Who’s On First: Jason Kenney’s Response to the 4th Wave

Abbott and Costello’s comedy routine “Who’s on First” was performed in the late 1940s. It’s based on a skit Abbott heard in an episode of a radio comedy show called “It Pays to be Ignorant.”

Premier Kenney performed his own version of this routine in the Legislature last Thursday, only Kenney’s version wasn’t funny. It was offered in response to questions from Opposition MLAs trying to determine who was in charge of Alberta’s covid response while Kenney was vacationing abroad.  

Quick recap: Kenney was away from Aug 11 through Aug 30. He says he managed the government’s covid response the entire time. His Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, also booked vacation during this period and designated Education Minister LaGrange to be the “acting Health Minister” in his absence.

While Kenney was on vacation daily case numbers soared from 126/day to 960/day, the number of Albertans hospitalized with covid tripled from 90 to 336 and thousands of surgeries were cancelled.

Kenney’s routine   

Last Thursday the Opposition asked LaGrange to explain why, given she was the “acting” Health Minister, she failed to act while positive case counts and hospitalizations spiked.   

Kenney stepped in to answer for her—he has a habit of responding to questions directed at someone else if there’s a chance his ministers or officials might say something that could embarrass him. In this case he need not have bothered, he did an excellent job of making himself look incompetent all by himself.

The real Abbott and Costello

His answers can be boiled down to this:*

  • The Opposition’s question was ridiculous because Shandro was on the job “every single day, seven days a week” and Kenney talked to Shandro “every single day” … or was that … “almost every single day” … or maybe  … he was in “constant communication” with his health minister.  A good litigator would have a field day with this guy.  
  • The suggestion that LaGrange was in charge was complete rubbish. Being designated acting health minister was simply a formality intended to confer “signing authority.” Really? That’s not how the Opposition, or anyone else in the private sector who’s gone on vacation and appointed someone to “act” on their behalf, sees it.  

Does this make sense?  

Kenney insists he was in charge of the covid file the entire time he was away on vacation, but there are no emails or CMOH phone calls during that time to back Kenney up. Perhaps Kenney, without the benefit of input from public health and healthcare specialists, was simply taking calls from Shandro who was running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to fit his vacation around his duties as health minister as the 4th wave worsened.   

Kenney approved Shandro’s vacation in the middle of the 4th wave. That means both the premier and the health minister intended to take a vacation during the worst of the pandemic. This is irresponsible and reckless.  

Kenney said that when Shandro designated LaGrange to be “acting Health Minister” this merely gave her “signing authority” in Shandro’s absence. There are two problems with this explanation.

First, Kenney says Shandro was holding briefings and being briefed and making critical decisions while on personal time. However LaGrange continued to hold the power to sign health ministry documents. This is extremely sloppy governance. If Shandro did work through his vacation he should have withdrawn LaGrange’s “signing authority.”

Second, the Opposition says acting ministers act. They make decisions, take meetings, and are kept in the loop. This makes sense. Either Kenney does not understand what an “acting” minister is supposed to do or he deliberately attempted to mislead the House and Albertans on the implications of naming the minister of one portfolio, the “acting” minister of another. In either case, this is poor leadership.     

Let’s try this again  

In Abbot and Costello’s comedy routine “Who” is on first base (or in this case on vacation in Europe with no intention of returning as the 4th wave worsens because the health minister—who is also going on vacation—is on it). “What” is on second (having designated the education minister to step in for him while he’s on vacation and then attending briefings and calling the premier while at the same time trying to salvage his holiday plans). And “I Don’t Know” is on third (blissfully unaware that being designated “acting” Health Minister means more than simply signing whatever document is put before her).

So who’s on first? In Kenney-land the answer is Nobody.

*Alberta Hansard, Dec 2, 2021, pp 6763-6764

This entry was posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Vacation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Who’s On First: Jason Kenney’s Response to the 4th Wave

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog: The UCP have handled the covid situation in Alberta very badly, and it shows, because of the number of times cases of covid in Alberta were the greatest in Canada, and even on the entire North American continent, at one point in the spring. We may see a 5th wave of covid in Alberta, and it may be bad again. Look at what we see happening in news reports.

