhead-backed Puedo-Cons – doesn’t have a CLUE what the concept of “economics” is. And, like most Puedo-Cons, simply uses the word as a fear tactic – a club to beat votes out of the bushes. [image: Image may contain: one or more people] Like Show more reactions Comment Share Comments [image: RJ Pisko] Write a comment…

    Just so you know I like your stuff, Susan . . .

    • RockyMountain, thank you for the Kenney quote. If Kenney truly believes the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline is “the single most economic opportunity” in Canada, then he should have absolutely no problem if the feds and/or Alberta government announce they’re buying some or all of Kinder Morgan Canada which was formed specifically for the purpose of building and running TMX. Let’s see if he can bring himself to praise the federal Liberals and the Alberta NDP for “saving” TMX.

  2. Derek Coke-Kerr says:

    Perhaps the most important post so far by @Susanonthesoapbox

    Evicerates the delusional, dishonest and lies of the @kenney spokespersons.

    Derek Coke-Kerr Find me on LinkedIn http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/derek-coke-kerr/6/389/859 17022 67 Ave. Edmonton AB T5T 1Y8 Cell (24/7): 780 441 5040 Calgary Apt: 403 244 9684 Home (Edmonton) 780 481 3821

    LEGAL NOTICE: The information contained in this email (including any attachments) is: (a) confidential, proprietary and subject to copyright, all such rights being reserved and not waived, and (b) intended only for the use of the named recipient(s). If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by return email or telephone and delete all copies of the original message. If you are not an intended recipient, you are advised that copying, forwarding or other distribution of this email is prohibited. Thank you.


    • Thanks Derek. I agree with your assessment of the UCP’s communication strategy, although describing their
      “NDP =bad/UCP = good” rhetoric a “strategy” is likely an overstatement.

  3. ed henderson says:

    Quote..””At the recent UCP policy convention, 57% of the members voted in favour of a resolution requiring schools to out gay kids. “”
    Susan..I am 75 yrs old.. My wife and I have raised two very intelligent males, both now in their mid 40’s. We have wonderful almost daily interaction with both of them and their families. When they started school back in the 70’s I was working full time at a very good job but it was shift work so in their first few school years I admit we followed a path of ease in that school was school and home was home. As a result about 2 months into my younger sons 3rd year it came as a shock to learn that his teachers regarded him as having learning problems. We found out accidentally.
    To hurry the story up, my wife and I took immediate action and as a result learned that he had exceptional learning abilities. He did not change schools but did change teachers and within 4 or 5 months was at a level above his fellow students. He graduated High School at the top of his class and went on to University. Had we not acted quickly it is quite likely he would have been a below average student for all his schooling because one semi competent teacher had decided he was and slotted him into that role.
    I do not trust Teachers and I do not believe any teacher should encourage any student to withhold information from that students parents. We had regular contact with all of our children’s teachers and I can assure you that if you have children going to school the majority of teachers teaching them are not exceptionally intelligent. Of the dozens of teachers who taught our children there were maybe 5 or 6 who were above being competent teachers. A parent needs to meet all of their child’s teachers, not just the home room teacher.
    The best I can give teachers on this issue is that if they have a gay student or one who believes they are gay they should encourage the student to talk to their parents…if the student is afraid to do that, then several teachers should work with that student to find out why. Sometimes I’m sure there will be valid reasons.
    But if I walked into the school to discuss my child’s performance with his teacher and that teacher withheld info that was pertinent, hell hath no fury like mine would be. Discussing this honestly with the child’s parents is not ‘Outing” the child. Encouraging a child to withhold info or to lie to their parents is wrong.
    I do not support Jason Kenny and am not a member of his ridiculous self serving political party.

