A Kenney Style Fireside Chat  

On radio, [Franklin D Roosevelt} was able to quell rumors, counter conservative-dominated newspapers and explain his policies directly to the American people. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty.—Wikipedia

Roosevelt used radio, a “nascent media platform” to explain complex issues such as the Great Depression, the banking crisis, his New Deal initiatives, and WWII to the American people. His fireside chats were extremely popular and highly effective.

Now almost a century later, Kenney is using another media platform, Facebook, to address Albertans’ concerns about his government’s policies to address covid.

Unlike FDR’s fireside chats Kenney’ Facebook Live chats are a disaster.

“Hello…I’m listening”

At last week’s FB event Kenney made a short speech about Alberta’s improving economy, took a gratuitous swipe at the CBC, pundits and the NDP who love “downtalking” Alberta, then turned to questions from the audience which were posted in the chat box.     

It was a gong show.

Many of the questions appeared to come from unvaccinated, uninformed, and/or misguided Albertans. And while it’s easy to criticize such questions; a premier who uses Facebook to connect with Albertans on a once in a lifetime pandemic should, at the very least, be prepared to respond to such questions in a way that dispels misinformation and fear.  

Kenney’s FB Live Chat

It’s not enough to reel off statistics (the unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, 39 times more likely to be in the ICU and 16 times more likely to die of covid) because this crowd doesn’t believe the data.

A matter of trust

The data wasn’t their only problem, it quickly became apparent they didn’t trust Kenney.

Why? Because in the early days of the pandemic Kenney staked his position loud and clear…only to backtrack when it turned out he was wrong.     

This created the bizarre situation where the participants used Kenney’s earlier arguments to refute the data. They argued covid is mild, it’s only harmful to the elderly and those with comorbidities, natural immunity is just as good as vaccines, and vaccine passports (or REP as they’re known in Alberta) violate fundamental rights and freedoms.

They refused to believe Kenney when he said Alberta would never impose a mandatory vaccination policy. They countered with (a) you flipped on vaccine passports, (b) you flipped on Open for Summer, and (c) your government forced healthcare workers to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.  

Kenney had no response. Perhaps he couldn’t keep up with the comments rolling into the chat box.

Talk to the experts

Kenney urged the unvaccinated to talk to the experts, saying 99.8% of Alberta doctors were vaccinated so there’s a high likelihood their own doctor would tell them to get vaccinated.

They countered with personal anecdotes of doctors who’d told them not to be “lab rats” and told Kenney to talk to their “experts,” people like Robert Malone, a controversial figure who claims to have invented mRNA vaccines 33 years ago. (Tim Caulfield, a U of A prof in health law and policy, described Malone as a disgraced virologist who pushes his false theories on Fox News).

Kenney invoked Donald Trump who said vaccines were the greatest achievement in human history. They rejected the “Trump-card” because Trump also said the decision to get vaccinated was a matter of personal choice.

Some participants went so far as to demand a tax refund because they’d been refused entry to infrastructure paid for by their tax dollars. Kenney failed to point out their tax dollars are not used to build restaurants and movie theatres.   

The best question was the one which asked when covid would end; what would it take for Kenney to give them their lives back?

Kenney stared into the camera for a moment, then said he didn’t know, nobody knows. The memory of Kenney on July 1, 2021 confidently declaring the pandemic was over and Alberta was open for summer came to mind.  

Where’s FDR when you need him?

Instead of reassuring Albertans, correcting misinformation and dispelling conspiracy theories during this time of heightened uncertainty, Kenney’s FB event provided a platform for those who seek to undermine what little the government has achieved to date.

This would never pass muster in FDR’s day. And it would be intolerable now, but for the existence of groups like Protect our Province (PoPAB), a group of doctors and experts who provide timely accurate updates on covid to Albertans, as well as advocate on our behalf.

Alberta is sinking into the narrative that covid is inevitable, we’ll all get it. Now more than ever we need to change the dial, click off Kenney’s FB Live Chat and click onto the most recent PopAB update for science-based information and practical advice to help get us through our day.

PoPAB may not be FDR, but they’re darn close.

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38 Responses to A Kenney Style Fireside Chat  

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. The UCP are making people more frustrated, angry and confused, by what they are doing. I can’t wait for 2023 to come along, so the UCP can be taken out of office. I’d like to share some more happy music, this time from an American/Canadian folk rock group, The Lovin’ Spoonful. Guitarist Zal Yanovsky, was the only Canadian in the group. John Sebastian is an amazing singer and songwriter. They are in my music collection. I’ve been a fan of theirs for many years. This is Darlin’ Be Home Soon, from The Ed Sullivan Show, from January 22, 1967. Hope this helps to cheer people up.