    • Dwayne, you’re right, not only has the UCP covid response been abysmal, but I fear Kenney is going to make the same mistake again. He’s toying with relaxing restrictions because (he says) people will ignore them anyway. This is utterly inane.
      Think about speeding. People ignore speed limits all the time, that doesn’t mean we should abandon speed limits and turn all the streets into the autobahn.
      Frankly I think he’s afraid we’ll see a repeat of last Christmas where a bunch of his Cabinet ministers, MLAs and staff disregarded his restrictions and flew to Hawaii (because their family had been gathering there for 17 years) and Mexico (because it’s nice and warm down there at that time of year) and other places because hey, the rules don’t apply to them. He’s going to do the wrong thing because his party members can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I thought I’d share some more music. I have this in my music collection. This is from the 1960s short lived supergroup, Cream. It features former Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers guitarist, Eric Clapton, bassist and multi instrumentalist, Jack Bruce, who had been in the Graham Bond Organization, (with Ginger Baker), as well as a brief stint in Manfred Mann, and drummer/percussionist, Ginger Baker, who was in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, (with Jack Bruce), various jazz outfits, and the Graham Bond Organization. Ginger Baker, and Eric Clapton would join forces with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech to form another short-lived 1960s supergroup, Blind Faith, and after that group split up, Ginger Baker formed Ginger Baker’s Air Force. This song is a Ginger Baker composition, Passing The Time. Ginger Baker does lead vocals here. It’s from 1968.

    • Dwayne, your music collection is amazing. Do you actually have all these albums yourself or do you subscribe to streaming channels?

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: I buy the music. I have lots of CDs. I do have Wheels Of Fire, by Cream, and The Allman Brothers Band on CD, including a compilation that has this song.

  3. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I thought I’d just share one more song. I also have The Allman Brothers Band in my music collection, including this song. This is a Dickey Betts composition, Revival. It’s from 1970. A very nice, positive song. I like this band because they made great music and incorporated different musical styles into their music, including blues, country, gospel, jazz, rock, and even other influences. Gregg Allman does lead vocals here.

  4. Paul Pearlman says:

    One more time the UNITED CLOWN PARTY or is it the YOU SEE PEE shows their worth!!! Trouble on all sides not only outside of their party and inside.Even more any CEO who did his job like Kenney would have been shown the door many months ago oh the agony of it to all of their fellow Albertans.Keep up the good work its always a good time to remind people of incompetent governance.Thanks again.

    • Paul you nailed it with your comparison of Kenney to a CEO in the private sector. I’ve worked for 8 CEOs over my career. Some were really good, others were so-so, but not one of them decided to take a vacation in the middle of an emergency.
      Before I went inhouse I worked at one of the biggest law firms in the city. I still recall when a litigation partner cut his European vacation short and returned to the office to deal with a serious matter affecting one of his clients. His family was not happy (to say the least) but that’s what responsible leaders do.

  5. janewestman says:

    Brilliant metaphor, Susan … one of my favourite comedy routines … metaphor for social psychosis situations!
    Keep up the great work! Always a weekend treat!

  6. .. It’s another scathingly accurate post thanks !
    (thanks to Dwayne aussi re Music Diversion.. great stuff)

    It’s my view that Canadians, & especially Albertans & First Nations understand the ‘long play’ re ‘CERTAINTY’ & the heavily obscured deviance & manipulations of Jason Kenney et al

    ‘et al’ is not just the UCP ‘travelling medicine show’ and it’s magic baggage shitshow
    It’s Jason’s personal Dominionism ideology welded to a four year no/cut contract with option to renew for another four years.. and astonishing mysterious levels of Corporate & Mainstream PostMedia Integration.. plus their embedded PR & Polling Agencies

    Kenney’s secret whereabouts from Aug 11 to Aug 30 deserve real attention. Liposuction sessions, a secret romantic dalliance, or more clandestine meetings, arrangements, manipulations.. who’s to know ? That’s not really the point.. it’s the secrecy & fabricated ‘personal time’ excuses & what appear to be feeble deflections that’s really damning. Not a trace of Phone calls, Texts, Emails.. that suggests back door & burner phones, secret email servers..