    • Ed, thank you for sharing your story. I too was very busy with my job when our kids were in school, consequently it fell to my husband to go to all the parent/teacher meetings, PTA meetings, etc. We ran into difficulty with a teacher who taught our youngest child when she was in grade 2. The teacher was awful and it took us two years to get the teacher removed from the school. With that one exception our kids’ teachers ranged from good to excellent.
      I don’t think the GSA amendments to the School Act encourage a child to lie or withhold information from their parents so much as provide a safe space for kids to talk about their circumstances.
      The difference between what you propose (teachers encouraging kids to talk to their parents) and the UCP resolution is the resolution requires students to get parental permission (the opt-in consent) BEFORE they can join GSAs so kids who are afraid their parents will flip out can’t access the support GSAs provide.
      It’s important to note that GSAs are clubs, not school curriculum and the requirement for parental permission for kids to participate in courses that deal primarily with sexual or religious material still stands.
      Also teachers are still obligated to get assistance for a kid who is struggling regardless of whether the kid is in a GSA or the chess club. They can advise the parents that their kids are struggling without explicitly saying the kids have joined a GSA.
      I suspect we’d agree that we’re trying to do what’s best for our children and subjecting them to inadequate teachers or forcing them to make revelations to their parents before they’re ready to do so isn’t in their best interests.

  4. Ben Finn says:

    Ed Henderson: 1 in 3 Canadian children experience violence in their home. Let that number sink in a bit.

    Now, think about all the UCP supporters who are flat-out homophobes. Let’s assume 1 in 3 of them hits their kids, the national average.

    Should their child be outed to them by the school? Is their safety more important than their abusive parents’ need to know?

    GSA anonymity is simple — if your kid trusts you, they’ll tell you. If they don’t trust you, they probably have a good reason.

    • Ben you’ve identified the underlying issue here which is some kids will never feel comfortable telling their parents they’re gay. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention show that gay kids at schools with GSAs are less likely to suffer from depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences than gay kids at schools without GSAs. A lot of research has gone into the kind of support GSAs should provide (including providing a confidential setting). Some Calgary schools have had GSAs for more than 10 years. I think they’re beneficial.

  5. Kim Epp says:

    The UCP is nasty and mean spirited. I don’t want these jerks running the province. They have no ideas. I have asked our local candidates what they want to improve and have been met with silence. I like your blog.

    • Kim, you nailed it with your comment that you’ve asked your local candidates what they would improve and you’ve been met with silence. When Jason Kenney was asked about his Climate Change policy he said we can expect to see it in 11 months. It looks like he plans on keeping Albertans in the dark until just before the election. This is extremely disrespectful of the electorate and I hope every Albertan calls the UCP on it just like you did.

  6. Pingback: Jason Kenney: When a Dog Whistler Loses Control of the Dogs | Whistler Blackcomb

  7. J.E. Molnar says:

    “Who Let the Dogs Out?” You’re spot on Ms. Soapbox — Jason Kenney did.

    Nothing gins up the red-meat conservative base more than a dog whistle, vitriolic Tweet or FB post by an angry, self-aggrandizing opposition leader whose sense of entitlement is so “old school” Progressive Conservative that it has now become creepy.

    Parroting Donald Trump with his conservative far-right agenda and gaslighting techniques has Kenney self-destructing, one mainstream voter at a time. It’s a good bet that UCP polling showed Kenney’s ham-fisted ad hominem attack of Justin Trudeau did not play well amongst mainstream voters or in the media. Hence, the feigned apology.

    • J.E. I had the same reaction to Kenney’s apology to Trudeau. It took Kenney days to come out with it and only after a number of columnists, including those who write for the Globe & Mail, took Kenney to task.
      Kenney appears to loath Trudeau. I recall a radio interview where Kenney spouted off about Trudeau swooping in for the beta male photo op (or something to that effect). Seems to me Kenney should spend more time on fleshing out concrete policies for Albertans and less time focusing on Trudeau’s appearance. Very strange.

  8. David says:

    I do wonder what has brought about Mr. Kenney’s recent and sudden change of tone. There is no academy award for most convincing portrayal of a moderate, so it must be something else. I think he is afraid the over the top behavior at the UCP convention and his own over the top comments about the Prime Minister are starting to scare away the remaining moderate members of his party and voters respectively.

