Two people were fired this week.
Dr Yiu was fired without cause on Apr 4. Jason Kenney is being ‘fired’ in slow motion, his dismissal will be confirmed on May 18, 2022 when the mail-in ballots are counted, or a year later on May 29, 2023 when the results of the next provincial election are in.
Let’s start with the bewildering dismissal of Dr Yiu.
Of with her head
Dr Verna Yiu was the CEO of Alberta Health Services. It’s a large, complex organization employing more than 108,000 direct employees (including about 10,000 doctors) and offering services at 900 plus facilities across the province.
By all accounts she was a good leader.
In 2020-21 AHS was recognized for the fourth consecutive year as one of Canada’s top 100 employers, Canada’s top employers for young people, and Alberta’s top employers. It was also recognized for the third consecutive year as one of Canada’s best diversity employers.
Dr Yiu led AHS through the horrors of the pandemic, speaking out in press conferences to—oh, how should we put this, to “clarify” something Jason Kenney and his officials had just said—and ensure the public was fully aware of the devastating impact government policy was having on AHS and its ability to deliver healthcare to Albertans during the Covid-19 crisis.
The pandemic is not yet over but Dr Yiu has been fired because, in the words of Health Minister Copping, “It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership at [AHS] will support delivering those changes.”
The need for renewed, supportive leadership was so important that Copping repeated it at the end of his press release, leaving Albertans with the impression that Dr Yiu would not have supported what the Kenney government has in store and Kenney was prepared to pay $573,841 in severance to get her out of the way.
Now contrast Dr Yiu’s leadership with that of Jason Kenney.
Finally, a leadership review
Kenney has been UCP leader since 2017. Over the last 5 years UCP supporters have been asking themselves: who is the real Jason Kenney, the servant-leader who toured the province in a blue pickup truck or the Ottawa-top-down politician?
Their consternation came to a head last fall when they forced the party into an early leadership review.
And with good reason.
Under Kenney’s leadership party membership plummeted. In 2018 it was 200,000 (or 160,000 depending on who you believe), today it’s around 57,000.
In 2020 the UCP and the NDP were neck and neck in political donations of around $5 million each. Last year the NDP outpaced the UCP, raising $6.2 million while the UCP dropped to $3.8 million.
Kenney’s approval ratings slipped from 61% in May 2019 to 30% in Mar 2022. Notley now sits 10 points ahead at 40%
His party is still under investigation by the RCMP over allegations of fraud in the last leadership race.
A number of his cabinet ministers have been disgraced. Devin Dreeshen and Tracey Allard were demoted. Tyler Shandro and Kaycee Madu are still in cabinet.
His caucus is in turmoil and his MLAs have been signing letters demanding his resignation for over a year.
Only I can save you
Kenney puts this dissension down to complaints about his handling of covid. He says he’s not perfect, he’s not God Almighty and everyone makes mistakes.
But this level of insurrection is more than mere frustration over Kenney’s covid policies. Even Doug Ford who’s been severely criticized for mishandling the pandemic and the Ottawa occupation has an approval rating 13 points higher than Kenney’s.
Kenney is fighting for his political life. But instead of addressing his supporters’ complaints about his policies and his top-down leadership style he’s asking them to believe that without him, they’re facing a dystopian future because only he can save the party from the lunatics who are trying to take over the asylum and those grumps like Brian Jean who want to split the party, perhaps destroying it forever, and only he can save Alberta from Rachel Notley and the dreaded socialists.
This is what historian Timothy Snyder describes as a self-deifying claim of an authoritarian who demands faith, not reason, from his supporters. For this reason alone Kenney deserves to be jettisoned.
Yiu vs Kenney
Yiu complied with her employment contract which required her to faithfully serve AHS, act in the best interests of AHS, perform her duties professionally, obey all applicable laws, standards and rules of conduct and refrain from publicly taking positions that conflict or are in opposition to AHS.
Kenney, as party leader is obligated to promote the party, its policies and principles. When he won the last election he promised that help was on the way and hope was on the horizon. The UCP membership will decide whether he’s delivered on his promise.
Yiu was fired for doing her job. Kenney is still here, but not for long.