    • Thanks for this Dwayne.
      Wow. The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember being a small girl when the Beatles appeared on the show. I don’t think I could hear a single word they sang because of all the screaming going on in the audience. Amazing, innocent times.
      Take care.

  2. Katie Pearlman says:

    Thanks for pointing out POPAB. I just subscribed to the podcast. Finally reliable information!

    • I’m glad Katie. I’ve followed Dr Joe Vipond and a number of the other health care professionals who belong to POPAB on social media for a while now. Given how hard they’re working to stay ahead of covid it’s incredible they have any time or energy left to do the work required to keep us informed and advocate on our behalf. The fact we trust the POPAB more than our very own government is a sad state of affairs.

  3. arcticgoddess says:

    Well said

  4. Sharon Hundert says:

    A fireside chat and Jason got roasted. What did he expect? That his faithful would come out and laud his disastrous performance? That those rational thinking Albertans would ask him questions that they already know the answers to. This is the Alberta that this pretend premier has created.

    • Sharon, you’ve nailed the big question: What did Kenney expect? Unlike FDR who spent hours preparing for his fireside chats, Kenney appeared to be winging it. He had a binder in front of him with some information that he found sometimes and didn’t find other times. He also responded to some questions with that look, the one where he winces, which indicates he wasn’t really sure whether he’d gotten his facts right. So like I said, what was the point? All he did was provide a government sanctioned platform for skeptics and conspiracy theorists. This is irresponsible.
      PS Not everyone asking questions was a kook but an awful lot seemed to be a few bricks shy a load.

  5. Maggie Clayton says:

    Thank you for your service in watching the chat so I didn’t have to. There is only so much malarkey dispensed in such an unctuous tone that a person can take. Thank you again.

    • You’re welcome Maggie. Your description (malarkey dispensed with an unctuous tone) nailed it. One of the first questions came from someone who wanted to know whether Kenney was going to follow “that clown” in Quebec. Kenney chastised the participant for using the word “clown”. Later in the chat it was pointed out that Kenney could have skipped that question if he didn’t like the word “clown” (or he could have rephrased it to avoid using the word in the first place). In any event the whole thing was ridiculous given that Kenney himself calls people like Trudeau and Notley all sorts of names whenever the spirit moves him.

  6. Janet Keeping says:

    This is such a great post, Susan. Thank you for it and thank you also, as Maggie Clayton says, for watching the chat so others didn’t have to. As I don’t live in Alberta any more, I won’t be able to help vote the UCP out next year. But here in Ontario we have other fish that need frying right out of office.

  7. Frodo says:

    Thank you for your columns. Always a great start to my week. It is surprising that Kenny couldn’t manipulate the incoming questions to make things easier on himself. On another vaccine note, rather than taxing the unvaccinated as some provinces are contemplating, how about offering an annual $500 or more cheque in the mail to everyone vaccinated? We all love the immediate, tangible, in-hand rewards. (Think back to Peter Lougheed’s monthly cash subsidies on high interest mortgage rates in the 1980’s) Since the Kenney folks have already offered a hundred bucks to folks to get vaccinated, it would up the incentive to get vaccinated and reward those who did the right thing all along. Better yet, have the feds send the money and dare any premier to object!

    • Frodo, back in Nov 2019 Kenney held a FB chat about the Fair Deal panel. About a dozen people complained he’d deleted their comments and blocked them from making further comments. It turned out his staff were “moderating” the comments and the next day the blocked comments became visible but by then it was too late for those who’d been at the FB event to know the support for the Fair Deal panel wasn’t unanimous.
      There were some non-covid questions Kenney could have selected but chose not to. For example at the start one fellow asked when, if ever, Alberta would install SMN (small modular nuclear reactors). This was a good question given Kenney’s talk about diversification, hydrogen, investment in petrochemicals, etc. but he skipped it, choosing instead to engage with people telling him he’d accepted bribes from Pfizer and Trudeau. Weird.
      Here’s the link to the news story about the Fair Deal panel FB chat.
      https://globalnews.ca/news/6159503/jason-kenney-comments-livestream/

    • Carlos says:

      Frodo love your $500 idea. I would be very interested in your second suggestion – Let the FEDS do it and see what the Premiers do.
      🙂 🙂

  8. GoinFawr says:

    Thanks for taking the time to watch the premier attempt and fail to justify his position Susan. It sounds like it was a full show of ‘Nobody likes you’, starring Jason K pretending not to be the target of what is being said right to his face. Good. Even if it was for the wrong reasons most of the time, and it sounds like it was, it is just that he should be getting it from all sides; really, he should finally take the hint and resign like any other elected politician so obviously unpopular would have done, ages ago.