    What I know & most coherent people know.. is that ‘normal’ people don’t have a pre-arranged wall of secrecy & disappear themselves.. especially as Jason himself maintains – ‘a person in his position can’t afford to burnout’ .. as yet another Covid Wave engulfs Alberta during his self proclaimed ‘best summer ever’ yet he was nowhere to be seen

    • Diamond Walker, you absolutely nailed it in your comment about ‘normal’ people not disappearing themselves. What’s simply amazing is the disconnect between what Kenney does and what he says he does. In the same Question Period on Dec 2 Kenney sneered that the NDP worked “union hours,” then he said over Christmas he hoped to visit with family but “[he’ll] probably be checking [his] phone several times a day to see if [he] needs to respond to any emergencies, as is typically the case seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s the burden of leadership.”
      Give me a break. Most teenagers check their phones several times an hour, that doesn’t mean they’re demonstrating the “burden of leadership”.
      Checking your phone is one thing, being present here on the ground to deal with emergencies as they arise is something else entirely.

  7. mikegklein says:

    Is it possible there is only one minister, all others are acting?

  8. Bota28 says:

    Love the metaphor Susan ! Keep them coming as 2023 can’t come soon enough and here we go again into our 5th Wave with Omicron

    • Thanks Bota28. We’re all bracing ourselves for the 5th wave. Kenney’s been trial-ballooning a relaxation of restrictions, it’s only a matter of time before we’re full swing into “pandemic? what pandemic?”

  9. Carlos says:

    The comparison is excellent except Abbott and Costello were really funny, these idiots here make me cry not laugh.

    • Dwayne says:

      Carlos: I thought I heard that the next provincial election in Alberta doesn’t have to happen until 2024. I hope I’m wrong. I’d like it sooner, so I can partake in removing the UCP from power.

      • Dwayne, if the next provincial election doesn’t have to happen until 2024, the dissidents in the UCP will definitely push Kenney out of the leadership role. They’ll want as much time as possible to distance the new guy from the old guy, but the UCP will always be the same old UCP, regardless of who’s in charge.

    • Carlos, I agree. I thought it was very fitting that the “Who’s on First” skit was based on the radio comedy show called “It Pays to be Ignorant.” We’ve got more than enough ignorance to go around here in our province!

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: If the UCP remains in power after 4 years, I think people will leave Alberta. It doesn’t matter who leads the UCP. We had Peter Lougheed style leadership with Rachel Notley. We have a Ralph Klein style disaster with the UCP.

  10. GoinFawr says:

    The following just about sums it up for me:

    In Switzerland they had a referendum asking the population how the Swiss population felt about their gov’t’s covid response, providing a clear mandate for their elected officials to act upon going forward, while in Alberta the Kenney administration had the utter gall to glom onto the convenience of a civic election cycle in order to ask Albertans ‘what’s on their minds about daylight savings time?’

    (sardonic on;) A pressing question weighing on the minds of each and every voting Albertan, no doubt, but under the circumstances of a long, long, oh-so-long ongoing public health emergency you’d think the UCP could have chosen at least one slightly more worthwhile query out of the hundred or so available?

    No, of course not.

    The gag order is over for the genuinely credentialed education professionals ‘consulted’ (read as ‘completely ignored’) by the UCP when haphazardly throwing together the ‘improved’ curriculum.
    Yeesh, ‘Improved’: said absolutely no one outside of the duped and twisted 20% of the eligible electorate that somehow still support this political nightmare . Ever.

    And since the gloves are off LaGrange better polish up on her debating skills because she is in for a litany of bare-knuckle matches with respected professionals whom actually know what they are talking about.

    • GoinFawr: the frustration of the teachers who were asked to “consult” on the new curriculum is overwhelming. They’re ashamed to have their names associated with this mess and are desperately trying to set the record straight. They were led to believe their input meant something, then they were ignored; and now their names appear on the finished product. That just rubs salt in the wound. This government has no scruples, none whatsoever.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Before their term is through, this is precisely where Kenney and ‘Umbridge’ would like to see educators:

        It is now as clear as a powder blue sky of early winter that the next few generations of Albertans at least will be forced to suffer as a result of the flat-out antisocial policies of the UCP… and 20% of Albertans are so ridiculous they will thank the rotters for it.

      • GoinFawr: today the UCP announced they’re backtracking (not that they’d call it that) on their K-6 curriculum review. This is heartening. because it demonstrates that with enough pushback the UCP will reverse course, or at the very least take a pause. I think we need to pushback hard for the remaining 18 months of the UCP term. We’ve seen that resistance from outspoken citizens, doctors, nurses, teachers, the unions, environmentalists and ranchers, all of them, gets the message out and brings others to their cause. If we stand with our teachers we can stop this sort of thing from happening here.

