On Nov 13, 2020 when:
- The number of confirmed covid cases in Alberta smashed through the 1000 cases a day threshold and covid threatens to swamp Alberta’s healthcare system, and
- 430 doctors and three healthcare unions are desperately calling for a targeted “circuit breaker” lockdown, and
- Albertans are (still) waiting for an explanation of how the “fiscally conservative” UCP government managed to screw up its books to the tune of $1.6 billion (billion!), and
- Mr Kenney said betting $1.5 billion (billion!) on Donald Trump winning the presidential election was “an essential hedge against [the] political risk” that Mr Trudeau would not complete the TMX pipeline…
…on this day the Kenney government issued a press release headlined: Premier’s use of RV drives down tour costs.
I beg your pardon?
It turns out Mr Kenney went on a 5-day road trip from June 29 to July 3 to visit twelve southern Alberta municipalities. He had 24 stops (defined as “announcements, events, private meetings, and media interviews”) along the way.
And here’s the good news, he saved Albertans billions, nope make that millions, sorry thousands, nope hundreds (hundreds!) of dollars by sharing a rented RV with three of his staff instead of spending 5 nights in a hotel.
Wait! There’s more!
Total expenses for the premier and the 3 staff traveling with him totaled $2866. Of this amount Mr Kenney’s personal share was a mere $103. That’s $20.60 per day. Which means the average personal expense claim for each of Mr Kenney’s staff was $184.20 per day. (I can just picture Mr Kenney sitting in the corner like Oliver Twist begging his staff for one more spoonful of gruel).
Oh and in case you’re wondering, the RV rental cost was $1500 and fuel was $268.
To say the least, this is a bizarre announcement.
Why this? Why now?
The purpose of a government media release is to get the government’s message out to the public. The message should be about something important that the government wants the public to be aware of and to support.
Okay, what is this media release about and why was it issued on Nov 13?
Well, maybe it’s easier to figure out what it’s not about.
It’s not about ensuring Albertans are aware the government has made a number of “job-creating” investments because those investments were announced separately between June 29 and July 3.
It’s not about advising Albertans that since the July 1 long weekend the number of covid cases has risen alarmingly (as of today the total case number is 38,338 with 401 deaths) and that the only way to flatten the curve is to trigger a lockdown if certain clear metrics are not met. Of course, that would require Mr Kenney to admit his admonition to “knock it off” isn’t working.
It’s certainly not about the importance of masking and social distancing. When Mr Kenney and his staff weren’t hobnobbing with local dignitaries they were jammed cheek by jowl in a rented RV. Did they wear masks when they slept, did they sanitize the RV after returning from a hard day of glad handing? Does Mr Kenney snore? (sorry, that just slipped out, I really don’t want to know).
It appears that the purpose of this media release is to inform Albertans facing an uncertain financial future and struggling with a healthcare system in danger of collapse that Mr Kenney is doing his part: he saved Albertans hundreds (hundreds!) of dollars on the July 1 weekend by sharing a rented RV with 3 of his employees instead of staying at a Motel 6. Oh and let’s not forget he ate and drank sparingly as his personal expense account will attest.
On Friday Nov 13, the Energy Minister, Sonya Savage also issued a media release. She expressed her displeasure with Michigan’s decision to file a legal challenge that could force the closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.
Unlike her boss, Ms Savage did not suggest Michigan’s governor, Ms Whitmer and its Attorney-General, Ms Nessel were “brain dead.”
All this is to say things are well and truly bonkers out here in the land of the people of destiny, the proud people of the buffalo, or whatever it is Jason Kenney is calling his loyal subjects nowadays.
I’m wondering who is brain dead !!!
Paul, any Alberta who fell for this ridiculous road trip story goes to the top of my list!
Yes Susan you are right on you could write your blog 3 times a week the material just keeps getting better every week. Oh the incompetence mind boggling!! Keep up the good work.
I can only assume the Road Trip announcement was intended to distract us from real news about unaccounted billions or a pandemic out of control. Alberta has the worst numbers in Canada but nice to know our premier still has a lot of faith that Albertans will do the right thing and stop having parties. When the health system does collapse it will be our fault not his.
