Jason Kenney was pissed.
On Jan. 20, the Alberta premier walked into a press conference at the legislature in Edmonton, making a beeline to a podium that bore a sign reading “Standing up for Alberta.” Wearing a dusky navy blue suit and matching tie, Kenney was responding to breaking news that U.S. President Joe Biden had just cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, which was to carry oil from Alberta to Nebraska.
“This is a gut punch for the Canadian and Alberta economies,” said Kenney. “Sadly, it’s an insult directed at the United States’ most important ally and trading partner.” The premier said up to 2,000 unionized workers had just lost their jobs and if the Biden administration was unwilling to discuss the matter, “it’s clear the government of Canada must impose trade and economic sanctions” against the U.S.
For Kenney, news of the cancellation was one of a series of body blows his United Conservative Party (UCP) government has suffered over the past year and could not have come at a worse time. Already swimming in debt, the province had invested $1.5 billion in Keystone. More importantly, Kenney has gambled most of his political capital on rescuing Alberta’s ailing economy by resuscitating the oil and gas sector.
Now that strategy lies in tatters. As one former UCP staffer told me: “Reality is catching up with the province. It sounded good, in theory, but now we're getting our results.”
'Left in the dust'
“I think Jason Kenney is vulnerable because he ran on a platform that was based in his imagination and based in taking Alberta back to the ‘80s,” says Kevin Taft, a former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party. “It was a series of promises that look backwards and refused to take into account the reality of a changing world… and Jason Kenney's platform is being left in the dust. So he’s ended up pouring billions of dollars of subsidies into the oil industry to try to prop it up while he's driving the Alberta government into staggering levels of debt.”
Kenney’s problems don’t end with Alberta’s faltering energy sector: largely due to his mishandling of the pandemic, Alberta now boasts the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and second highest rate per capita.
Then, over the Christmas holidays, it was discovered Kenney’s minister of municipal affairs, his chief of staff and five other UCP MLAs had travelled abroad, mostly for vacations (the minister had gone to Hawaii). When this news broke, Kenney refused to act. Even MLAs in his own party were outraged: Michaela Glasgo, who represents Brooks-Medicine Hat, said her travelling UCP colleagues showed a “profound lack of judgment” and urged Kenney to reprimand them.
Reluctantly, as public anger grew, Kenney punished the offending MLAs, accepted the minister’s resignation and fired his chief of staff. One MLA, Pat Rehn, who had flown to Mexico for a vacation, was thrown out of caucus altogether after complaints emerged that he rarely travelled to his riding and was ill-prepared when he did.
Since becoming premier in April 2019, Kenney has been hit by a torrent of mostly self-inflicted scandals. As a result, Kenney has gone from being one of the most popular premiers in Canada to one of its most disliked.
Since becoming premier in April 2019, Kenney has been hit by a torrent of mostly self-inflicted scandals, writes @livesey416. As a result, Kenney has gone from being one of the most popular premiers in Canada to one of its most disliked. #ableg
A poll commissioned by the conservative news website Western Standard last month said only 26 per cent of Albertans would vote for the UCP — as opposed to 41 per cent for the NDP. “Kenney’s UCP would face decimation if an election was held today with the NDP’s Rachel Notley returned as premier,” the site noted. In another poll, Western Standard found 41 per cent want Kenney to resign.
Indeed, Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell recently opined on the MLA vacation scandal: “Is he really this tone-deaf? Or is it a case of Kenney really not thinking any of what’s gone on is that out of line?”
Even within the UCP, people are worried. The former UCP staffer I spoke to, who recently left government, says: “Definitely, people are upset right now with how things are going.”
“Kenney doesn't really understand the province and has antagonized almost every conservative group,” remarks Andrew Nikiforuk, an author and contributing editor at The Tyee who lives in southern Alberta and has written extensively on energy, economics and the West. “I don't think he will get re-elected in two years’ time — I think he's a one-term premier.”
If so, this would be a stunning fall for someone who is arguably the conservative movement’s biggest star. Prior to becoming premier of Alberta, the 52-year-old Kenney was one of Stephen Harper’s most highly regarded cabinet ministers — with rumours of him eventually eyeing a run for prime minister.
Ironically, Kenney’s troubles might lie in the fact he’s adopted Harper’s style of governance — and still takes advice from the former prime minister. Five years ago, Harper moved back to Alberta and runs a consulting business in Calgary. The premier appointed Harper to an economic advisory council and hired Harper’s son Ben as a policy adviser last fall.
