Kenney and the Autocrat’s Handbook

The Alberta Legislature ended the 2021 Spring Session on a particularly disturbing note.

Members of the Opposition asked Jason Kenney to apologize for his role in pushing the niqab ban, a policy that contributed to growing Islamophobia, while he was a federal cabinet minister.

Instead of an apology, Kenney stood up and flatly denied he’d ever supported the niqab ban.

We’ve all seen the news clips and Hansard transcripts where Kenney banned the niqab at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. Over the years he’s said the niqab “reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada.” It was “a medieval tribal custom” and he “was proud to make that decision” because he believed “people taking the public Oath of Citizenship should do so . . .with their faces uncovered.”

The denial

This week Kenney added that it is “entirely reasonable that when people are making a public oath in a court, when they’re testifying, when they are providing identification, when they’re boarding an airplane, they should do so with their identity available and their faces uncovered.”

None of Kenney’s examples of “reasonableness” are relevant. Citizenship ceremonies do not take place in court. They are held at CIC offices, schools and community halls. The oath or affirmation is not giving testimony in court and the certificate of citizenship is not an identity or travel document.

He could have apologized like his former MP colleagues Tim Uppal and Michelle Rempel Garner, instead he chose to lie. Why?  

Characteristics of an autocrat

The answer lies in historian Timothy Synder’s analysis of autocrats.*

Autocrats lie. Even in the face of concrete evidence to the contrary. Putin lied about the invasion of Ukraine and Trump lied about winning the 2020 election.     

And Kenney lies. He said the coronavirus was the flu, then denied he’d said it. He violated the restriction against outdoor patio dining, then denied it, then admitted it.

Autocrats like to win. For them winning isn’t about getting the most votes, it’s about getting away with whatever it takes to get into power.

The UCP leadership race that resulted in Kenney becoming the leader of the UCP was fraught with shady practices. The Election Commissioner imposed thousands of dollars in fines for illegal donations but was not able to finish his investigation because Kenney fired him after he came to office. (The RCMP investigation into voter fraud and identity theft is still ongoing).  

Autocrats have a disdain for democracy.

Kenney displayed his disrespect for the democratic process very early in his tenure by distributing earplugs to his fellow MLAs so they wouldn’t have to listen to the Opposition MLAs who (let’s remember) are charged with the responsibility of holding the government to account and voicing the concerns of their constituents.  

He shut down debate 29 times in two years, contrast this to the NDP who shut down debate 5 times over four years.

When covid struck he declared with Churchillian bravado that his government would stay open no matter what, then suspended the Legislature for two weeks at the height of the covid crisis to avoid questions about spiking covid numbers and to hide from a brewing caucus revolt.

He enacted public health restrictions then adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” approach allowing his  MLAs and staff to travel over Christmas and treating his cabinet ministers and staff to an outdoor patio dining experience on the 11th floor of the Sky Palace.  

He passed legislation to curtail Albertans’ right to protest but was slow to act when evangelical clergymen held illegal church services and anti-maskers took to the streets to illegally gather in protest of his public health restrictions.   

He announced important policies on Twitter and Facebook to avoid tough questions from the media. And at traditional press conferences he sneered at reporters when they asked legitimate questions or sought clarification about inconsistent or contradictory policies.   

These examples of autocratic behavior are disturbing, but none are as destructive as Kenney’s focus on past grievances.

Timothy Snyder explains that instead of creating possibilities for the future, autocrats place their country (or in our case our province) at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood where they dwell on the wrongs done to them by others (the federal Liberals).   

The autocrat promises to redress these ills. So per the autocrat’s handbook Kenney promised to “stand up for Alberta” against shadowy foreign funded special interests and get a “fair deal” from Canada.

He dragged Albertans into a whirlpool of studies, panels and inquiries including the never-ending and oh so secret Anti-Alberta Energy Public Inquiry, the utterly useless Energy War Room, and the divisive Fair Deal Panel.

Kenney convinced Albertans they were virtuous “people of destiny” who suffered injustice at the hands of the Feds. Instead of developing a clear understanding of the present reality and creating policies to give us control over our own future we’re stuck nursing our grievances and wallowing in self-pity.    

Snyder points out that a society obsessed with victimhood runs on inflamed emotions. Consequently, tribalism and polarization increase.

A premier who not only refuses to apologize for actions that fuel Islamophobia and flat out denies what he’s done when all we have to do is google “Kenney niqab ban” to confirm he’s lying only makes things worse.    

But it doesn’t matter to Kenney because all he cares about is staying in power.

As Timothy Snyder said, for an autocrat winning is everything.

*The Road to Unfreedom

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66 Responses to Kenney and the Autocrat’s Handbook

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. I think the premier of Alberta, (not sure about that title for him) has total selective memory. It’s like his Neo-Stalinist remarks, pertaining to Peter Lougheed and Don Getty, with their diversification projects. He doesn’t remember saying it, but there is proof he said it. I would rather think of something happy, since the summer solstice is here. Here is a song by the group War, called Summer. It is from 1976. This was from the post Eric Burdon era of the group. Eric Burdon was in The Animals, before he co-founded the group War.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Since I can only post one link at a time, I’ll share another song from a group I really like, Sly & The Family Stone. Hot Fun In The Summertime. It’s from around 1969.