A Thomas, you’ve summed up the situation perfectly. He warned us because he trusted us to act responsibly. We didn’t so now it’s our fault. He won’t lift a finger and if Trudeau (ie the rest of Canada) doesn’t ride in to save us from ourselves well that’s just too bad.
Actually some people posit that it will be easier for him to sell off our public healthcare system after it’s irrevocably broken. Scary thought.
“Disaster Capitalism” – Naomi Klein
(Not related to King Ralph in any way as far as I can tell)
Thanks GoinFawr: it’s on my reading list!
I thought that Kenney spent at least one night at the Banff Springs Hotel, or was that a different RV trip?
Arlene I saw a photo of Kenney sitting on the patio of the Banff Springs Hotel wearing a backwards baseball cap and hotel slippers. I think that was a different trip but with these guys, who can be sure. All his road trips are fishy to me.
Nope, the same trip.
I tried to look up his International travel expenses for a trip to the US which was well publicized and found nada. Some PC premiers in the past buried their expenses in ministry accounts.
psponderings. This is a really good point. The only place I’ve ever able to find numbers for Kenney’s international trips is in newspaper articles and let’s face it, the PostMedia papers are reluctant to make Kenney and his team look bad.
There are photos. Kenney did not really camp out. And 1 hotels posted thanking him for his business and some posted his breakfast at another hotel. That must have been paid from a different line in the budget.
From Trudy Grebenstein’s iPhone 1-780-914-8673
Thanks Trudy. The fact that the government PR group continues to push out these inane media releases continues to boggle the mind. What good do they do? Especially when others produce photos contradicting them. Gawd!
Well Susan, the government press flacks (or is that “hacks”?) got you and all of your fans venting about the stupidity of it all–instead of the stupidity of Lord Jason’s non-response to the pandemic…. :))
Joking aside–Kenney’s latest feeble attempt to look effective borders on criminal negligence (in my non-lawyer opinion). He actually seems either 1) genuinely committed to Libertarian principles of “Don’t tell me what to do!” or 2) he’s scared to death of his base.
Slightly closer to reality, I’m surprised Sonya Savage, our Lady of Bitumen, refrained from personal insults over the latest American pipeline-closing lawsuit. What could have put her on such good behaviour? Good cop/ bad cop routine?
Looks like the same trip Neil, the dates certainly coincide.
So the big question is why did Kenney’s PR group put out a media release on Nov 13 about a trip that happened months ago? Does Kenney seriously believe Albertans will forget they’re facing a covid tsunami thanks to his milquetoast leadership simply because his personal expenses on this trip totaled $103?
“Premier’s use of RV drives down tour costs” This would be funny if it didn’t have deadly consequences.
Well there’s another item for the Auditor General to take a look at in next year’s review of the budget. This government seems to have a real problem with getting its numbers straight about so many things, and seems to have a penchant for “material mis-statements,” as you noted in last week’s column.
Neil, I agree. I can’t wait to see the AG’s report on all the “Recovery” spending Kenney has been boasting about for the last few months. So much of it was already in the capital spending plan. It’s as if he thinks we’ll think it’s new covid-related funding if he calls it by a new name.
Is this the same tour Alberta Politics reported on here?
Seems The Emperor still has no clothes. Maybe why the tour was so cheap.
Neil…based on the comments from Valerie and the others it would appear it was indeed the same trip. All I can say is the fact Kenney chose to press release this piece of so-called news is an indication of just how little he has to say of substance in these difficult times.
Wait, there’s more! Kenney is lying if he says he stayed in the RV for all four nights. He may not have stayed in it at all. During that time he was photographed at the Banff Springs hotel wearing hotel slippers:
He is said to have stayed in a Medicine Hat hotel one night:
That one is from this thread about his media release:
More on Lukaszuk’s recent twitter feed about it including possible covid19 connections:
This mentions Drumheller town hall closing in July due to one person testing positive:
I well remember many people tweeting about this back in July. So why the release now? To portray Kenney as frugal after he has wasted billions of our money? Did the fools not realize his cover was blown months ago? Were they foolish enough to think we had all forgotten this colourful incident? Or are they brain dead?
