So, Jason Kenney is now Premier. A friend of mine, who was not fond of Premier Notley, asked me my opinion. Anyone who knows me knows one thing: Russell Scantlebury will not give a simple answer. Accordingly, I thought I would jot it down here.
To start off with, I hope that Jason Kenney is successful. While, I don’t agree with much of what he says, I know that I live in Calgary, Alberta. I know people all over this great province: from Calgary to Edmonton; from Vulcan to Medicine Hat. These are good people and I would hate for them to have some form of hardship. If Jason Kenney fails, then it is easy to surmise that hardship will come. Consequently, I hope that Premier Kenney is successful.
With that being said, my worries come to the fore. For Jason Kenney, to date, has been two things: an amazing political organizer and a horrible administrator. The Federal Conservative Party had amazing success, in part, because of Jason Kenney’s ability to organize a political movement and his work ethic. This could be seen when he was organizing against the LGBTQ community in the US in the 80s and it could be seen most recently in the creation of the United Conservative Party.
However, as I said, Jason Kenney is a horrible administrator. Remember the Temporary Foreign Worker fiasco under the Harper Government. The minister who was in charge of the programme was Jason Kenney. If one looks through Jason Kenney’s career one can see that dichotomy: an amazing political organizer and a horrible administrator.
But my worries don’t end there because Jason Kenney doesn’t do finesse particularly well either. He upset many in Canada’s Muslim community because he was not able to stick handle the Niqab issue. In fact, he turned the issues of Niqabs into a political bomb. Furthermore, Premier Kenney doesn’t have a good relationship with the LGBTQ community because of years of social conservative politics; a politics which caused him to be criticized by friend and foe alike. Just take the example, of the lack of finesse/skill showed by Jason Kenney when he was interviewed by Charles Adler.
Mr. Adler is a long timer journalist who is also a long time conservative. He is tough, gruff and fair. When he called Jason Kenney on some of his organizing against the AIDS ravaged LGBTQ community in the 1980s, Mr. Kenney dug his own ditch. It was such a big ditch that the interview made provincial and national waves in an election where no waves were made.
Now, is it possible that Jason Kenney has learned from his mistakes? It is. Is it possible that Jason Kenney could put a good team around his to overcome his short comings? For sure. However, won’t he have done that for this last election? The one in 2019 where he made big waves because of an interview and actions he took more than 20 years previous.
It is here that my worries turn to fears. If Jason Kenney cannot fix those short comings, can he deal with an economy which has structural issues? Or put differently, the Alberta Economy has used Oil and Gas Royalties to fund its taxation budget deficits since Getty took over the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980s. Depending on the year, as much as 25% of Alberta’s Government Budget is funded by Royalties; and, Royalties have a life of their own. Is Jason Kenney ready to explain this to the people of Alberta? To date, he has not been.
It is true that Jason Kenney portrayed himself as the Guardian of Alberta but what happens when he cannot convince BC, Quebec or the Federal Government to change course? After all, he was a federal minister in the Harper Government when they tried to ram through pipelines, investigated charities and yelled at President Obama to approve Keystone XL. Remember how that went? If you need a refresher, here goes. While, some oil and natural gas pipeline were built, the Harper Government’s aggressive approach let to a significant backlash. It was a backlash which turned seats in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec from Blue to Red. My fear is that Jason Kenney has not learned his lesson from his time as a Minister, or Opposition Politician, or organizer. While, this time might be different, I won’t hold my breath.
I have spent a lifetime as an amateur political observer. I have managed to help out on a variety of campaigns – some blue, some orange and some red, mostly red. Consequently, I have learned to listen. In part that history probably explains why I am a member of the Alberta Party provincially. My politics is one of witness and improvement. This sometimes means being fiscally prudent and other times it means spending money. Sometimes, it means defending a law that is necessary; while other times, my politics demands opposing law that is unjust. Either way, I believe in facts and honest; but I also believe in changing my mind.
My guiding principle is simple: to provide the best outcome for the most people, without bringing “harm” to minorities. I believe in defending the “Other” whether that other is the LGTBQ community or bankers or visible & religious minorities. Sir John A. MacDonald believed that the only minority that should be defended are the rich and I can’t disagree with Sir John on this point.
I believe that finding the best way forward usually comes from finding out about another person and finding a mutually beneficial way forward. So is it possible for Jason Kenney to suddenly take up my political philosophy? Yes, it is. However, if the definition of insanity is to bang one’s head against a wall and to expect a different result, one would say that expecting a different result from Jason Kenney would be… well… insane. Jason Kenney, for the last thirty years, has been one of the most partisan, ideological, unchanging and unyielding social conservative. That is his record.
With that being said, in 1988, Premier Kenney was the executive assistant to Ralph Goodale when Mr. Goodale was the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. While, the next year, Premier Kenney was the first Executive Director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association, one can say anything is possible. So, with all this being said, I have witnessed Jason Kenney’s political career and I don’t expect much openness to change. Yet, with all this being said, I do hope I am wrong. I hope Jason Kenney is successful, I hope Alberta is successful and that I can eat my words soon. But my hope is slim.