    Dissemination of the link to PoPAB is much appreciated too.

    “(Pre-Omicron) up to 30 per cent of adults and 10 per cent of kids, went on to have long-term symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. ”
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159121006516

    So that’s generations stunted unnecessarily by agitprop activated, self righteous misanthropes and their legions of easily misguided useful idiots wilfully and/or witlessly spreading a substantially debilitating disease.

    How long ’til they can finally admit to themselves that they were ‘on the wrong side of history’ on this one?

    • GoinFawr: as you said the FB chat was a full on attack. As I watched Kenney’s reaction to what were in fact very insulting questions, it seemed like he really didn’t care. He swatted these participants away as if they were nothing but flies. Perhaps that’s how he sees most of us. The big money “job creators” have his ear, the rest of us are to be tolerated.
      That link was very informative. I know two individuals who’ve had covid and report lingering fatigue and cognitive impairment (one called it “brain fog”). One would think this alone would drive Kenney to be more concerned about covid, because let’s face it, people who are exhausted and can’t think straight will not drive a booming economy. but then again, if you don’t think covid is a serious problem, then these people are just whiners and snivelers.

  9. Carlos says:

    I am not sure what is it that he expected from that session. I just got a call from the UCP (Towes) to join the budget talks. It seems they have a campaign to change people’s minds but I do not think it will work.
    I will not participate or cooperate with anything to do with this government. As far as I am concerned this government is dead and I am just waiting for another one. If they win, I leave.
    This is final for me. I am not interested in anything to do with the UCP forever. I have no trust in them or anything else for that matter. They are a cancer to society and we have to cut them off as soon as possible. They are people with a very distorted reality if any.
    Egomaniacs with a touch of psychopathy.
    They can all go to hell as far as I am concerned. Their destructive mentality should be eliminated for good.

    • Carlos, thank you for that very informative article. I certainly agree with John Carlaw, the Ryerson political scientist, who said Jason Kenney’s style is “a creative form of authoritarian populist politics.” and that Kenney is “a movement conservative,” I recall Kenney being quoted in a news paper article saying he was going to change the conservative movement across Canada. What’s even scarier is reading what Kenney has to say about Catholicism and the eternal battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. Three guesses where Kenney would put himself in relation to us.

      • Carlos says:

        Hi Susan I have not read that article and would very much appreciate if you could kindly post the URL – I cannot stand him but an article with religion I cannot miss because it must be brilliant

        Well the guess is very easy – he is a person of light of course and we are the sinners going around in circles trying to get the blessing and catch up with the light of people like him LOL. I hope he has switched to LEDs because it lasts longer.

        I would love to know the answer.

        Thank you

      • Carlos, I’ll see if I can find this for you, Kenney made the comment much earlier in his career when he talked about how a Catholic pope said becoming a politician was a way to serve God, and that even if the politician was unable to repeal evil laws (eg like those that don’t criminalize abortions) a politician could serve God by doing everything possible to impede people trying to use the law (eg make it more difficult to access abortions). I suspect religious ideology is at the root of many of Kenney’s decisions.

      • Carlos says:

        John Carlaw’s “creative form of authoritarian populist politics” is a good journalist way of saying “cheating form of authoritarian populist politics”
        What I find challenging is how easy it is for a truly deviant person to take the reins of a province like Alberta and change its cultural and political ways without ever being clearly challenged by authorities or rules of law. I think that after this government is gone we should look very closely how we can protect our democracy in better ways to avoid this obvious abuse of power these people have shown capable of without much sense of responsibility or care. I think we overestimated how strong our democratic principles really are. It is clear to me that there are way more people capable of forcing their will onto others than I thought a democratic system would inherently create.
        The US system is showing even weaker natural democratic immunity than us. I think this is something we should definitely look into before the next version of these goons show up in the next elections. It seems to me we are slowly allowing the build up of reactionary forces in our own backyards.

      • Carlos, I think it all comes back to the people. If the majority is prepared to vote for an unscrupulous character because he’s promised them something in exchange for their support, then the majority will accept corruption as long as the politician delivers what they want. Trump is a classic example. The public knew who he was before he entered the nomination race, after he got the nomination and before he was elected. They voted for him anyway because he promised to take away their pain and make them rich. (As one Catholic lawyer said, I’m not voting for the Pope, I’m voting for the President). In other words it doesn’t matter how heinous he is as long as I get my tax breaks. I see this in Alberta too. The economy was in a slump, Kenney promised to fix it, he’s a conservative therefore by definition he’s “smart” about the economy, so if they vote for him the economy will bounce back and they’ll be rich. Not only does this show people are willing to overlook his abhorrent policies (he certainly had quite a track record when he was a federal MP) but they’re pretty dim when it comes to understanding where Alberta fits into the global economy and that a corporation’s duty is not to act in the public’s best interest, but its own.