    • Bota28 says:

      Oh even better !

      • Dwayne says:

        Bota28: Here’s another great tune, from June, 1971, at the Glastonbury Music Festival, in England. Steve Winwood, and Traffic are covering a song that Steve Winwood co-wrote with his older brother Muff, and Spencer Davis, when Steve Winwood was in the Spencer Davis Group, in the 1960s. Gimme Some Lovin’. It’s based on a Homer Banks bassline. The musicians are Steve Winwood on vocals, and Hammond organ, Dave Mason on guitar, Rick Grech on bass, Chris Wood on saxophone, Jim Gordon on drums, Jim Capaldi on tambourine, and Reebop Kwaku Baah on congas and percussion. Dave Mason briefly returned to Traffic, once again, before going back on a very successful solo career. Steve Winwood was only 23, when this performance was recorded.

      • Dwayne, the first thing I noticed when I played the Winwood clip was the crowds. I’m still in a covid mindset but we’ll get there one day. Thank you!

    • Guy says:

      Dwayne, this song came up on my music player a couple of hours ago so I looked and, sure enough, there’s a video for it so I thought I would add to your celebration of summer music.

      I’ve read enough James Lee Burke to know better, so it says much about the state of our province that this song made me wish I was in Louisiana, even just for a little while. This is Anders Osborne performing ‘Summertime in New Orleans’.

    • Dwayne, this is so strange, I was humming this song on the weekend and then boom, here it is. I think we’re all ready for summer vacation, right? Thank you!

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: You’re very welcome. The live clip of Traffic at Glastonbury is a nice relief. We can’t do that at music festivals these days. There were no smartphones then either. Steve Winwood is an amazing multi-instrumentalist, as are the members of Traffic. Steve Winwood was a professional musician since he was around 8 years old. Many people will remember his work with The Spencer Davis Group, and also Blind Faith, a short lived supergroup that also featured Rick Grech, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, the guitarist and drummer from another short lived supergroup, Cream. Rick Grech was in the group Family. I’ve also liked Sly And The Family Stone and War for many years.

  3. Mike J Danysh says:

    Jason Kenney, the strong man’s strong man. NOT.

    Kenney has the instincts and the attitude of an autocrat, but he doesn’t have the intelligence to make it work or the charisma to convince people to follow him—unless they’re desperate, utterly confused and even stupider than Jason Kenney himself.

    “Divide and conquer” tactics work for a time; one election, perhaps a term or two. They work best if there’s a credible “external threat” the strong man can point at, while he waves the proverbial bloody shirt. “Look what they did to you! I will protect you!” Make ‘em scared, make ‘em mad, promise to protect ‘em. They’ll idolize you.

    But it all falls apart if your “enemy” either isn’t external after all, or if he’s more competent than you are. Either way, you look like a chump. If you’re not strong enough to crush internal dissent—like the “Covid-18” MLAs—you look not only vulnerable, but also hesitant. Kenney must know he’s on extremely thin ice, and it’s cracking underfoot.

    Now comes the next phase—distraction. The Covid reopening “plan” is rushed, with NO consideration of the increased risks posed by the Delta variant. I was at a (masked, hand-sanitized, as-physically-distanced-as-possible) garage sale. I overheard several conversations about July 1 and Kenney’s reopening plan. The unanimous opinion was, “It’s too soon.” But everyone was SO tired of the restrictions, we couldn’t help hoping it would be over soon.

    It won’t. Kenney’s autocratic tendencies are outweighed by his fear of confrontation. He’ll throw the doors open so his Base can go out and play. And We the Peepul of Oilberduh will be under Phase 1 restrictions again, by late September. Oh, the joy. Oh, the humanity.

    • Dwayne says:

      Mike J Danysh: I’d say before July is done, we will be seeing tighter restrictions return to Alberta. I’d say that time, because the UCP’s reopening plans have a known history of failing. Notice how Dr. Deena Hinshaw is totally subservient to the UCP. This is a disaster in the making. It’s like a souffle. When you make it, you can’t open the oven door too soon, or the souffle will collapse. I think there will be chaos and more problems, because of how the UCP have handled things so poorly.

      • GoinFawr says:

        You’ve managed to produce an UN collapsed soufflé?

        I’ve got a cheese pudding so far as to make it out of the oven standing tall, but by the time it got to the table it was a deflated dirigible.

        @ Mike

        “But it all falls apart if your “enemy” either isn’t external after all, or if he’s more competent than you are”

        Or “s(he)” even, and historical record illustrates as clearly as an azure sky of deepest summer that Ms.Notely was, is, and always will be more competent than JK ever could be.

      • Mike J Danysh says:

        Dwayne, you could easily be right about the timing. I guess I was hoping for a somewhat relaxing summer before we have to batten down the hatches yet again. On reflection, I believe there’ll be a fairly long period of slow increase in cases–then, after about 6 weeks, the case load will go ballistic again and we’ll witness Dr. Hinshaw’s return (watch for the 10-foot pole that pushes her to the podium) to announce, “We’re closing down restaurants and stuff again.” Yay.