Kenney’s been a fake for years: https://pressprogress.ca/jason_kenney_website_features_fake_photo_of_kenney_speaking_to_a_photoshopped_crowd_of_supporters/
David Climenhaga’s blog has a large following; I would be shocked if Jason Kenney’s ‘Issues Managers’ (@$200,000/yr) didn’t follow it. As such they would have been aware of Kenney’s embarrassment last summer. It seems odd they would bring it up again. Maybe Jason needs better issues managers.
Bob, you put your finger on exactly what was bothering me about the UCP government issuing a press release on Nov 13 about a road trip that was (a) history and (b) embarrassing. What’s the point? Is Kenney so distraught by the lack of praise for his inept handling of the economy and our social programs that he hoped re-issuing this ridiculous little gem would make everything right again. Bizarre.
Valerie, thanks for all this. You answered one of my questions which was how many people came down with covid after one of his super spreader events.
I absolutely agree with your comment that Kenney is a fake. I seem to recollect a comment he made as a federal MP that he prefers wine to beer. Then when he showed up here to run for premier it was beers, blue jeans and a pick up truck. And that’s just the contradictions on his image. We could talk for hours about how he flipped his position on federal programs like equalization when he became Alberta’s premier and had to make Ottawa the enemy.
And yet people believe him. Why?
Susan: Thanks for another great blog. It’s quite clear that the UCP haven’t got a clue as to what they are doing, on so many fronts, and they are only compounding problems. I think it’s only the beginning (no intention of quoting a song title or lyrics by the group Chicago). We are going to see things get worse. People will have to wake up, before it’s too late. This might be hard to do. I mean, you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, after it’s been squeezed out.
Dwayne, you mentioned the futility of trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Kenney is one of those politicians that will never admit he’s made a mistake. He stands by Tyler Shandro and other incompetent cabinet ministers for this reason, he picked them so demoting them to the back bench would be an admission of failure.
I heard an interesting CBC interview with June Purvis, Emeritus Professor of Women’s and gender history at the University of Portsmouth (UK). She was talking about Margaret Thatcher and said Thatcher, a hard right conservative, was “a conviction politician.” Thatcher believed she was always right and that was her downfall. She was divisive and confrontational and didn’t have much compassion for the British people.
Immediately I thought of Kenney. The “conviction politician” label would certainly explain Kenney’s inability to understand the need to move into the post-fossil fuel future and the examples of his lack of empathy started from when he was an undergrad at the Jesuit university and campaigned to prohibit gay men from being with their terminally ill partners who were dying of AIDS right up to the present day.
Alberta’s Premier also didn’t mention how many abandoned wells he drove by in his RV … perhaps since he doesn’t know or care but more likely because he has NO plan or money to clean up the abandoned wells. Maybe he will figure out that the polluters should pay for cleanup? That would be a novel and nice idea.
Dave: This is an issue that began with Ralph Klein. Albertans don’t have $260 billion to deal with this. I do remember when Peter Lougheed, (who also had work experience in the oil industry, before he entered into politics), flying in a helicopter over the oilsands in 2005. He certainly wasn’t impressed with the way the oilsands were being developed at that time. Don’t forget that because Ralph Klein let foreign owned entities take over our oil, and also take the bulk of the profits, accountability went out the window. Also, an economic expert has said in the summer, that Alberta lost $433 billion, from mismanaging Alberta’s petrochemical resources, beginning when Peter Lougheed was no longer the premier of Alberta. Think of what all this money could do for Alberta today. The economist also noted that point. The UCP in the name of cutting red tape, is being lax on environmental regulations and protection. Not only that, the UCP will be soon saddling Alberta with a record debt of $100 billion. It’s going to be an ugly mess with the UCP at the helm.
*Dale* Typographical error.
