A Little Story About Character

Sometimes it’s the little stories that move us.

Last week Mr and Ms Soapbox attended a fundraiser for Rachel Notley.  It was hosted by a group of Calgary lawyers at a swanky downtown restaurant.  Lawyers, business people and representatives from the non-profit sector chatted over appetizers and wine.

During the mix-and-mingle part we talked with people who said yes times were tough, no they hadn’t seen the slump coming, yes Rachel had done a remarkable job under trying circumstances and no there’s nothing Jason Kenney could do that would make a difference (going to war with the Feds might convince his base he’s “doing something” but churning up fear and loathing is not a successful long term strategy).

At these events it’s usually Rachel, not the person who introduces her, who sticks in your mind, but this time it was slightly different.

A little story

Rachel was introduced by a soft spoken lawyer named Carsten Jensen.  Mr Jensen is a well respected litigator with an international reputation which includes a stint at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva where he settled compensation claims arising from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

He and Rachel have a shared history.  They both grew up in small towns in northern Alberta, both went away to university in Toronto and both became lawyers who pursued dramatically different career paths.

There’s another difference:  Mr Jensen is gay.  He said it wasn’t easy growing up gay in small-town Alberta, but he believed life would be better when he moved to the big city.  He was wrong.  His roommate threw him out when he found out Carsten was gay.  Rachel invited Carsten to move in with her, he accepted and stayed for a year.


Who has the character to lead Alberta?

Let’s pause there to consider another little story about someone’s university days.  This one is told by Jason Kenney.

When Jason Kenney was in university in San Francisco, he campaigned to prevent gay men from visiting their partners who were hospitalized and dying of AIDS; ensuring that many who were shunned by their families would die alone.  We know this story because Mr Kenney told us about it in a speech he gave as a young federal MP.  He proudly referred to this episode as a “battle” that brought him “closer to the heart of the Church in the spiritual sense.”

When no one is watching

Coach and former basketball player John Wooden said, “…the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

When no one was watching, Rachel Notley reached out to a gay friend in a time of need.  When no one was watching, Jason Kenney participated in a cruel campaign to make sure same-sex couples were deprived of the hospital visitation and bereavement rights straight couples enjoy and later described his act in words reserved for piety.

The premier of Alberta has the power to implement sweeping social policies that ease suffering and bring peace of mind to Albertans or turn their lives into unmitigated misery.

Which leader should become the next premier of Alberta?  The one who reaches out to her gay friend when no one is watching or the one who boasts about doing everything he can to ensure gay men die alone.

NOTE TO READERS: Ms Soapbox is out of town to celebrate the life of a friend.  It was while thinking about that life that she remembered the power of “little stories”.

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68 Responses to A Little Story About Character

  1. Well said, Susan – my admiration, as always. As a guy – straight and a survivor – I LOATHE creeps like Kenney. And a creep he truly is. If you are able, though, I’d ask that you edit one point – “or the one who boasts about doing everything he can to ensure gay men die alone.” I have female friends who are gay, and hope you’d agree to adding “and women” to this last sentence. Sorry for your loss . . . RJ

    • RJ. You’ve raised a very important point. Jason Kenney is antagonistic to everyone who’s a member of the LBGTQ community (including their families and friends). The only reason I limited that last sentence to men is because it was a specific reference to the speech in which he boasted about his “battle” to prevent gay men from visiting their partners dying of AIDs. I didn’t want a Kenney supporter to say I’d misquoted Kenney and consequently my argument about his lack of character is flawed.
      I hope you understand my position.
      Take care, RJ.

  2. jean bota says:

    Very well said Susan….

  3. Linda Swityk says:

    Such a great story and yes judging by the story we sure can tell the difference in character

    • Linda, there are so many maxims that apply here, not the least of which is Maya Angelou’s famous comment: “When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.” How many times do Albertans need Kenney to show them who he is before they believe him?

  4. Jo-Ann Mason says:

    Thanks for this poignant reminder that character DOES matter.

  5. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. I think the choice is clear. I know who I think should rule Alberta. I think it would be Rachel Notley. I think she is the best premier Alberta ever had, since Peter Lougheed.