    • Carlos says:

      Susan thank you for your answer. I fully agree with you and I very much enjoyed your reply.
      Do not bother with trying to find the article – I see what you mean by reading your post
      The comments are of a religious ‘ideology’ that is something I did not even know still existed. I have a word for it – Mafia. Just absolute bizarre view of life.
      Your example about abortions is exactly how he deals with everything else, including his very paternalistic attitude when speaking during the pandemic as if we were children that do not follow the rules while he himself was having the Palace Party.

  10. Tom Bowen says:

    Good job Deer in the headlights comes to mind when describing mister kenneys chat I am sure he will find a way of making this all the fed’s fault Like no rapid tests even though i dont think has have arrived either False sense of security tests that is Like the first version of the mirror on the wall If we want to go to the movies or go to school Just get a rapid test And then go With 40 plus % false negatives chances are you will be going out And the pandemic will continue to expand I am sure Mr. Peak early Kenny is about to declare this wave over and open up Consistency is important Even if u r consistently wrong Having stopped tracing, stopped testing, and implemented rapid tests that dont work Who the hell knows where we r But we r running out of healthy staff to do the essentials Everywhere we turn But hey Dont shut down ‘cause this is alberta We r different from the other provinces Just close our eyes and open everything up and dont test and dont tell And everything will be all right The emperiors new clothes in mr kenneys wardrobe in kenneyville will protect us A bit discouraging this Into a fifth wave and learned nothing from the first four And then theres this crap weather! All we need is a new antiviral This will save us As long as you take it early Particularly effective if you dont have the virus Well or much of it So throw away your aspirin Take two antivirals and call me in the morning says mr kenney And should everyone get it Vaccinated or not Another pfizer success story So why should the antivaxers get the jab now The wonder drug has arrived But if you dont take it before going to hospital it doesnt work Not a mention of any side effects and most antivirals have had lots And why would an antivaxer take a drug from a pharmaceutical company Especially one that makes the vaccines? Conspiracy believers of the world unite Wonder what the emperor will have up his emperor new clothes sleeve next Perhaps a rabbit foot Good the wine supply still in place but it too being challenged despite the climate change deniers best efforts Bah humbug Thanks for what you do Helps keep me sane Best wishes and stay healthy Tom

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Thanks Tom. You’ve described the government’s “let er rip” strategy very well. The comments in the chat box showed a high level of conspiracy thinking, starting with you can’t trust Big Pharma (although the antiviral is a blessing and we want it now), to you can’t trust the stats re: how many are hospitalized and whether they’re unvaxxed vs vaxxed, to doctors will lose their licenses if they call out the hoax, etc etc etc. There’s no reasoning with these people which is why I asked the question what exactly did Kenney hope to achieve with this FB chat. Did he think that he’d gain votes by giving these people a platform, if so he failed because they turned on him like rabid dogs. Did he think his great powers of persuasion and intellect would flip a switch and they’d rush out and get vaccinated, if so he failed because they rejected every fact he raised. It was a gong show from start to finish which served no purpose that I could see.

  11. Cynthia Deans says:

    Exactly.

  12. Linda says:

    Hi Susan: well, can’t say I feel much sympathy for Kenney. As per the Calgary Herald hospitalizations for Covid are over 1,000 in Alberta right now. Depressing but not unexpected post holidays. As other commenters have stated, Kenney should resign but obviously that isn’t going to happen. He is fighting to stay the leader of the UCP. Offhand I’d say he is pinning his hopes on 1) Covid finally packing it in; 2) oil prices continuing to rise which will wipe out the deficit – which the UCP will then state is due to their governance; 3) folks continuing to believe the UCP is the best option as our leaders come the next election. IF Kenney loses the leadership role to Brian Jean or some other candidate I’ve little doubt any UCP loss subsequent to replacing him will be heralded as a clear indication the loss of him as leader was the reason why. Dreaming of the end of the UCP in 2023:)

    • Linda, I think you’ve outlined Kenney’s strategy perfectly. He thinks the public is primarily driven by money, so if the economy booms, the people will forget that in two short years he destroyed healthcare, education, other public services and made them pay more for income tax, car insurance, tuition, electricity, property taxes, vehicle registration, parks, etc. while at the same time doling out tax breaks and subsidies to corporations (the “job creators” who don’t in fact create jobs). He’ll probably blame these increases on the NDP who he’ll say left us in a hole and Trudeau who he’ll say provided ‘too much’ support to covid. It’s crazy making!