Dale and Dwayne: the issue of abandoned and orphaned wells is critically important. Not only are land owners demanding action to get these contaminated sites cleaned up, they’ve run out of patience with companies that fall behind in paying their leasehold payments. All of this may play in the NDPs favour in that it would be a way for the NDP to get the rural voters on side–do you want our help getting the companies to clean up their mess or do you want to continue to rely on Kenney who is giving these guys tax holidays. It’s another example of the old adage that the conservatives privatize the reward and socialize the risk. Here’s a link to the lawsuit being brought by landowners against an energy company for breaching a lease agreement.
PS Even though Trudeau is spending $1.7B to cleanup orphaned and abandoned wells in AB, Sask and BC, it’s not right for Albertans to demand the feds clean it all up. Albertans and their conservative governments created this mess, it’s up to us to fix it.
and all the good snide comments have been made
and scathing expose’ links are done
i will try to arrive earlier next time
Lungta mtn: you made me smile and that’s a good thing in these wretched times. Thanks.
Oh there is that old saying perfect for this topic – penny wise, pound foolish! I think it perfectly shows Kenney’s approach to financial management. Save a few dollars on travel in a pandemic, blow a billion or so on a pipeline likely not to be completed. However, hard to come out ahead with this approach.
Perhaps the Alberta Hotel Association did not contribute as generously to UCP approved PAC’s as used car dealers did. In any event, you can actually get a nice room or two in decent hotel in Red Deer quite inexpensively, particularly these days. We are not talking about London rates here.
I suppose Kenney hopes this news of his occasional fiscal prudence will distract us from all the bad COVID news. I doubt it will.
Dave, this is brilliant. I especially liked your reference to London hotel rates–which reminds me that Kenney still hasn’t told Albertans what he learned (didn’t learn?) over 3 days last December when he and his special advisor David Knight Legg met with Mark Carney and other business and financial leaders in London. The estimated cost of that trip was $34,000. It was Knight Legg’s 5th trip. He was supposed to use his international banking connections to secure capital investment for Alberta energy and other sectors. From what I recall they came back with zip.
You are looking for leadership from a Premier that has the emotional maturity of a grade 12 graduate. Oh!!!!!!! Sorry I forgot that is what he is. God save our souls or at least our sanity.
Bob, Kenney has so many characteristics that are troublesome, but the one that bothers me the most is how he’s blinded by ideology. No matter how many times his ideologically driven strategies have failed, he presses on, or when things go completely sideways like his $1.5B bet on Trump being elected, then he blames someone else, usually Trudeau.
Friends, this attempt by the UCP spinmeister-wannabes deserves an answer. Back in late August, I jotted down a list of things Lord Jason was trying (and often failing) to do. I just updated it a bit, and it’s mostly from memory, so feel free to point out errors. Have fun….
– War on doctors (Later: nurses, too)
– Corporate tax cuts (all in one year, rather than three)
– NO new jobs from the tax cuts (except maybe in Montana)
– Provincial budget that’s hopelessly optimistic (and 6 months late to avoid scaring federal voters into voting Liberal; didn’t work, they did anyway–2019)
– Giving oil companies a free pass to NOT pay municipal taxes
– Exodus of transnationals from bitumen (except Chinese companies)
– Energy “War Room” that mostly shot its own foot
– Firing teaching assistants (and have they even TRIED to re-hire now?)
– Slashing budgets for public education (but NOT for religious schools)
– Forcing the Calgary Public School Board to drop the word “Public”
– A Covid-19 plan that basically said, “Justin Trudeau will pay. We won’t.” (Later, grudgingly, walked back to give money to small business owners. A little money.)
– Botched “virtual” inspection of meat-packing plant leads to Canada’s biggest Covid-19 hotspot, at Cargill (or which town?)
– A Covid-19 back-to-school plan that’s totally inadequate
– Selling off provincial parks (after promising NOT to)
– Scrapping the NDP plan for a new provincial park (now trashed by idiots on quads)
– Justin Trudeau is STILL more popular than Erin O’Toole (“Who?”)