“Harper is still a giant factor,” the former UCP staffer told me. “(Harper) was active in (Kenney’s UCP) leadership wins. He and his people — they never left. They are there.
“Kenney learned from Harper. If it worked (federally) and won a few elections, why is he going to do anything different? But it’s an old playbook by now.”
Like Harper and the federal Tories, Kenney and the UCP have embraced a style that veers towards the aggressive, unapologetic and authoritarian, laced with disinformation and picking fights that make little sense.
“They're incredibly arrogant,” says Laurie Adkin, a political scientist at the University of Alberta. “They think that they can do anything and will always get elected.”
For example, Kenney went to war with Alberta’s medical profession just as COVID-19 struck the province. A year ago, the government arbitrarily tore up the master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association in order to cut the pay of doctors. Last fall, the government announced up to 11,000 layoffs in the province’s health-care system — jobs slated to be privatized. Soon afterwards, a wildcat strike broke out among hospital workers. Now doctors are threatening to leave the province.
“The base of support for the (UCP) is rural Alberta, and that's where the fight took place, with rural doctors, much more so than urban doctors,” says Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. “(Albertans) like their social programs, they like their health-care system. And especially in a pandemic, you may think that doctors are overpaid, but you like your local doctor.”
By most accounts, when the first wave of COVID-19 hit, the Alberta government reacted responsibly. But when the second wave struck last fall, Kenney delayed closing down the province. As a result, the number of COVID-19 cases shot up, hitting more than 1,800 a day at one point in December — a rate higher than Ontario and Quebec.
Kenney refused to take ownership. When he was asked during a radio interview whether he accepted any personal responsibility for an approach that possibly cost hundreds of lives, Kenney went on the attack. “You have just joined the folks who are doing drive-by smears on Alberta,” he said to the reporter. When it was suggested his government’s record was among the worst in the country for handling the second wave, Kenney replied: “I don’t accept the Alberta-bashing that is going on here” and argued that death rates in Alberta were lower than in Ontario and Quebec.
Moreover, the Globe and Mail reported in December that a source said Alberta has requested less than 10 per cent of the maximum amount the province could have asked for under Ottawa’s program for topping up the wages of low-income essential workers. The $30 million Alberta received from Ottawa is significantly less than the province could have requested — a total of about $347 million.
'A dyed-in-the-wool new right conservative'
“I know Jason Kenney, and so none of this is a surprise to me,” remarks Doug Griffiths, a former Tory MLA and cabinet minister in Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative government. Griffiths met Kenney when Kenney was a federal minister. “All he wants is power. It’s about power and being in charge, it’s never been about what’s good for people, it's never been about what's good for the country, it's never been about what's good for Alberta.”
Kenney was born in Oakville, Ont., son of a private school headmaster who moved his family to Saskatchewan when Kenney was a boy. Kenney was raised Anglican but later converted to Catholicism.
“I take the teachings of my church pretty seriously when it comes to applying them to myself,” he once said.
Kenney was a political nerd and initially a Liberal Party supporter, working as an aide to Ralph Goodale in the early ‘80s. But his aggressive tactics first emerged when he went to study at the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit university, in 1987.
One day in 1989, three members of the Women’s Law Student Association set up a table on campus to collect signatures for a pro-choice petition. One media account says Kenney and a group of male students surrounded the women, demanding they clear out, which they did (Kenney has said he was not among the men). Kenney then introduced a motion at the student senate to demand the university suspend the law association’s charter, which passed by one vote “We’re playing hardball,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle, equating the pro-choice activists with proponents of pedophilia and the KKK.
The decision split the campus and sparked the threat of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, forcing the university administration to pass a policy asserting the right of students to free speech. Kenney then led a charge to have the university removed as a Catholic institution.
While in San Francisco, Kenney volunteered at a hospice, helping out with AIDS patients. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors had voted in favour of domestic partner legislation, which would have allowed hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples — especially significant during the AIDS crisis.
Yet Kenney was involved in a petition spearheaded by Catholics to hold a referendum to overturn the law. In a speech he gave in 2000, Kenney boasted of his role, “which led to a referendum which overturned the first gay spousal law in North America.” When the referendum succeeded, it meant visitation rights for gay people whose partners were dying in hospices could now be denied.