    • I agree Dwayne. You’ll probably get a kick out of this, the other day a political pundit who likes Notley said she’s probably to the RIGHT of Peter Lougheed because Lougheed bought (nationalized) an airline and increased royalties on the oil companies (gasp). He said this shows you just how conservative this province has become and why its so hard for Notley to push it as far left as some people would like. Interesting.

  6. He is obviously a man filled with hatred who should never have any power.

    • Marley Mannix says:

      Agreed, Linda! I hope more people figure that out before its too late. We all see daily in the news how insidious the damage can be when hate-promoting leaders are in power! Most certainly Canada and Alberta are not immune to this insidious infection of hate! We must all remain vigilant and not give ear to this kind of poisonous person. A leopard can’t change its spots. A person cannot change who they are (their character), no matter how hard they try.

    • Absolutely right Linda…the man is heartless. Let’s not forget that when Kenney was federal immigration minister he locked up child refugees and separated families. He said these facilities were not “jails” they were like “3 star hotels”–which just happened to be run by armed guards and surrounded by barbed wire fences. Funnily enough when he defended them in the House of Commons he said they were like “2 star hotels”, then when he was quizzed about it as UCP leader he upgraded them to “3 star hotels”. You can’t trust a single thing he says. https://pressprogress.ca/jason-kenney-defended-locking-up-child-refugees-in-heavy-security-detention-facilities/

  7. diamondwalker says:

    .. yes .. !
    The little gems such as that anecdote are lovely. The contrast though is loaded, simply by including Jason Kenney. The moral.. or lesson is well served however. Another blogger recently posted recently.. referencing several terms I immediately wrote down.. ‘political grace’ .. ‘our better angels’ – all mentioned in context to anger or confrontation, partisanship in politics.. Of course that’s the missing human DNA of Kenney.. and somewhere along his road, it enfeebled him. The environments that attracted him fed his badly flawed determination. He’s never ‘found himself’ and never will. Instead he drives further into his own feeble dogma and self fiction.. no better, no worse, no different sadly, than Donald Trump.. both teetering precariously on the edge of revealing their fear, their mean camoflage.. their sad reality.

    What a huge & dreadful mistake Albertans will make, letting Kenney, a glib hollow man get his disturbed ideology into power.

    • Erin says:

      Beautifully said, even for such an ugly topic.

      • Thanks Erin! Kenney is doing everything he can to make this election about the economy and not about him, but it’s going to be about character and who do you trust. Rachel’s got him beat fifty ways to Sunday on that score and she’s done a really good job everywhere else as well. .

    • Diamondwalker, what I find puzzling is the people who say Kenney is exactly the premier we need. It’s almost as if the fact he portrays himself as the bully we need to “stand up” for poor little Alberta (which is doing better than any other province in the country) is enough. We’re adults, can’t we recognize a pompous politician spouting platitudes when we see one.

  8. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. I think the choice is clear on who should rule Alberta. Rachel Notley. I think that Rachel Notley is the best premier Alberta Alberta ever had since Peter Lougheed.

  9. Marley Mannix says:

    Rachel Notley (NDP) took the helm in 2015 after 44 years of conservative government and since doing so has accomplished much in such a short time. She works hard for the working class families, introducing and expanding a $25/day child care program, as well as introducing a school nutrition program in every school district. This alone is a huge help for families! As for the carbon tax everyone is screaming about, she is using funds from carbon levy for a wide variety of programs to diversify Alberta’s economy, create jobs, and add value to our resources. More on what she has done for us at https://www.facebook.com/notes/louis-arthur/what-has-the-notley-government-done-for-us-anyway/10160312736990082/

    • Marley, thanks for that incredible list of the 258 things Rachel Notley has done over the last 4 years. I’ve just shared it on my FB page. With respect to the $25/day child care program, I saw a report today in which Kenney said he has no intention of eliminating the PILOT program, but he is going to “look at the data” to see how effective it is to see if it merits expansion. In other words, the pilot program will continue but won’t be expanded. Why would any Alberta family vote for the UCP?