– Global oil prices stay stubbornly low (due to forces like Covid-19, the Russo-Saudi Price War and renewables becoming ever more competitive)
– Kenney “invests” $1.5B in Keystone XL, promises $6B loan guarantees–despite legal challenges in the US he can’t affect, AND promise by Joe Biden to cancel it if he wins the Presidency
– The ONLY pipeline being built is owned by the Federal government–prodded by Alberta NDP–and more progress than Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney EVER achieved
– Allowing big money from corporate shills back into Alberta politics
– Various “inquiries” which “discovered” what Jason TOLD them to (or, embarrassingly, didn’t discover anything)
– Riling up the lunatic separatist fringe (and discovering they don’t listen to ANYONE)
– Aaand legal challenges that will make Jason the most-sued premier in Canada
Mike, wow, that’s quite a list. It certainly highlights Kenney’s lack of political acumen, for example take your last point “Riling up the lunatic separatist fringe (and discovering they don’t listen to ANYONE). Kenney painted himself into a corner on this one. Given how hard UCP MLA Drew Barnes is pushing separation–he’s very vocal about his belief that Kenney was wrong to take separation off the table in his negotiations with Ottawa–it’s surprising Kenney hasn’t expelled Barnes from the UCP caucus. That tells me Kenney is afraid to touch Barnes for fear of enraging Barnes’ separatist supporters. This indicates a rift in the party which might blow wide open one day.
Calling these people a government is a joke in my view.
I have sent messages to all UCP MLAs and never got an answer. Not even those nice ones full of nothing.
If someone wants to define a Black Hole, just has to try to define this group of nothing. It is hard to even imagine it could get this pathetic. This is the same people that criticized Rachel Notley every single step pf the way. Compared to what we have seen so far, Rachel Notley’s caucus even with very young and relatively inexperienced people looked like genius compared to this.
Hopefully we can see this government fall into disrespect and have an earlier election because if not we have to try to survive as if we had 5 Alisson Redfords at the same time. It is absolutely unbearable. I will need not just a vaccine for covid-19 when it is available but serious psychological help the end of the year.
Carlos, I agree. The UCP bunch is the most incompetent government Alberta has had in a long time. It’s a maxim in any organization, be it the private sector or government, that the leader sets the tone at the top and everything the organization does (or doesn’t do) flows from that. Kenney was elected on a laundry list of policies which made it past his ideological filter. Other than a drive to get elected and stay in power, there’s no rhyme nor reason to any of it.
And as we can see from the continuing debacle in the US, men who prize power above all else will stop at nothing to keep it.
It’s time to get rid of Tyler Shandro! http://www.turf-tyler.com
Thanks for this Tara. As we said above, the UCP government is incompetent and Shandro is at the top of the list.
Good heavens Susan, that’s a disservice to merely incompetent people everywhere; why, at least some of them are trying!
“Unscrupulous” is as nice a word I can think of to describe Mr.Shandro’s brazenly unconscionable, conflicting, interests
What about ‘In search of sole source private health opportunities’
I have nothing to add, I do believe you’ve all said it all on this one! We’ll see..
Thanks for that, but especially thanks to Susan for your years of irrepressible humour, insight, commentary, and, encouragement.
I can’t remember the last time I told you so know that it really is heartening just to know that folk like you exist, let alone have the privilege to visit and comment here alongside the many decent, reasonable people that also choose to do so.
GoinFawr: what a wonderful comment. I’ve noticed an increase in the number of people who are disappointed and/or dismayed by this appalling government. I don’t know where Kenney plans to drag Alberta over the remaining 3 years of his term, but this growing band of anti-UCPers is going to fight him every step of the way.
Actually, the confirmed case total is 61,169 and the number of deaths is 561 as of Nov 2. https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-alberta-data.aspx#toc-0
That’s 1 in 73 Albertans already confirmed with COVID-19. But I’m guessing at least as many again did not get tested to avoid self-isolation or job loss, or were asymptomatic so that it’s probably about 1 in 40 Albertans who have caught the virus.
Premier Kenney has totally failed Albertans.
Mike, thank you for this information. As you said the real numbers are probably higher for the reasons you give. It is devastating.