Kenney has long opposed extending equal rights to the LGBTQ community. In 2005, he lobbied and voted against the federal law approving gay marriage, telling one media outlet it was okay to discriminate against homosexuals. Immediately after becoming premier of Alberta, Kenney passed a law that stripped many protections for LGBTQ students in the school system.
Yet his opposition to gay rights has raised curiousity about his own sexuality. In 2017, Canadian singer k.d. lang, who is a lesbian, tweeted to Kenney: “You’re gay aren’t you?” To this day, Kenney has never been publicly associated with a partner, either male or female.
After deciding against returning to complete his final year at university, Kenney moved to Alberta. He soon became head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, where he continued his confrontational tactics. Kenney became close to a group of hard-right young conservatives, including Ezra Levant.
“Kenney is a dyed-in-the-wool new right conservative,” says Jared Wesley, a political scientist at the University of Alberta. Wesley says Kenney embodies three aspects of the new right: neoliberalism, libertarianism and social conservativism.
“There’s this whole kind of cabal of these guys who are real fundamentalists... and they embrace this notion of a much harder, much more sharp ideological position,” says Dimitry Anastakis, a historian at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Michael Coren, a former conservative TV host and writer who occasionally socialized with Kenney, says Kenney is of a generation of conservatives “who absolutely detest what happened before with the Progressive Conservative Party” — seeing it as too moderate. “They despise that. They think there is an ‘Albany Club attitude’ they refer to. They see that as wasted years.”
Kenney has always distinguished himself as a tireless worker who does his homework. Elizabeth May, who was elected as a Green Party MP in 2011, struck up a friendly relationship with Kenney and recalls he was not to be toyed with in a debate.
“He’s the only minister who stayed in the house all the time and was on his feet to eviscerate opposition MPs who were casual in their attacks on his legislation,” she recalls. “He knew his files, which a lot of ministers don't to this day, but he really knew what he was working on.”
From 'Snack Pack' to Conservative star
Kenney was first elected to Parliament in 1997 after catching the attention of Preston Manning, who recruited him to run for the Reform Party. Kenney emerged as the leader of a rambunctious band of young MPs dubbed Reform’s “Snack Pack.”
In 2003, Harper brought the warring factions of the right together under the new Conservative Party of Canada banner. Three years later, Harper won power, with Kenney becoming his parliamentary secretary. Soon Kenney established himself as an important asset to Harper: The Tory brain trust realized that many recent immigrants to Canada were social conservatives, opposed to abortion and gay marriage. Kenney was tasked to woo these voters.
“He was one of the spark plugs in terms of broadening the base of the Conservative Party beyond the normal kind of small town, white, high school-educated, rural base that we have had across Canada into something which was a bit more reflective of diversity in the country,” says former Tory senator Hugh Segal. Kenney’s outreach is often credited with helping Harper win his majority in 2011.
Harper rewarded Kenney with a series of important cabinet posts — immigration, employment and defence.
Yet his tenure as a cabinet minister was often controversial, especially as minister of immigration. “The overall legacy of Jason Kenney as minister of immigration was very politicized,” says May.
Kenney imposed a ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies, sided with Israel against critics of the Palestinian occupation, barred British MP George Galloway from entering Canada and crafted a bill ostensibly aimed at human smuggling that was so sweeping the B.C. Supreme Court sent it back to Parliament for redrafting, pointing out that it could have convicted human rights workers. Kenney also targeted Roma refugees fleeing an increasingly racist and violent Hungary, denying them entry into Canada. He claimed such refugees were “bogus.” Kenney even froze all immigration applications from parents or grandparents for two years.
Kenney did help some persecuted religious groups and even gay people facing harassment in certain countries. May recalls he was willing to help out refugee claimants on an individual basis she brought to his attention. Overall, though, she says Kenney took a punitive approach. “To tell somebody that you're being deported because your parents messed up your immigration papers when you were six months old, and it's too late for us to do anything to help you and you're out... There were a lot of individual cases that were just devastating.”
By early 2015, Kenny had amassed a war chest, possibly to take a run for the leadership of the Tory party if Harper stepped aside before the election. Harper squashed that possibility, leading his party to defeat. By then, Kenney was exhausted, having spent years crisscrossing the country as well as taking on challenging portfolios. Still, he was considered the second most important Conservative figure after Harper.
