The Up Series is an amazing documentary that follows the lives of 14 British children over five decades. The children were interviewed every seven years starting in 1964 when they were seven years old. The next instalment, 63 Up, will be released in 2019.
The children came from the working class, middle class and privileged classes. Michael Apted, the director, believed that who they were at seven would dictate who they’d become as adults.
For the most part he was right. Wealthy seven year old boys who went to prestigious boarding schools and Oxbridge became successful lawyers, journalists and teachers. Less affluent children who attended comprehensive schools and did not go to university became cab drivers, labourers and office workers.
The seven year old child of 1964 foreshadowed who and what they would become in later life.
Right, so what does this have to do with Jason Kenney?
The child becomes the man
While we don’t know who Kenney was at seven, we do know who he was as a student at the Jesuit University of San Francisco and the president of the pro-life group where he made headlines for bitterly opposing his Jesuit professors who allowed pro-choice activists on campus. He argued this destroyed “the mission and the purpose” of the university. (A more hysterical version of his comments appeared in the student newspaper where he said if the school gave a platform to pro-choice groups in the name of free speech, it would have to do the same for pedophiles and the Church of Satan).
We know who Kenney was at 21 when he helped defeat a proposition that would have granted same-sex couples hospital visitation rights and bereavement rights in the middle of the San Francisco AIDS epidemic, ensuring that many AIDS sufferers who were shunned by medial staff and their own families would die alone.*
We know who Kenney was at 31 when he proudly referred to the proposition as one of the “battles” he fought in San Francisco which brought him “closer to the heart of the Church in the spiritual sense.”
People change…or not
Now hold on, his supporters say, people change, evolve, mature, something, mumble, mumble, something.
When asked about his role in promoting the San Francisco proposition Kenney said sure, there are things he’s said and done that he regrets, and this was one of them; but it’s not clear whether he regrets the actions of the 21 year-old Kenney who led the effort to defeat the proposition or the 31 year-old Kenney (by then a federal MP) who referred to it with pride, or the 50 year old Kenney who is stuck with explaining it away today.
As evidence that he’s changed he referred to his time as a federal MP in 2003, 2004, and 2005 when he was 35, 36, and 37 and supported “domestic partner arrangements for dependent couples regardless of sexual orientation”. It’s not clear what he’s talking about, because in 2002 Kenney is on record saying enshrining rights on the basis of sexual orientation “opened the door” for “polygamists” and “advocates of incest” and in 2003 he voted in favour of a motion declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.
In any event, he firmly closed the door on any further discussion with comment, “That has been my long-standing public view.”
If that (whatever “that” is) is Kenney’s “long-standing public view”, what pray tell is Kenney’s “private” view? Is his “private” view any different from his “public” view? And how will his “private” view impact his actions as a public servant?
Private views vs public views
Research by Professor Robert Entman of Duke University shows that a politician’s “private political philosophy” will significantly impact how he votes.
This is certainly true in Kenney’s case. His record as a federal MP is studded with examples of Kenney voting in alignment with the positions he took as a young man in San Francisco.
For example, he voted against same-sex marriage in 2005, he voted to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage in 2006 and he voted in favor of a motion to reopen the abortion debate in 2012.
The line between Kenney’s personal ideology and his public views became more blurred when he left federal politics and became the leader of the UCP.
He led his entire caucus in a walkout on the debate on legislation putting bubble zones around abortion clinics to keep protestors from harassing women requiring their services and he’s intent on undermining legislation compelling schools to allow the formation of GSAs by insisting schools notify parents if their kids join GSAs.
What are we to make of a man who says his “public” views have evolved when a review of his “public” record indicates that they have not?
Public Policy and the Notwithstanding Clause
Public policy is created after a period of lobbying, educating supporters (and opponents) and mobilizing allies on specific issues. Public policy is supposed to be the result of thoughtful compromise; it is not a sermon from the Mount.
Jason Kenney made it clear he holds the pen. He tells his MLAs and his supporters what they can do and not do. Sometimes he lets the party act by revoking an embarrassing supporter’s membership, other times he does not. He makes the rules.
His personal ideology on LGBTQ+ issues and women’s issues is cruel and out of step with modern society.
And now, thanks to the liberties Doug Ford has taken with constitutional norms, Kenney has a tool with which to turn his ideology into law. Kenney said he’d use the notwithstanding clause (section 33 of the Charter) where appropriate. One look at Kenney’s record makes it clear he thinks it would be appropriate to address LGBTQ+ rights and women’s issues.
The boy foreshadows the man.
If the UCP forms government in 2019, the shadow cast by this man will be long and terribly dark.
See Kyle Morrow for an excellent overview of Kenney’s anti-gay record https://www.facebook.com/notes/kyle-morrow/jason-kenney-refuses-to-apologize-for-cold-callous-treatment-of-aids-patients/373052353504460/