    • Mike J and Dwayne, I don’t know if you saw the article in the Globe & Mail today which discussed how HInshaw and Kenney came up with the 12% to 14% “natural immunity” number which when added to the first dose count pushed Alberta over the 70% threshold in time to reopen. Whoopee!
      The G&M story said that in the early days of the pandemic, they did serology testing of blood samples from patients who had “unrelated blood tests” and estimated that X% have had covid, then they estimated how many of that X% got vaccinated and deducted the second estimate from the original estimate and came up with 12% to 14% “natural immunity.”
      Leaving aside the issue of how long does “natural immunity” last and how effective is it against the variants, one has to ask (1) did the patients who provided the “unrelated blood tests” know AHS was running a covid serology test on their samples, if not that’s a violation of privacy.(2) how big was the sample size and when in the early days of the pandemic did this screening occur (ie. covid positivity rates were much lower in the early days of the pandemic than at the peak of the crisis) and how did they figure out how many people with “natural immunity” would get a vaccine to ensure there wouldn’t be any double counting.
      None of this makes any sense and all of this points to a premature opening based on trumped up numbers.
      Here’s the link:

      • Mike J Danysh says:

        Hmm…this is way outside my specialty. Still…locating antibodies for the coronavirus (once such have been ID’d elsewhere) should be routine. So finding SARS-Cov-2 antibodies in X% of serology tests collected for all purposes isn’t unreasonable. (Presumably all personal information was expunged from the test records to avoid ethical or privacy breaches.)

        The “estimate” of how many serology-test donors (let’s call them) were vaccinated can’t be much better than “Y% were jabbed at least once since then,” unless some private information (age group, occupation, or date of eligibility for the first jab–name and address would be deleted) was available to narrow down the date ranges. Even so, I doubt the “Y% vaccinated” number could be more than a guess–with an error range of plus-or-minus Y.

        So yeah, I’m prepared to accept that there’s some legitimate basis for the “12 to 14% natural immunity” estimate. But it still sounds really shaky. I’d have cut the estimate in half, say 7% maximum, and tried to decide it it was reliable enough to include in the re-opening benchmark. My inclination would be to say, “No, forget it. We’ll count only vaccine jabs to be on the safe side.”

        But Jason Kenney isn’t like me. He’s betting his political career that there WON’T be a fourth wave, and all (among his base) will be forgiven. They might, if they can have a whole bunch of beers together at the Stampede. At least until the fourth wave rolls over Calgary, and the restrictions start again.

  4. Bota28 says:

    Dwayne thank you for the song 🙂 one of my favourites 🙂 great memories and nostalgia and we really need to savour some of this right now to lift the heaviness.

    Great blog as well Susan !

    • Thank you Bota28. I absolutely agree with your comment about lifting the heaviness. It’s going to be a tough slog though given the fact our vaccine uptake rate is seriously lagging in smaller centers and rural Alberta. This could get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

  5. Irene says:

    Kenney’s “base” of supporters is something that he has cultivated, and he knows how to manipulate them for the most part. The whole niqab thing was just to have a group to scapegoat, and if they are readily identifiable by their skin colour and dress, even better- especially for the thickest and most deranged racists. If he apologizes he will have to take responsibility for putting the target on Muslim people, and for what happened to that poor family in London, Ontario on June 8, 2021. PM Trudeau was quoted on CNN, “‘Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence,’ the Prime Minister said before the House of Commons. ‘This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack motivated by hatred in the heart of one in our community.'” Trudeau should have taken it one step farther and acknowledged where that young man’s hatred, and many others’, comes from and how it is fomented and nurtured. However, we know one of the ones responsible for it will never own up to it.

    • You’re right Irene. They won’t accept responsibility or accountability and send their minions to defend them with nonsense arguments, Justice Minister Madu responded to an Opposition MLA suggesting Kenney should apologize for his role in pushing the niqab ban by saying such an accusation was nonsense, Kenney was a friend to Muslim communities and did such a good job he was known as Minister Curry in a Hurry. Lawyer Avnish Nanda tweeted this is something a white person (likely Kenney) would make up and “and isn’t something people who actually eat curry think is positive,”
      Can you imagine justifying Kenney’s niqab policy by saying yeah but look at his cute little nickname. Unbelievable.

  6. Brent Mcfadyen says:

    When will the RCMP end the investigation into the leadership fraud. It has been dragged out too far. Release the results after the next election so the UCP can be re-elected.

    • Brent, excellent point. This is one question everyone should ask the UCP candidates who come knocking on their door in 2023–if the UCP isn’t pushing to release the results of this investigation, all we can assume is they have something to hide.

  7. Guy says:

    Susan, this is an excellent encapsulation of the Jason Kenney playbook. Almost every day now, unfortunately, I’m reminded of the Trump presidency where the lies get bigger and bolder and come with increasing frequency leaving many people bewildered and confused and questioning their own judgement. A phrase that sticks with me from that time is ‘There is no bottom’. When we see a politician or a political party sink to levels that we never previously imagined we sometimes shake our heads as we realize that we have achieved a new low in politics, only to be shown soon after that there are indeed new depths to be explored. Our current government demonstrates this to us on a nearly daily basis now.