Surprisingly, he chose not to make a run for the leadership after Harper stepped down. “He could have easily won it, including in the last leadership contest,” says former Tory MP Dean Del Mastro, who was once friends with Kenney. “Nobody could have defeated him, that's just the fact of it.”
Back in Alberta, he saw a divided conservative movement that had led to the NDP's surprise victory in 2015, making Rachel Notley premier. The right was split between the ailing PC and more radical Wildrose parties. In 2016, Kenney decided to reunite Alberta’s right and make a run for premier.
However, Kenney was returning to an Alberta in distress.
“This resulted in a recession in Alberta in 2015 and 2016,” says Omar Abdelrahman, an economist with the TD Bank. “And even before the pandemic, Alberta was still not at a point where it had recouped all the losses from that recession.”
Given that the oilsands are one of the most expensive sources of petroleum, the collapse in oil prices had a devastating impact on the province’s employment and investment picture: By last year, an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 oil and gas extraction jobs had disappeared. “The thinking is it needs to be $50-$60 (a barrel) for (the oilsands) not to lose money,” says Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada’s energy analyst. “But their problem is that for new investment, it has to be even higher.”
Also threatening the oilsands is a growing divestment movement, with more than US$6 trillion being committed to divest from fossil fuels. Global banks such as HSBC, the world's largest asset manager BlackRock, insurance giant The Hartford, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, insurance companies and major pension plans have pulled investment from the oilsands. Even large oil companies like Shell have followed suit. The result was Moody's downgrading the creditworthiness of Alberta's debt to its lowest level in 20 years.
Uniting Alberta's conservatives
In 2017, with more than 75 per cent of the delegate votes on the first ballot, Kenney was elected leader of the PC Party of Alberta. That summer, he negotiated a merger with Wildrose, creating the UCP. He was soon leader of the UCP and won a seat in the Alberta legislature.
But the UCP would not be a centrist party. “All the progressive ideas came out — policies that would focus on the future, policies that would focus on new technology, policies focused on changing industries,” says Griffiths, who spent his political career with the PC party.
Kenney’s run for the UCP leadership was also tainted. In what is now known as the “kamikaze” scandal, Kenney’s camp is accused of putting up a stalking horse candidate, Jeff Callaway, whose job was to attack Kenney’s biggest rival — Brian Jean, leader of the Wildrose Party. Documents obtained by the media show Kenney's campaign proposed major aspects of Callaway's operation, including providing strategic plans, attack ads, speeches and talking points intended to discredit Jean.
Callaway's former communications manager, Cameron Davies, said Kenney attended a meeting at Callaway's house in July 2017 where the “kamikaze campaign” was discussed and Kenney had first-hand knowledge of this strategy. Kenney has denied any involvement in the scandal, while Callaway went to court to have the investigation shut down (which failed).
Another allegation is over whether Kenney’s camp fraudulently manufactured votes. CBC and CTV received documents indicating that fake email addresses attached to party memberships were used to cast ballots in the party's leadership race. Prab Gill, a former UCP MLA, has made the same allegation. Kenney has denied involvement in this scandal as well.
Moreover, top Kenney and Harper operatives have been attached to the controversies, including Matt Wolf, Kenney’s director of his war room during the 2019 election, and Shuvaloy Majumdar, the global director of Stephen Harper’s consulting firm.
After these allegations emerged, the RCMP and Alberta’s election commissioner opened investigations.
In the run-up to the 2019 provincial election, the UCP adopted a “fight back” strategy designed to convince voters that Alberta’s economic problems could be solved with a more belligerent defence of the oil patch.
Kenney and the UCP decided to blame the province’s woes on environmentalists and the Trudeau government. “This was not their main problem,” argues Stewart. “The main problem is (the oilsands) are high-cost carbon in a world that's moving to a low-carbon economy. But that was inconvenient. So they had a convenient scapegoat.”
Kenney even targeted individual environmentalists, such as former Pembina Institute executive director Ed Whittingham, who had accepted a seat on the board of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), although Whittingham and Pembina had a track record of working with the oil industry. The UCP and Kenney issued press releases and tweets targeting Whittingham. He quickly resigned from the AER and Kenney applauded, saying he would have fired him in any event.
Wesley, the University of Alberta political scientist, says after conducting polling of voters, he gleaned that Albertans viewed Kenney as a bit of a pompous jerk. “Albertans knew what they were getting,” says Wesley. “That’s what came through in our focus groups. But in 2019 they seemed to want a bully. I think Albertans were a bit ticked and wanted to take on the rest of the world, wanted to take on environmentalists, wanted to take on Trudeau, and they wanted somebody who was kind of — I won't say a strong man — but a forceful personality like Jason Kenney.”