  10. Dennis Heise says:

    “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

    I have the privilege of counting Rachel as a friend, and by her actions, she shows she’s closer to the heart of Good than many who profess to be.

    Thanks for your thoughtful blog!

  11. Carl says:

    This is a story about my MLA – Rachel Notley! She’s the best!

    • Carl, lucky you! Would that we all had an MLA like Rachel Notley, Our NDP candidate is Janet Eremenko. She’s wonderful, just the kind of person you’d expect to see on Rachel’s team, unlike Kenney’s handpicked candidate for Mountainview–Caylan Ford!

  12. Show me this church whose spiritual heart is cruelty and suffering.

    I’ll bring a hammer and a stake.

    • Deb Willms says:

      Any fundamentalist evangelical church. We have a gay son, and we left one of these churches because they rejected him and haven’t been back.

      • WriterWriter says:

        I’m sorry to know about your experience. Horrifying, but predictable. Such acts are not only those of evangelical churches. MOST churches at the very least lean this way.

        I hope you and your son have found a loving, accepting, community where humans matter more – much more – than dogma.

      • Oh Deb, I echo the comments of WriterWriter, how awful that you and your son had to go through that, you were wise to leave them behind. I’m sure your support means everything to your son.

    • James, isn’t it bizarre how many people justify their cruelty by saying God made them do it…and escape their culpability by saying the Devil made them do it. Sad bunch.

      • It speaks to profound differences in how people account for their experience of life.

        “I am suffering, therefore _________.”

        Some might respond, “I must care for myself”, or “I must change my situation.”

        Others might respond, “somebody must be punished.”

        The former response reflects a perception of being the source of one’s own suffering, and holding one’s self to account for it.

        The latter response reflects a perception of others being the source of one’s suffering, and holding others to account for it.

        It seems that some people don’t mature beyond this child-like perception of their environment being the source of their experience.

        Changing their experience means changing their environment, e.g., punishing those whom they perceive to be the cause of their suffering.

        This is my interpretation of the ‘culture warrior’ Jason Kenney.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Culture Warrior is too sophisticated for Jason Kenney – to me he is a pure idiot created in the flat earth environment of the seminary. I know this is rude to say but certain people just do not deserve any better. If we want to build a better world, the very first step is ending this spin world we have created to appease the enemy. By the way a very Canadian third way that is no longer helpful when the enemy carries semi automatic language.
        People like Jason Kenney can only be taken down with reality and not just niceties.

  13. lindamcfarlane says:

    Thanks Susan.  Wonderful story.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • You’re welcome Linda. As we both know from attending Notley events, she’s an incredible leader with a vision for Alberta, not a mini-Trump trying to scare everyone back into the Dark Ages.

  14. Peter says:

    Thanks again to Susan for another powerful message and to all of you who posted comments, thanks.

  15. Elaine Fleming says:

    Yesterday I attended Rachel Notley’s nomination event in Edmonton Strathcona. I arrived at the start time at Edmonton’s St. Basil’s Hall and was a bit concerned when I saw the line up to get in. Nevertheless I squeezed myself in with over a thousand other excited people who made this into a rally, with everyone chanting “Four more years”, and “Rachel, Rachel ….”There was a lot of energy and passion in that hall, for Notley and also for the causes she is fighting for. I looked around to see such a diversity of folks, seniors and babies, young people, different races, new Canadians and old. The loudest cheers came when she said she wouldn’t rest until the last child in Alberta is pulled out of poverty. What politician says that? Seriously! She said if Jason Kenney wins the provincial election there will be two Albertas- one for the few and one for the rest of us. You can see her speech on the NDP Facebook. Powerful and inspiring. Notley is a person of integrity, who is not stabbing her supporters and colleagues in the back at every turn and driven only by blind ambition. The contrast between Notley and Kenney couldn’t be more stark, and Albertans would be fools to be taken in by Kenney and his cabal of thugs who would cut each other’s throats if they could get away with it, empty our treasury while helping themselves and leaving school children, struggling families, people needing medical care, and seniors in the dust.