  13. Dave says:

    Well, you have to have a certain style to pull of a fireside type of chat, characteristics such as friendly, pleasant and understanding come to mind. Kenney sure doesn’t have this style. Also, I don’t think Facebook itself works well – the family doesn’t gather around the computer, the same way they may have listening to their favourite radio programs decades ago. Yes, Facebook attracts quite a crowd, but most are not really there looking for political lectures. I suppose a physical equivalent would be trying to give a political speech in the middle of a busy shopping mall at Christmas time. You might get the crowd, but not their attention or interest.

    I recall years ago a certain Alberta premier campaigned successfully with “He listens, he cares”. I am not so sure he listened that well (or really cared), but he did communicate in a way that at least indicated he somewhat understood his audience. He also didn’t try to come across as the smartest person in the room, but in a much more relatable way.

    Lastly, when it comes to COVID, I don’t think Albertans want a Premier that listens to Joe from Red Deer as much as one who successfully deals with the challenges of COVID. I suspect doing that might require listening more to the health experts. In the end FDR was successful because his actions helped deal with the pressing problem of his time, which was the economy. The fireside chats got him some initial support and breathing room, but if he failed in action, they wouldn’t have satisfied people on their own. No, COVID is not mostly a political or communications issue to be managed, it is mostly a public health issue to be managed.

    • Dave, I agree. Kenney said using FB was a demonstration he was being “publicly accountable” because he touched thousands and thousands of Albertans in these live chats. However as I watched it, there was Kenney’s message (sometimes he had the facts right, other times he contradicted or side stepped something he’d said in the past) and there was the audience’s message (disjointed, unsupported by the facts, angry, hostile). Seems to me a better exercise of public accountability would entail press conferences where the press has the briefing materials before hand and enough time to ask all their questions (without him turning on them and implying they’re NDP shills).
      And speaking of public accountability, this latest fiasco with Kaycee Madu, the Justice Minister who has “stepped back” from his responsibilities and is now a cabinet minister without portfolio, smacks of a government rife with arrogance.
      Interestingly, both Leela Aheer and Tracy Allard lost their cabinet posts for much less.

  14. There is a big difference between the in your face TV or internet visual of reporting an radio!!
    With radio , you actually had to listen and reason in your mind what had happened!

    TB

    • Yes, TB, you’re right. I don’t know why any politician would use a FB Live Chat instead of a press conference to explain complex policies, let alone suggest as Kenney did that FB is a tool of “public accountability.”
      Notwithstanding the prevalence of Post Media, we still have many good reporters who are familiar with the issues and who ask penetrating questions. The public can watch these press conferences and judge for themselves whether Kenney is being publicly accountable or trying to dodge the question. Watching him on FB simply diverts our attention to the nimrod questions coming out of the chat box. He repeats his talking points, they reject what he says and no one is any the wiser.

  15. Carlos says:

    When I take a moment to think what is happening in this province, it is embarrassing and shocking that any government could go this low and still have the support of 22% of the population.
    It is a very bad news for the future of this province and Canada in general where others of the same species keep trying to move all of us into the abyss of demented politics.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-justice-minister-needs-to-be-fired-after-latest-ucp-government-scandal-it-s-that-simple-1.6319486

    • Dwayne says:

      Carlos: The UCP seemingly go beyond our expectations of them, and with so little effort. A mistake, or more, of the week is likely the norm. It’s the UCP we know and loathe.

  16. Carlos says:

    The reply does not seem to have worked so I try again as an independent post

    It is hard to believe where this province is being ungoverned. Now the traffic court has been delayed as well. No one knows what Jason Kenney is thinking or trying to think for his next idea that will be delayed after or cancelled. Hopefully there will be schools opened next year. 34% of Alberta teachers are retiring, changing careers or moving to other provinces, some refuse to use the forced curriculums these Neanderthals want to push down their throats. The same will happen with doctors and nurses as soon as this pandemic subsides a bit. No one wants to be in this province anymore other than people that like the truckers want no more rules no more government no more ethics or morals other than the ones they believe in.
    For those people that are looking for an example of the destruction of confidence, ethics. morals and standards just look at our province.
    Changes going on in the GOA are as confusing and strong top down approach similar to the same rules that we all know run the UCP as a party.
    How much longer will we take this?

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