In April 2019, the UCP swept to power, winning 63 of the legislature's 87 seats and 55 per cent of the vote. On election night, Bratt, the Mount Royal University political scientist, was working for Global TV at Kenney’s headquarters. “A couple of things that struck me over the course of that night,” he recalls. “This is a big victory celebration, they have just returned to government. But there was still a lot of anger in the room. Like this wasn't a happy group, this was an angry group. Even when they were winning, it was an angry group.”
The 'energy war room'
After his win, Kenney moved to squash the investigations into his leadership race. He fired Alberta’s election commissioner who was investigating Kenney and the UCP, including over the “kamikaze” campaign.
Kenney embarked on what he promised — attacking the environmental movement and Trudeau, especially over carbon taxes. He began labelling any criticisms of the oilsands “Alberta bashing.” A month after getting elected as premier, he visited the editorial board of the Globe and Mail where he was asked about investors’ concerns about emissions and climate change: he dismissed them as “flavour of the day.”
He then set up a public inquiry into the “foreign funding” of oilsands critics. For an initial outlay of $2.5 million, he hired Steve Allan, a member of Alberta’s business establishment, to lead the inquiry.
This contract amplified the allegations of cronyism that have dogged Kenney. Allan quickly awarded a $905,000 untendered contract to Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, for legal advice. Allan’s son Toby is a partner at Dentons. Moreover, Allan owed his appointment to Alberta’s first justice minister, Doug Schweitzer, also a former partner at Dentons (Allan had donated $1,000 and campaigned for Schweitzer in 2017 when Schweitzer made a run for the UCP leadership).
Dentons has an enormous roster of oil industry corporate clients, including Enbridge, BP Canada and Total. And Stephen Harper’s consulting business is run out of Denton’s Calgary offices.
Allan then refused to hold public hearings. His final report has been delayed three times, with Kenny adding another $1 million to the budget. In January, the inquiry posted three reports it had commissioned for nearly $100,000 from outside experts, of which one was authored by a well-known global warming skeptic who’s taken money from the oil industry, and another who spun a web of conspiracy theories.
Kenney also created an “energy war room” designed to attack journalists and critics of the oilsands and burnish the image of the energy sector. It was initially budgeted $120 million over four years and, from its inception, elicited highly personal attacks. On opening day, a supporter held up a poster with a photograph of environmentalist Tzeporah Berman. The sign had a red cross through Berman and was labelled “Enemy of the oilsands.”
Berman is the international program director of the environmental organization Stand.earth and had advised the Notley government up until 2017. “(Kenney) ran a pretty harsh campaign against me,” says Berman. “Every time he attacked me online, I would receive death threats and really misogynist and horrible attacks online, and that went on for the better part of a year.”
Yet the war room soon attracted ridicule.
Its logo was found to have been plagiarized and its staff were condemned for conducting interviews while masquerading as reporters without informing their subjects they were not. Last February, after the New York Times published an article about how some of the world’s biggest financial institutions were divesting from the oilsands, the war room lashed out on Twitter, questioning the paper’s credibility as a news source, calling its track record “dodgy” and saying it had been accused of anti-Semitism “countless times.” The war room’s director, Tom Olsen, later deleted the tweets and issued an online apology.
The Kenney government also passed Bill 1, which calls for steep penalties against any person or company found to have blocked, damaged or entered any “essential infrastructure.” The list of possible sites includes pipelines, rail lines, highways, oil sites, telecommunications equipment and more. Violators can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to six months in jail, or both. Each day they block or damage a site is considered a new offence.
Kenney designed the law to stop protesters affecting any oil industry and pipeline construction. Yet law professors at the University of Calgary argue it clearly violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Our analysis is that the government would have a difficult time justifying Bill 1 because it is so broad and it does potentially impact marginalized groups more adversely,” law professor Jennifer Koshan told the media. An online petition to withdraw the legislation quickly garnered over 350,000 signatures. A constitutional challenge against the law, launched by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, will likely reach the Supreme Court of Canada.
A struggling province
Kenney’s biggest problem is Alberta’s fiscal and employment situation.