      • Carlos says:

        Gosh we are so behind in the new education raising methods. We are still on the cakes and bake sales

  11. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I like sharing music. This particular track is from YouTube, and is from John Lennon’s official channel. This is from 1974. It is Whatever Gets You Thru The Night. It is John Lennon’s only number 1 hit as a solo artist. It features Elton John on it. It is a composition by John Lennon and Elton John. 41 years ago today, we tragically lost John Lennon. I remember seeing this on the news. May John Lennon, Jesse Ed Davis and Bobby Keys rest in peace. Jesse Ed Davis is a Native American guitarist, and he is on this (and other John Lennon tracks). Bobby Keys is a saxophone player from Lubbock, Texas, (where Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings are from) and he is on here. Bobby Keys has performed with and recorded with The Rolling Stones. I’m a bit of a musicologist. We need something positive in these times.

    • Dwayne, I wondered whether you’ve watched the Beatles movie that’s running on the Disney channel. I don’t get that channel but people tell me its quite good.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: I’ve heard about the movie, but I didn’t see it. I did see Paul McCartney live in 2012, and I saw Ringo Starr and His All Star Band, live in 2015.

  12. Carlos says:

    It is already a bad day and Word press is again playing games
    Here it is again and ok if it is double

    It seems that the UCP instead of going down in Alberta History as the worse event that ever happened to us, it is intensifying its cheating abilities to make what is already pretty bad situation into being even worse. Bill 81 is obviously a preparation to keep this idiot in power at all costs and we have one solution that has not been used but might just be the only one way for us to regain control of this province’s affairs.
    It is becoming clear to me that we may very well need to use un-Canadian ways to get rid of these goons. We should be already talking of what we can do to prepare for this possibility.
    Bill 81 is what Jason Kenney wanted and he got it.
    The question now is will we allow them to continue in their quest to control the legislature with cheating ways and malicious objectives. Are we going to allow animals of this kind to take over our lives?
    Where are the Unions and all the Public Alberta and progressive think tanks to help?
    Is there anyone Home? they are looting us and preparing for full control. Where is the NDP?
    How far are we going before we declare a full strike on these goons?

    • GoinFawr says:

      Re: Where are the NDP?

      Why voting against the bill, naturally.
      “…They were joined by … two former UCP MLAs who were removed from the caucus after speaking out about Kenney… and members of the NDP in voting against the bill. ”
      But it wasn’t enough, because: a ~democracy sometimes makes mistakes, or is corrupted, or a combination of the two.

      Currently, it’s just about the worst, certainly. On the other had, WE all know this has happened, we will remember it, and we will continue to refresh others’ memories when necessary. That is:

      Where are the media on this one?

      • GoinFawr says:

        “on the other hand’

        Sorry, I have a cold.
        (just kidding… too soon?)

      • GoinFawr: fair question about the media. Some, like Michelle Bellefontaine were live-tweeting the debate at 3 in the morning. Others like the inestimable PostMedia crowd were and continue to be nowhere to be seen. It’s got to be one of the biggest stories of the year and they’re off doing whatever it is they do.
        PS. I liked your “on the other hand comment”.

    • Carlos and GoinFawr: just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse (I mean how low is a snake’s belly anyway), it got worse. I want to spend some time reading the debate on Bill 81. The fact that even some UCP MLAs voted against it speaks volumes. I don’t understand how Kenney can’t see that this will just make the divisions in his party worse. What is he going to do, steamroller the lot of them? Even Klein who was way more loved by the PCs than Kenney ever will be was deposed.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Even lower than a snake’s belly:
        ‘A beka segge allat’
        Is Hungarian for ‘under a 🐸, s behind. ‘

      • GoinFawr: I love that expression! I still remember the day I said something to my mom in Hungarian and she flipped out, apparently it wasn’t something little girls should be saying. I never did learn what it meant 🙂

  13. Carlos says:

    Time to act – we need to do something as a group to start moving in the right direction
    I am done with words and of playing this democracy game that sounds more like Monopoly
    We have reached the line of no return and not only is our democracy being challenged by idiots but climate change is upon us and only getting worse.
    What are we doing other than writing to this blog?

  14. Carlos says:


    WOW so much for pointing the fingers to Belarus and its Jason Kenney clown running it and probably with the support off old folk Harper

    • Dwayne says:

      Carlos: You do bring up good points.