    • Thanks for this great comment Elaine. Rachel’s vision is a better future for all Albertans, Kenney’s (I won’t call it a vision) plan is to take care of a few. Notley’s supporters believe it’s all about the community. Kenney’s supporters believe it’s all about me. Surely we’re better than that.

  16. Laurent Jeff Dubois says:


  17. Carlos Beca says:

    Jason Kenney and character is an impossible combination.
    I cannot wait to see him going somewhere else with his half completed flat earth degree.
    He should go to Washington where idiocracy ground zero is.

    • Carlos, I smiled at your reference to Kenney’s half completed flat earth degree. You’ve perfectly summarized the man who is selling conspiracy theories to Albertans, the faltering economy has nothing to do with the volatile global market for oil and everything to do with those pseudo-environmentalists who are trying to kill the industry–I’m waiting for him to mention George Soros–the thing about conspiracy theories is they provide an explanation for something you can’t control which means there’s nothing you can do about it and consequently you can’t be held accountable when your “fight back/war room” strategy fails to produce the desired result.

  18. Jerrymacgp says:

    I’ve known Premier Notley since she was employed as a Labour Relations Officer at United Nurses of Alberta and I was a UNA Local Grievance Officer who worked with her on a number of files back in the 90s, and I’ve known about her Dad and her roots in the Peace Country for almost as long as I’ve lived in Alberta, but I didn’t know about this aspect of her backstory. It makes me feel even more honoured than I already was, to have known her even if only peripherally.

    As for JK, as someone who has read And The Band Played On (by Randy Shilts) a number of times—I own the book, as it happens—I think his early activism against normal human decency and compassion says everything anyone should ever need to know about his character. As we are now seeing with the gradual unfolding of the “kamikaze campaign” scandal—what a horridly racist term to use—he is merely a smarter, more articulate version of that wingnut that inhabits 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., or that knuckle-dragging bull in the china shop currently ruling Queen’s Park. He has no business serving as dogcatcher, let alone Premier.

    • Jerrymacgp, how lucky you are to have a personal connection with Rachel Notley. I’ve met her a number of times, every time I come away even more impressed with her grace, wit and intelligence. None of her candidates has to apologize for their leader, unlike the UCP candidates who’ve told people on the doorstep that they understand why the homeowner has concerns about Kenney and tell them not to worry because Kenney won’t be the leader forever. So much for integrity.

  19. D Harris says:

    Excellent example of real character and integrity in Rachel Notley. A sad display of a cruel, heartless and empty shell in Kenny. Thanks for these stories.

    • Thanks D Harris. I think Albertans need to think about the narrative they’re creating for themselves. As we hapless victims trying to claw our way back to the 1950s or compassionate innovators ready to meet the future head on.

  20. MICHAEL Cappa sr. says:

    I have been to several Conservative rallies over my thirty five years as a PC, which I quit seven years ago. A few of those rallies I have heard Mr. Kenny speak on stage and hold court in hotel suites or a corner of a banquet room….funny thing is, I didn’t like him then and I certainly don’t like him now! I always felt he was self centred, obnoxious and just a general over all douche bag! A bad, bad choice for Alberta!#

    • Carlos Beca says:

      The Douche Bag was caught with the hand in the cookie jar and the very first thing he says publicly was to ask Rachel Notley to ‘ End this charade …….’
      What kind of person does one have to be to reach these levels of hypocrisy?
      A flat earth dropout.

      Now the real question is – How many of you want to bet that despite all that we know he will win the next election?

      This is just no longer just one man’s character but the province’s as a whole.

      • Carlos, you’re absolutely right, if Kenney is elected we’ll have cemented our reputation as *the* redneck province in Canada. If we think Alberta is redneck now, just wait until Kenney is done with us. He’s made a number of bizarre promises, including calling a referendum to enshrine property rights in the Canadian Constitution. We have legislation that protect property rights already. It’s called the Criminal Code. I don’t know whether he’s aiming for a US style “castle law” which allows someone to protect his home and property by force including shooting someone dead, or what. But it’s alarming.

    • Michael, thank you for this. It helps to know others who’ve followed his career over the years think he’s absolutely the wrong choice for Alberta.