    While we can take some small comfort in the fact that the poll numbers for Kenney and the UCP have fallen drastically since they were elected, the last approval rating that I can remember was something around 30%. In other words, almost 1 in 3 voters would still support this government even though, as you correctly state, their only goal is to retain power. How they do that is of no consequence to them as they appear to not possess either individual or collective conscience. They are in it for themselves, not the for the people who elected them, and yet 30% of us would apparently support that, and the methods that are employed to achieve that goal, even when the facts demonstrate that it is clearly not in our own self-interest. It’s astonishing to me that so many of us can be that self-delusional.

    I particularly like the short paragraph near the end of this piece that talks about inflamed emotions leading to increased tribalism and polarization. I think that’s exactly where we are now. Kenney’s seemingly endless supply of straw men has made Alberta a backwater in the eyes of many Canadians outside this province while internally he appears to have no qualms whatsoever about dividing Albertans over politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else really, so long as it serves his purpose. He has actively inflamed the emotions of many people in this province and in my opinion this is the most destructive aspect of his autocratic approach. Once people have been emboldened and even encouraged to act on their basest emotions they don’t simply stop when a new leader is elected. The genie doesn’t go back into the bottle that easily. This is what we are seeing in America today and I fear it’s where Kenney is leading Alberta now. The longer it continues the harder it will be for any progressive government to unite Albertans and move the province forward both socially and economically.

    • Thanks Guy. What got me thinking about Kenney in the context of Snyder’s analysis of tyrants and autocrats was the fact Kenney’s “misstatements” have become more and more egregious over time. Kenney’s disregard for the truth is consistent with that of Putin and Trump.
      Snyder says an autocrat doesn’t care if he’s proven wrong, all he needs to do is create confusion over what is true and what is a lie and he’s won. This is because (1) people believe all politicians lie so this is no different than anyone else and (2) after a steady diet of lies and misinformation the people will believe anything the autocrat tells them even if what he tells them this week is a flat out contradiction of what he told them last week.

  8. Judy J. Johnson says:

    Susan, this is an outstanding post of Kenney’s historical, authoritarian specter that would dismantle democracy. I hope your blog will be published far and wide, now, and again in the run-up to the 2023 election. People like Kenney are driven by deep emotional needs that short-circuit their
    potential for reasoning, then cling tenaciously to beliefs that gratify those needs. Dogmatism in the political domain is not a good policy advisor.

    • Judy, excellent point. A long time ago when I worked in the private sector I attended a management course which taught us the same thing. It’s impossible to get people to change their behavior if they’re reacting emotionally to a situation. Emotion blocks out reason and you end up getting no where.
      It’s not a good situation in the work force. It’s even scarier when we see it in a politician responsible for the health and well being of 4.4 million Albertans.

  9. rubennelson says:

    Susan, it is tragic that you can write a piece such as you have about a Premier of Alberta and realise that he fits the model you set out. My sense of him is that he is far more dangerous to Alberta than Donald Trump was to the USA. With Trump, what you saw was what you got. He was neither devious nor self-censoring enough to be devious. Kenney is. The way he will treat the referendum in the fall will prove your portrait and my fears.

    You must help us see him for what he is, see the danger he represents to Alberta, Albertans and Canadians and see the need to get organized enough to defeat his referendum.. That will show that we are truly “strong and free.” Ironic, that.

    • Keith McClary says:

      ” The way he will treat the referendum in the fall …”

      He will lie about supporting the current Equalization formula when he was a Harper barking seal.

    • Tina Dmytryshyn says:

      I have been thinking about this referendum and that we must get the word out to vote against it. We have to stress to Albertans that it is a useless practice that will have zero effect but if it passes may do harm to smaller provinces like PEI and Manitoba. Albertans have to understand that equalization payments are needed so that provinces like PEI can offer the same levels of health care and education as have provinces.

    • You make a good point Ruben. Kenney is more articulate and cunning than Trump. It’s taken us some time but we’re finally starting to figure out that Kenney is a danger to our democracy. I agree that we have to defeat his referendum. If for no other reason than to demonstrate to the rest of Canada that not everyone who lives here has bought into the swill Kenney is peddling.

  10. Mike Priaro says:

    You nailed it, Susan! An ineffectual federal carpetbagger of an opportunistic career politician whose only focii are his donors, getting elected and playing politics.
    The least popular premier in the country, if he had federal ambitions, those are long gone.

    • Mike Priaro: the only good thing I can say about Kenney screwing things up here in Alberta is we’re providing the rest of Canada with a preview of what they can expect if they ever let Kenney back into federal politics and (heaven forbid) he manages to form government.
      But like you I believe the fact Kenney is doomed to remain a small fish in a tiny pond. Kenney’s unite the right effort lasted 2 years, whereas Harper’s unite the right effort held and is still holding two decades later. The federal conservatives would be insane to let him back into the fold.

  11. Kenney is not the cause of Alberta’s problems, but a symptom.

    If we claim to be a democratic society, we have the government we deserve.