    • Guy says:

      Carlos, I read the article that you referenced and, as a fan of North American style football, it brought to mind a scene that occurs from time to time during a football game. Sometimes a player will commit an infraction that is egregious and blatantly obvious to anyone who sees it but then protests vehemently when he is penalized for it. This occasionally prompts the commentator to state, usually wryly, “Well I guess if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.”

      I find this somewhat humorous in the context of a sporting competition but it’s not funny whatsoever when it appears to be one of the guiding principles of a governing political party. From everything that I have seen during the UCP’s current reign of austerity and ineptitude, Jason Kenney is absolutely terrified of competing on a level playing field because he knows very well that his policies, and indeed he himself, are unpopular with many people, so he expends extraordinary effort to tilt the playing field in his favour to ensure victory. The UCP leadership race and its’ associated never-ending RCMP inquiry are perhaps the most obvious example of this, but I’m sure there are others. (I’ll pause here for a moment to listen for Jason Nixon’s cry of “Fake News!”)

      Graham Thomson has a good opinion piece about Bill 81 on CBC today. Here is the link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/albertans-should-be-taking-notice-of-bill-81-here-s-why-1.6280351

      Between this and DJC’s column from yesterday I am not comforted at all about the political future of this province. This may sound far-fetched, but it seems to me that we are now a short step away from an Orwellian world where it will soon be illegal to vote for any party other than the governing party. However, since we will still have a vote, we will be told that we should feel safe and comfortable knowing that we are living in a democracy.

      • carlos says:

        Guy excellent comments.
        Thank you for the link – I like Graham Thomson one of the few journalists I trust in Alberta
        Yes the idea that you mentioned about ‘…we should feel safe and comfortable knowing that we are living in a democracy ‘ sounds almost like the paternalistic propaganda of the dictatorships of the old Eastern block and also in Europe, countries like Portugal, Spain who became democracies in 1975 so not that long ago.
        I always feel uncomfortable when a certain political structure needs advertising to look good.

      • Guy, I smiled at your comment about Nixon yelling “Fake news”. Seems to me that when these guys don’t have a cogent response they resort to “fake news”. Pathetic, really. But their followers swallow it, hook, line and sinker.

  15. Dave says:

    I think there are two ways to look at this. First, and perhaps more obvious, is that the UCP government was quite inept in how it managed this. Governmental structures do include a system of back ups and the purpose of this is to facilitate smooth operation if an individual is away or indisposed. Yes, this probably predates the work from home or work from everywhere era, but it still has value and should not be so easily dismissed or ignored.

    I don’t begrudge people their vacations and everyone needs a break, the last few years have been trying. However, those in the UCP who went on long vacations this summer were trying to have it both ways – being away and relaxing, while claiming to still be working away hard. I don’t think it can be both. I believe it was more the former than the latter as they were not as accessible and in communication as they tried to portray. Yet, they took a dog in a manger approach here, clinging to power, out of fear or stubbornness or maybe so they could claim later they were working hard. So government was paralyzed, when in fact there were others who had the authority to step in and run things but did not, perhaps prevented by doing so by those on vacation.

    My second way of looking at this is simpler and more damning – they just didn’t care and were determined that they personally had the greatest summer ever, despite an increasingly difficult situation, so decisions were postponed when they should not have been.

    Either way, it unnecessarily cost lives and made the situation much worse.

    • Dave, Kenney is now clearly on record as being in charge of the covid pandemic response the entire time (he works 24/7 he says), so the deaths and lingering illnesses are all on him. He’s banking on an economic boom to distract us and take our minds off the damage he’s done. We can’t let him get away with what he’s done.
      Although at the rate his party is fracturing he may not even be on the scene in May 2023.

  16. Carlos says:

    The same people that have been slowly killing our democracy are now together discussing the declining democratic thought around the world. I wonder what Francis Fukuyama has to say about his end of history now.
    Einstein explained to us clearly what doing the same thing over and over and expect the same results defines


    • Carlos says:

      Sorry I meant ‘expect different results’

    • Carlos, I remember being mystified when I read that Francis Fukuyama made that comment. If there’s one thing we should know by now it’s that evil people who seek power for power’s sake never give up. They’re always waiting in the wings for their moment to step out on stage. Some of them are better at disguising themselves, but if we’re vigilant we can see them for who they really are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s