    I suppose the problem facing Kenney is the same as that which was facing Danielle Smith as Wildrose leader, how to rein in the more extreme members of their own party without losing their considerable support. In the end Ms. Smith decided she couldn’t and she wasn’t comfortable with it anymore, so she left. It will be trickier for Mr. Kenney who actively courted their support to win the leadership and who throughout his long political career has generally been quite comfortable being more extreme.

    The UCP is at risk of turning into Wildrose 2.0 Perhaps Kenney could try merging with another smaller, more moderate party and changing the party name once again, but I doubt that would be successful. Name changes may obscure the true nature of the party for a while, but eventually all the skeletons start to tumble out of the closet, just as surely as dogs respond to dog whistles.

  9. David, well put, particularly the comment that it will be trickier for Kenney who actively courted the more extreme members of the Wildrose to rein them in. Perhaps Kenney is hoping to pull a Trump. Trump spoke to the extreme right and captured the moderates at the same time because they didn’t believe Trump was as extreme as he said he was (they were wrong). I’m hoping Alberta’s progressive conservatives will have learned something from the Trump gong show. Maya Angelou said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  10. Bill Malcolm says:

    Excellent blogpost. The scariest aspect to me is that there are these frothing at the mouth types loose upon the land at all. Never saw the like of them in the past 50 years. I suppose they were there, fuming away in the background, longing for 1883 all over again. But I never saw them. Now they scurry around in the open like rabid rats.

    Hell, even Ireland voted for women’s abortion rights two days ago. The Alberta dogwhistle and dogcollar types alike are no doubt AGHAST. Plus they cannot be shamed into behaving. They are incorrigibly beyond that, well into the realm of complete demagoguery.

    Help! I am beset by fools and racists on every side, closed-minded busybodies who wish to tell ME how to behave, all to their distorted agenda and worldview of course.

    • Bill, frothing at the mouth is an apt description. I went to The Rebel online to access the Trimble interview and got a peek at their breaking stories, most of which are reported with a heavy dose of moral outrage. This made me wonder, why are they so angry? And yes, not all conservatives are filled with fury, but the ones commenting on the NDP and the Liberals certainly sound unhinged. They’ll go stark raving mad if Andrea Horwath and the NDP win the election in Ontario.

  11. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Leopards cannot change their spots. I don’t see any change from Jason. He is bent on attacking anbody, from Rachel Notley one moment to Justin Trudeau the next. No vision, nothing tangible and not worth supporting.

    • Dwayne, your point is well taken. Kenney has yet to spell out his vision for Alberta. “Uniting the conservatives” isn’t a vision, it’s a tactic, what does he expect the united conservatives to do? “Reclaiming the Alberta Advantage” is a political slogan and silly to boot because we’re already the lowest taxed jurisdiction in the country, does he want us to be even lower and if so why. Like you said, no vision, nothing tangible, nothing but hot air.

  12. H. Murphy says:

    That you have to explain the nature of a metaphor is telling.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      It is telling indeed – it is actually a definition of an era.
      In my view it is disgraceful that we have come this far.
      Unfortunately the thirst for the destruction of reality in order to benefit a few is very strong and powerful. It will be very painful when we wake up in the future and realize the promise was not just empty but intentionally untrue and very likely irreversible without some catastrophic event.
      As far as Jason Kenney I lost interest in making comments about a person that is irresponsible, dangerous and not worth of my time.

      • Carlos, at the risk of adding to your frustration, I have to pass along one more disgraceful thing Kenney did last week. Kenney tweeted he added an amendment, known as a “sunset clause” to Bill 12 (the bill that allows Alberta to turn off the taps to BC) which would make Bill 12 expire in Dec 2022 unless it’s extended by the Legislature. The Alberta Party was furious because it was the Alberta Party, NOT the UCP, who introduced the sunset clause amendment. AP MLA Karen McPherson said the UCP tweaked the AP amendment and was trying to take credit for the Alberta Party’s work. She said the UCP weren’t even in the House when the debate on the amendment started “because they were in walk out mode having deserted the chamber yet again on the debate on Bill 9, the abortion clinic bubble zone bill [and] if they had stuck around and did their job like I did, maybe they could have introduced a sunset amendment; I was there for ALL the debate that afternoon and I was able to get the amendment introduced and passed. Mr Kenney is once again misleading people.”
        Lies, misdirection and taking credit for another party’s work, can they go any lower than this?