    • Guy says:

      James, if I can give your comment the broadest interpretation that I can think of, I would say that, yes, we did democratically elect this government. I would, however, argue strenuously that this is the government that we deserve. Personally, I don’t know anyone who supports the actions that this government has undertaken and that many people were blindsided by policies designed to undermine public health care and education. I’m also fairly sure that there is little or no support for introducing more coal mining to the Rocky Mountains. I live in a staunchly Conservative region of the province but many people here make their living from farming and ranching. None of them want to see their ground water permanently contaminated.

      Kenney is a symptom of nothing. He is a disease. The political attitude of Albertans has been carefully cultivated throughout more than 40 consecutive years of Conservative government that has pandered to the fossil fuel industry and convinced the most shallow-thinking of us that the resulting free flow of money is how it should be, must be, and always will be. Kenney knew this and played his cards accordingly. That’s how he got elected. Now that he is in charge he has failed time and again to deliver on anything that he promised Albertans.

      Your opinion is as valid as mine is because this is a democracy, unless Kenney gets elected for another term and then I’m not sure what it will be. I just don’t want anyone telling me that this is what I deserve because it isn’t. I didn’t vote for this. If you feel that it’s what you deserve then I just feel sorry for you.

      • Dwayne says:

        Guy: I’m not certain that the UCP attained power legitimately. There is so much evidence that shows the UCP didn’t arrive at their position of power in a democratic way. There is so much evidence that shows this to be the case.

      • The principal cause of Alberta’s problems has always been Albertans, and always will be.


        Nobody forced us to re-elect the same government for 40 consecutive years.

        Nobody forced us to make our government fiscally dependent on royalties from oil and gas production.

        Nobody forced us or our government to stop investing in the Heritage Fund.

        Nobody forced us to decline a provincial sales tax that would have enabled our government to finance public services more sustainably while managing our prosperity more responsibly.

        Nobody forced us to double down on oil sands development, and then double down again when the risks were clearly unmanageable to anyone open to looking (we didn’t).

        Nobody forced us to accumulate hundreds of $billions in public debt and unfunded private liabilities, which we will cynically force younger and future generations of Albertans to take responsibility for.

        We Albertans are accountable for all of the above and a damn sight more, but the personal freedoms we seem to cherish most are freedom from accountability and freedom from responsibility.

        If we actually wanted an honest and proper accounting for Alberta’s present condition, the first place we would look is in the mirror.

        But we don’t want it, so scapegoating and turd polishing prevail – cue Jason Kenney.

        This is the example we are setting for our youth, who are now leaving Alberta in growing numbers.

        Why would they believe in us when we can’t accept and acknowledge accountability for what we are incontrovertibly accountable for.

        Why would they expect Alberta’s condition to improve.

        Personal Development 101:

        My personal potential and possibilities depend on my willingness to hold myself to account for my my failures, not just my successes – otherwise I cannot learn and grow from them.

        Alberta’s potential and possibilities depend on our willingness to hold ourselves and each other to account for Alberta’s failures, not just its successes – otherwise we cannot learn and grow from them.

        EPIC fail.

        I won’t bash Jason Kenney, because he doesn’t matter and it’s worse than a waste of time.

        It’s a distraction from what I need to be attending to if I actually want Alberta to improve, namely, my own accountability and responsibility.

        Strangely, perhaps stupidly, I still care about Alberta.

        I was born in this province, and have lived here my entire life.

        The last decent leader we elected was Peter Lougheed, back when more Albertans stood for honesty, integrity and accountability.

        These values have been ebbing away since Lougheed steeped down, but not because he stepped down.

        We had the leadership we deserved then, and we have the leadership we deserve now.

        Bashing Jason Kenney doesn’t help turn the tide, nor does it inspire hope for the future among Alberta’s youth or among anyone else.

        Kenney is who he is, and he’s not going to become somebody else.

        Here’s something much healthier to pay attention to, something we can actually learn from.

      • Guy says:

        Dwayne, you may be right but I don’t recall there being much controversy around the election itself. The polls predicted a large majority for the UCP and that’s what happened. The UCP leadership race was another matter entirely. There were plenty of, I’ll say questionable, things that went on there if even only some of what was made public was actually true. I remember hoping at the time that that would be enough to turn voters away from the UCP but sadly, it wasn’t. I’m still struggling to understand why we have heard nothing from the RCMP about this after more than two years..

      • Guy says:

        James, I agree with at least the first part of your comment, all the paragraphs starting with ‘Nobody’. I have had some of the same thoughts myself and to me the lack of critical thinking that voters apply to politics in this province is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of living here. However, I still maintain that this UCP government differs from the previous governments that we have elected in that they did not present their true agenda to voters.

        The public platform of the UCP during the election campaign was Pipelines and Jobs. The underlying message to voters was that Jason Kenney would be able to restore economic prosperity to the province and bring back the ‘good old days’. That message is what got him elected. If the UCP had publicly stated that their goals were to dismantle public health and education, sell off provincial parks and expand coal mining in the Rockies I doubt very much that they would have been elected. At least the race would have been much closer than it was and if they were elected on that platform then it would be fair to say that we got what we voted for.