  21. David says:

    There is a saying that if you want to have a friend, the best way to get one is to be one. Now, I don’t think Rachel Notley back then thought about that, or that was the reason she helped out Mr. Jensen. I agree it was character. However, it probably is part of the reason Mr. Jenson was providing his support to her at that event.

    What is even more telling than the story of Kenney’s sad, I would even say inhumane religous/ideological crusade is that I have never heard a story of him really being there for someone in need. Perhaps he did perfunctory charity work because someone in his church asked him to or helped out close family, but I mean something beyond that.

    Yes, Kenney can get many prominent conservatives to sing his praises, but I get the feeling that is also somewhat perfunctory. He can often get his subordinates and candidates to say nice things about him too, but that I think is required and perhaps their effusiveness is partly motivated by fear. Beyond that, I sense he is not truly much liked and I think your post illustrates well why this is the case.

    • David, I agree with your comment about Kenney’s likeability. From what I’ve read Kenney recognized that Brian Jean was more likeable than he was and decided he needed a stalking horse to tear Jean down. Kenney couldn’t or wouldn’t do it because he was afraid it would make him even less likeable (or so they say, maybe he was just a coward). So he approached Fildebrandt who turned him down (that says something in itself doesn’t it), and then Callaway who agreed to do it and look at how well that turned out. If Kenney messes up this badly as the leader of the UNITED conservative party, just imagine the damage he’ll inflict on this province if he gets the keys to the premier’s office (gosh, I just heard Hillary Clinton’s voice in my head saying we can’t trust Trump the nuclear codes…sigh).

  22. alvinfinkel says:

    Susan’s contrast of two potential premiers is very apt. Kenney’s behavior in San Francisco suggests heartlessness. But what connects it to his current lies about his role in the fraudulent Callaway campaign (not to mention those fraudulent voting machines that Brian Jean has called him out on) is that he lied about what he had been up to. Just days before the news reports that Kenney had spent his time in Frisco trying to guarantee that dying gay men died alone he had been saying that he had been in San Francisco ministering to the needs of people with AIDS. God help Albertans if he ministers to our needs the way he ministered to those of dying gay men in San Francisco.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      He will do more of the same – cut taxes to corporations and the rich. Cut royalties to zero, cuts services for the rest of us. Then when budget comes the deficit is bigger and he will offer a better solution – we will cut more taxes to the corporations and the rich, cut more services to the people they so much love and care for.
      This is why he does not need a platform – it is fairly easy to remember and it is engraved in his size of an olive brain.

    • Excellent point Alvin. Kenney doubled down on his statement that the communication between his team and Callaway’s team was “normal politics”. He said that during the PC leadership race there was a “tight, tactical team” among all the other candidates. Former MLA Richard Starke said “this statement is a lie. There was no ‘tight, tactical team’ among ‘all the other candidates’. The Khan, Nelson and Starke campaigns worked completely independently.” Why this, and the fraudulent voting machines, aren’t getting more traction in the media is beyond me. Are they all in the conservatives’ pockets?

  23. Cath Povaschuk says:

    I used to be a conservative. I am now a Rachel Notley supporter. She is tough and fair. The conservative party has aligned itself with the right wing ‘Christians’, kind of like Trump has done. These people preach hate, intolerance, and a ‘Right wing Christians are good, all others are bad’ attitude.

  24. Guy Smith says:

    We absolutely need to hear more stories like this. Alberta is in a very dark place indeed right now, and we need people to shine a light on the good in this world, rather than hearing the politics of blame and intolerance across the system.

  25. I’d like your permission to share your link on Facebook, Susan, with the following comment . . .

    I suggest that all politically aware Albertans read Susan’s blog – but be forewarned – it’s not for Kenney lovers, corporatists, the right wing in all its weirdness, skinheads, bigots, idiots who think that “economy” is some how a closed system excluding environmental concerns, and folks that think their lifted, loaded, $100,000 F250 is the be-all and end-all of their lives. If you fit into the above categories, AVOID this link at all costs . . . it will make you think nasty thoughts and say nasty things . . .


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