    • Yes, H Murphy, it is. I’ve noticed that when some people who disagree with me can’t rebut my argument with facts they say I’m calling them Nazis or homophobes, etc. Which of course isn’t true, so I decided to nip the “how dare you call me a dog, you pinko commie you!!!” comments in the bud with the note at the end of the post.
      These folks can be very touchy.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I totally agree a\nd I am glad you did.

        ‘You pinko Commie you!!’ would be extremely polite 🙂

        As far as what you described about the amendment it is not surprising to me at all but it is agonizingly frustrating.

  13. robert cochrane says:

    Delighted to stumble upon you Susan and, this particular blog.
    The same Albertans that threw Cons out will hopefully insure this bible school drop out (and latest, ‘champion’, of the Social Credit fungi hangover from the 30’s and 40’s, once again risen from the dead to control the Con party) and his tribe…will never again control government in Alberta.
    Apart from my extreme dislike for the man he has the profile of an incompetent, twice fired Minister (by Harper, nonetheless), over-stuffed bully whose singular qualification is as a puppet mouthpiece cum ill-educated, gadfly.
    The greatest danger to Alberta is he, being the only card in the Conservative deck, has the slobber of both major Con newspapers plus global television, lathered upon his boots at every opportunity. Given BS baffles brains, and the art of telling the lie often enough to insure it becomes the truth, (being the calling card of the Alberta far right media)…there remains a maggots chance Kenney might win.
    It was my generation who threw out Social Credit and hopefully we can bury it forever…along with the political career of Jason Kenney.

    • Robert, your comparison of the Social Credit party and the UCP brings a whole new meaning to our sense that Kenney is trying to drag Alberta back into the past. The resemblance is uncanny. The Socreds were led by William Aberhart, a Baptist lay preacher/evangilist, They promised prosperity through an unproven monetary policy (which was especially attractive to farmers) and preached conservative Christian social values. Google says the last time the Socreds had any seats in the Legislature was 1982. The reincarnated Socreds are back in the opposition benches now. We need to ensure they don’t form government in 2019 because Alberta needs to march confidently into the future not hide in the past.

  14. Harce says:

    All of the last three posts on this left wing blog were targeted against Jason Kenney. A more appropriate title would be the “Anti-Kenney Box”.

    • Harce, I’m open to hearing details of Kenney’s strategy that refute the points I raise on the Soapbox, but Kenney hasn’t provided any information on how he will balance the budget one year earlier than Notley while at the same time leaving the front line untouched or why it’s OK for him to bail on his duties as leader of the opposition (if he doesn’t support legislation he should vote against it–he did this in Parliament, why won’t he do this the Legislature) and why he can’t unveil his climate change plan until a month before the next election. He talks in slogan and platitudes. Either he has no concrete ideas or he’s hiding.

  15. jerrymacgp says:

    Not sure if you saw this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/edmonton-rutherford-ucp-nomination-contestant-questions-vaccination-science-1.4685047

    What kind of nutbar runs for elected office, while also advocating against the most important public health measure of the past century? As a Registered Nurse, I am sorely offended that someone would presume to seek public office at the provincial level, the level most responsible for the health care system, who doesn’t believe in a proven, effective preventative health measure that also saves millions of dollars a year in acute-care health costs.

    If this dude believes the pseudo-scientific woo behind anti-vax beliefs, what hope is there he will make other policy decisions on the basis of evidence?

    • Wow! Thanks Jerry. I hadn’t seen the clip in which UCP candidate Laine Larson promotes an anti-vax approach including the ludicrous idea that hot peppers can be an effective treatment for meningitis. The UCP nomination process included screening out candidates who said controversial things on social media and yet Larson made the cut. This plus the fact that 76% of the UCP supported the resolution requiring parental consent for “invasive medical procedures” (read: vaccinations and abortion) reflects who the UCP really are.
      Anti-vaxers; climate change deniers; are the flat-earthers far behind?

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