        Kenney put out the message that he knew would appeal to the majority of voters and, once he was elected, proceeded to act in direct opposition to the will of the people who elected him. The example that Susan cites in her post of Kenney distributing ear plugs in the legislature is an open display of his contempt for the democratic process. The government that he leads is authoritarian and autocratic in its nature as it pretends to be acting democratically. This is not what Albertans voted for, as evidenced by Kenney’s plummeting support numbers since he was elected.

      • Guy;

        Jason Kenney is a career political agitator and operator, with a long and well-documented track record that any Albertan could have researched to gain insight into how he was likely to use the powers of the Premier’s office.

        I did the research, and I’m not surprised by anything that Kenney and the UCP have tried to ram down our throats, no matter how brazen or profoundly misguided.

        I also did the research on all the candidates for my riding before the 2019 election, because I take my responsibilities of democratic citizenship seriously.

        The rookie UCP candidate was the first to speak at our local All Candidates Forum, and he opened with the following:


        He delivered that statement with all seriousness and sincerity, and he won with over 70% of the popular vote.

        A better name for the United Conservative Party would be the Regressive Conservative Party or the Anti-Democratic Party.

        The Party is rooted in a host of self-delusions, including the notion that Albertans are ‘virtuous “people of destiny” who suffered injustice at the hands of the Feds.’

        We the people have a government comprised of resentful and vindictive people who want to believe that we are favoured, or at least, they are favoured.

        This is how we prefer to account for the breathtaking economic prosperity we have so badly mismanaged since the end of the Lougheed Era.

        Reality is that we are merely fortunate, thanks to an enormous wealth of natural resources beneath our feet that absolutely no living or deceased human being is accountable for (‘fossil fuels’).

        We want freedom from accountability, because we don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of our complacency and carelessness.

        So we still have a UCP government, despite its litany of abuses and failures.

        Important to note that the Alberta’s political right hasn’t split because of these abuses and failures.

        It has split because the UCP isn’t conservative enough for those who have migrated to Wildrose.

        If Kenney or his Party felt he was no longer fit to be Premier, he would be gone.

        But he’s still the Premier, even in the wake of the very costly Keystone XL failure.


        For some entertaining déjà vu, here’s the Wikipedia entry for the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

        Read the section on ‘The Party Under Peter Lougheed and Don Getty’.

        Have we learned ANYTHING in the last half century?

    • Dwayne says:

      James Van Leeuwen: There is much doubt as to whether the UCP were democratically elected, because there is so much evidence and revelations that show the UCP did not come to power by any democratic or ethical process. If you were to look at the history of what was happening with the UCP, it would become pretty obvious that the UCP didn’t get to their position honestly.

      • Dwayne, you have illustrated my point.

        There were obvious violations of ethics and democratic norms – blindingly obvious to anyone paying attention.

        There was no coordinated and determined stand against these threats to our democracy.

        Hence, we have the leadership we deserve.

        If Lougheed had tried something similar in his day, his own Party would have ridden him out of the province on a rail.

    • Carlos says:

      James I fully agree with you and Albertans went into a shopping spree with the oil boom and never even took a second to think clearly about more than just what money can buy.
      The results are obvious and we donated billions of dollars to major oil companied for nothing in return other than some jobs and now the cleanup coming up that costs billions that our governments transferred to us because of their incompetence.
      As far as the book from Carney I think it is an interesting read and I agree with him in many of his ideas but the problem is that there are two faces for each politician that writes books of public interest. There is their ideas before getting elected and their values after they get elected. We have had countless cases of people that write social democrat and practice neo-liberal, Obama was the scariest case, Freeland is another one and many others. Although I enjoy reading that type of book I no longer believe any of it until they show it in real life and for some reason I think this will be another example.

      • Carlos,

        Carney’s book is not about politicians.

        It is fundamentally about responsible citizenship, including democratic citizenship.

        We elect politicians to represent our values and interests, and if they fail, it is our responsibility as citizens to remove them from power if they won’t remove themselves.

        We Albertans kept the same political party in power for 44 years.

        If the vote on the right had not split in 2015, it would now be over fifty years.

        We the people are clearly the problem, not the politicians we elect.

        If you want to read a really helpful book, read this one about how Trump won the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. and what it has revealed about the American electorate:

        I have just listened to the audiobook for the third time, because I find it so profoundly relevant to Alberta as I have come to understand it.

        It is relevant to the entire western world, if not to all of humanity.

      • Carlos says:

        Sorry James I thought you were talking about the book ‘Values’ by Mark Carney who I am sure you know.
        It is a good book and I am still reading it. Unfortunately people that are obviously smart and accomplished once in power revert back to the bad habits and nothing ever changes.
        Freeland for example wrote a very interesting book about Plutocracy and once in power she is now talking about certain plutocrats that are ‘acceptable’. Not surprising but always disappointing because these people have an opportunity to change our lives for the better but somehow prefer to not rock the boat. Justin Trudeau makes very good pronouncements when in the G7 or the UN about freedom and human rights but then comes home and very little ever changes on our indigenous people condition. We talk and talk and have Royal Commissions to just find the same problems over and over again. They have for decades convinced themselves that governments are the problem and are almost realizing their own idea by making themselves irrelevant.