Alberta has no sales or payroll tax and imposes low royalties on the energy sector: as a result, the government is projected to earn less money this year from oil and gas ($1.2-billion) than from gaming and liquor sales ($1.3-billion).
Kenney added to his government’s problems by cutting corporate taxes, from 12 to eight per cent.
As a result, the province is running a $21.3-billion budget deficit, the largest in percentage terms in Canada, while also carrying a nearly $94-billion debt (in the early 2000s, Alberta had no debt and only $8.7 billion by 2013).
Kenney responded by making cuts. One of the first salvos was tearing up the master agreement with doctors and changing their billing codes (health-care accounts for 42 per cent of the government’s operating costs). This was followed by the announcement of up to 11,000 health-care jobs being cut and given to outside contractors. “Basically they are trying to privatize health care,” says Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi, a Calgary-based family physician, former UCP activist and outspoken critic of Kenney’s. “Every government would like to come and reduce expenses and expenditure, but there's a proper way of doing it.”
After the pandemic hit, the government announced 25,000 layoffs in the education system, which they said were temporary for the last two months of the school year: some of those layoffs have remained in effect. The government also sought wage cuts and freezes from other public servants. In the university sector, the government imposed severe cuts, which may see tuition fees soar by as much as 21 per cent by 2022.
“You imagine that 30 to 33 percent of our budget will be gone by 2023,” says University of Alberta political scientist Laurie Adkin. “And so it's thrown the universities into crisis: we'll have thousands of layoffs of non-academic staff.”
Kenney also dismantled Notley’s climate change measures and announced the privatization of 175 parks. Initially he scrapped Notley’s limited economic diversification programs, before reviving them.
At the same time, Kenney has been rushing to assist the corporate sector — with debatable results. “So he cut corporate taxes and provided other assistance to oil companies,” says Griffiths, “and many of those oil companies took that assistance, took the tax reductions, took all of that windfall, and they still closed their offices or moved out of Alberta and didn’t create one new job in this province. None of it helped Alberta.”
One of the emerging controversies has been his move to allow four Australian coal mining companies to mine nearly 800 square kilometres of the southern and central Rockies. This will entail massive open pit mines and possibly scraping away mountaintops. It’s also highly water-intensive: Critics say it will not only pollute watersheds that provide drinking and irrigation water for 1.8 million people but destroy tourism and ranching.
On a Friday before a long weekend in May of last year, Kenney’s government quietly scrapped the 1976 Coal Development Policy, which was put in place by former premier Peter Lougheed to prevent open pit mining in that area, as well as safeguard water supplies. Kenney did this with no public consultation, although he did confer with the coal lobby.
This move has alarmed Indigenous groups, landowners and ranchers who graze cattle in the eastern slopes and are now together seeking a judicial review of the decision to dump the coal policy. That case went before the courts last month.
One angry rancher is Gordon Cartwright, owner of the D-Ranch near High River, Alta., whose family has been raising cattle in that area for 120 years. “Here we are going with the same model of encouraging a foreign company to come in and exploit these resources, giving them cheap royalties, tax holidays till they get going,” he says. “(But) that's a short time period of benefit with such lasting damage in terms of liability and consequences. Once you deface those mountains, where you totally changed that landscape, all you're trying to do is mitigate the damage. But you can't turn the clock back in terms of management of native species.”
Today, Kenney’s favourability rating has fallen to less than 40 per cent — the second lowest among Canada’s premiers — down from 61 per cent in the summer of 2019. While he’s not facing the electorate before 2023, some Albertans are beginning to doubt he can recover. And grumblings within the UCP are growing.
When the National Observer asked Kenney’s office for an interview, they declined. We then sent his office a list of questions dealing with the issues raised in this story. Kenney’s press secretary, Jerrica Goodwin, replied, saying: “We reject the premise of your ridiculous, agenda-driven questions. I’m sure you can dig up the government’s previous answers on these questions, as the false allegations you raise have been addressed numerous times in the past.”
“He's an ideologue, he's a true believer in certain convictions that he's just not prepared to compromise on, at least not very readily,” says Kevin Taft. “Jason Kenney comes out of the same kind of firmament as the people who pushed Trump up into his position. He's got real Trumpian tendencies in terms of dividing people, name calling, kind of a distorted populism that plays to ‘us versus them.’ He is very quick to throw insults at people he doesn't agree with… Which culminates in what you see in the U.S. in the last four years — which is division, inequity, anger and largely dysfunctional kind of government.”