      • Carlos says:

        Forgot to mention that I had not heard about this book and I am sure I will be reading it soon. Thank you for letting us know

  12. Ian Makus says:

    It’s no longer Kenney’s habitual lying that disturbs me. What disturbs me is the number of Albertans that still see him as a “stand-up guy.”
    Are they stupid? Do they enjoy living under a demagogue?
    What exactly is their mental infirmary?

  13. Carlos says:

    ‘I’m still struggling to understand why we have heard nothing from the RCMP about this after more than two years..’

    Guy I have struggled with this for a long time but not anymore. It is clear to me that Jason Kenney has stopped this investigation the same way he stopped by firing Lorne Gibson the at the time our election commissioner.
    At the time I did not want to believe Jason Kenney could actually do it but I know now exactly what this moron is capable of. The province pays the RCMP and a Premier like Jason Kenney can stop the investigation and I bet he did. He is shameless and a professional cheater and unfortunately there are never whistle blowers when it comes to important issues like this one.

    • GoinFawr says:

      The federalis are national though, no? Kenney isn’t premier of Canada.

      if the investigation isn’t still ongoing, do the RC’s have to report that?

      • Carlos says:

        I understand that GoinFawr but my point is that the RCMP who lately has shown quite a lot of incompetence, corruption and harassment in their midst are paid by the province.
        So my question is – you do not believe that Jason Kenney can interfere with the investigation or even stop it? I do I am sorry. I no longer believe the RCMP to be the police force we used to be so proud of.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Actually the RCMP in this alleged “investigation” is acting under its provincial contract policing mandate, not as the federal police force. As such, it is answerable to the Solicitor-General of Alberta, not to Ottawa. Whether the S-G has given directions to drag its feet on the investigation, or it is simply not finding anything of substance to investigate, remains an open question.

        While I’m on the subject, it’s interesting that while we in Alberta gaze with horror at the prospect of Jason Kenney setting up an Alberta provincial police force — can you say “private army”? — there are serious people across the country calling on the federal government to end the RCMP’s contract policing model & confine it to a national mandate. Such a change would force 7½ provinces — the “½” referring to those portions of Newfoundland & Labrador not served by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary — to set up their own provincial police services for rural and small-urban areas without their own municipal services. So, depending on how things develop on the national scene, the so-called “Fair Deal Panel” may get one of its wishes without even trying. Of course, they’d have Ottawa to thank for it, which would certainly stick in their collective craws.

    • Guy says:

      That’s really interesting Carlos. It never occurred to me that Kenney could have the power to quash an RCMP investigation. I suppose that I just assumed that the RCMP was free to act independently and that they would be beyond Kenney’s reach. If you’re right and he does have that much power then I have absolutely no doubt that he would use it to protect himself just as you described.

      • Carlos says:

        Guy I do not know I am right. I am suggesting, after all we still have the right to open debate. After 2 years of UCP and what I have seen to be possible by playing the rules I no longer doubt my suggestion to be possible. The times when I was part of those that strongly believed in the rule of law and a uncorrupt government in Canada is unfortunately gone and it will take many years to recover it. The news of the 215 kids found in a common grave just cemented it for me. There is no way in hell that our governments that created and launched the Residential Schools did not know what was going on. It sounds like the Germans denying the concentration camps. Remember the last Residential School closed in 1997. I apologize if I offend anyone here but my trust in any government is basically nil. In the last 40 years our governments have been negotiating our rights and our living standards away to neo-liberalism and they have known all along that was happening. Confidence in government is very low and we traded it for access to markets. Now we are reaching the collapse point and we have no plan or competence at the political level to fix the whole situation. The party is over, the garbage accumulated and the loss of trust is obvious. Just add climate change and promises related to it for the last 20 years and one wonders where we will be in the near future. No country can progress without trust, they are called failed nations. I have seen and lived in failed nations and it is a horrible experience.

      • Carlos says:

        Do not forget the RCMP is paid by the province correct?

      • Guy says:

        I didn’t know the answer to your question Carlos so I looked it up. It looks like RCMP contract policing is a cost share between a provincial or territorial government and the federal government with the province/territory picking up 70% and the feds 30%. Here’s the link if anyone is interested.

      • Carlos says:

        Thank you Guy – 70% is even more than I thought. Whether or not they are fully independent is to me very debatable especially when the government has the ethics and morals we have witnessed. I personally do not have any doubts that a person like Jason Kenney would violate that independence if for self benefit. That is my opinion not a fact.

  14. GoinFawr says:

    Re: “Hence, we have the leadership we deserve.” (Because democracy.)

    “Us”, “We” ,”We…We” ‘s

    Someone certainly likes to throw around the collectives as if they are invectives.

    @ JVL

    “Well, I didn’t vote for you.” – ‘Peasant’ woman.

    I know JVL, I Know:
    “You don’t vote for Kings.”

    • “[I]t has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, and that public opinion expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.” – Winston Churchill

      Do WE, the people of Alberta, still claim and aspire to be a democratic society?

      If so, then WE, collectively, have the government and leadership we deserve.

      • Carlos says:

        I agree except that without Proportional Representation we really get a very distorted government we deserve. The winner takes all approach has allowed majorities that should never have happened. Rule by majorities is not much different then a ‘voted autocracy’ and that is what the Conservative Party has always done in Alberta.
        Interestingly enough the NDP seems to like to rule by majority as well, Big changes like privatizing health care are not done by consensus but by force using majorities.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Goinfawr: rolls eyes

        Yes yes JVL, existentially WE are ALL responsible for not doing enough to see that Kenney and Co.’s Used Car Party’s leased, un-lift-kitted, Griftmobile never made it off the ground, so perhaps you could argue WE ‘ALL deserve’ some of the blame for the political tragedy that has become Alberta.

        On the other hand, that quote says zip zilch nada about a population “deserving” Used Car Partiers’ litany of lies, double standards, incompetence, and corruption…. basically your argument is akin to

        ‘if someone defrauds you, you deserve it’,

        which, regardless of famous quotes, is quite obviously not what democracy is about. And, FTR, I am being patiently polite here; because Susan.

        When it comes to democracy “aspire” is your comment’s keystone word.

        A democracy usurped by capital has a big problem, so
        I am going to repeat a recent comment of mine in response :

        Jason Kenney is a machine boss.

        Even as late as 1912…the great mass of the people still persisted in the belief that they ruled the country by virtue of their ballots. In reality, the country was ruled by what were called political machines. At first the machine bosses charged the master capitalists extortionate tolls for legislation; but in a short time the master capitalists found it cheaper to own the political machines themselves and to hire the machine bosses.

        – Jack London, “The Iron Heel”, 1908

        The NDP began the process of squelching this:

        The UCP repealed that, no?
        “When someone shows you who they are, watch it.”

      • Guy says:

        Well said, GoinFawr. And I think the Jack London quote is appropriate. It has seemed obvious to me from the outset that this government has been bought and paid for by corporate interests.

        With respect to the Churchill quote, if that’s what we are being asked to use in this discussion to define democracy then, reading it from ‘the people should rule…’ it also seems obvious that this is not what we have in Alberta today. The government was elected with a mandate to create jobs and rebuild the economy. Instead, they have pursued their own agenda consisting of a host of unpopular decisions. Albertans have been vocal in their opposition to many of these policies on social media, mainstream media and in forums like this one. Several people here have commented on the proliferation of yard signs in their communities protesting the government’s policies. Many people have also contacted their MLA’s to protest. To my knowledge anyway, we have no other recourse to change things until the next election so people are doing what they are able to and still the government has chosen to actively ignore their concerns. They even went so far as to pass Bill 1, which was designed to quell public protest and dissent. So if it’s reasonable to say that Churchill is describing a social contract between an electorate and the government that they elect then here in Alberta it is the government that has broken that contract and is continuing to break it. To say that the electorate are therefore getting what they deserve reeks of self-flagellation to me and that’s not something I’m prepared to participate in.

  15. Carlos says:

    Example after example we are told where our place is. People can call this a democracy but not me. We are far from it. Free voting is a system not democracy. Do you have any say on what involved in this article?
    Freeland should. Does she? In 6 years and an increase of auditors NOTHING changed

  16. GoinFawr says:

    Great piece Susan, thank you for another one.

    “They can take our bones, and bury them
    Deep under the river, but we’ll still be together,
    And we cannot be defeated…”- Rock Central Plaza

  17. Carlos says:

    Well it looks like more graves found in Saskatchewan and I am sure there will be many more to come. What is amazing to me is that our wonderful leaders are more worried about the statues of those who created these programs.
    I just ask Jason Kenney and his allies the question – Would you like to live with statues in front of your house of those who abducted your children, torture them both physically and mentally and then killed them in the name of taking the barbaric ‘Indian’ out of them?
    I just cannot believe this kind of people actually run our provinces and country.
    What has the federal or provincial governments done against the so called Christians who where running these schools? They want an apology from the Pope? well what about banning these churches in Canada period? Oh yes that is too radical – of course it is, the children killed were just native after all right? The issue is that the same racist mentality is still predominant as well as the sense of superiority as human beings. In the meantime we continue to point the fingers to the Uyghurs in China. Great Job.
    Jason Kenney does not have a problem spending 30 million dollars a year for his Xbox war room game but to find the victims of his idol John Macdonald, 8 is all that he can do. Oh yes I forgot he is not Jason Kenney he is Honorable Premier – the word honorable should never be used in the same sentence where the name Jason Kenney is used – it is called a moral principle.

  18. Carlos says:

    I am not a big fan of Justin Trudeau and their ethics or lack of them but I find this article interesting

    What are the conservative ETHICS? Can anyone explain?
    I wonder what are the ethics of one of the favorite Conservatives in Canada – Jason Kenney?

      • Carlos says:

        Thanks James I actually read that article but because it is in the US a country that is so far ahead of us in lunatic/ psychopathy politics I decided to use the Canadian one.
        I am sure Jason Kenney is a good example of the same type of delusional destructive politics and to be frank we need some positive news now before we all collapse into a hopeless wave of serious events all at the same time – covid-19, our in house genocide and a pretty good example of climate change DOME event where we are facing temperatures of close to 40 degrees in Edmonton. Shocking to say the least. In the meantime the UCP is preparing for prices of oil higher than 70 dollars and the beginning of another wave of brain washing propaganda on how well we are doing.

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