History may not repeat itself, but it does have a way of rhyming. And as Alberta’s health-care system continues to buckle under the weight of human misery created by Jason Kenney’s “best summer ever,” it’s become increasingly clear his political career will end as it started: with an indifference to the lives and suffering of others.

Kenney began his political career as a student at the University of San Francisco, and he was at the forefront of efforts there to overturn spousal support laws that allowed gay men to visit their dying partners in the hospital during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

That episode didn’t cost him his career, and if anything it may have helped advance it within the anti-LGBTQ Canadian Alliance of the late 1990s and early 2000s. As he bragged to supporters back in 2000, “I became president of the pro-life group in my campus and helped to lead an ultimately successful initiative petition, which led to a referendum, which overturned the first gay spousal law in North America.”

His inclination towards tone-deaf braggery hasn’t gone away, given he was talking up Alberta’s per-capita death rate and comparing it favourably to other provinces in the middle of a fourth wave that he started. But he’s unlikely to get away with his more recent act of callous indifference, one that has already resulted in the postponement of at least 8,500 surgeries (including 805 pediatric procedures) in Alberta.

According to a recent poll from ThinkHQ Public Affairs, Kenney’s net approval rating is sitting at a staggering -55, with only 22 per cent support in a province that almost reflexively supports Conservative politicians. As ThinkHQ president Marc Henry noted, “We have not seen a sitting premier with numbers this low in almost a decade; Alison Redford resigned the day it was revealed her approval at the time had dropped to 18 (per cent). That’s a ‘margin of error’ difference from Kenney’s results today.”

Even more remarkable than the headline figure is the degree to which Kenney’s unpopularity is consistent across demographic and geographic divides.

Yes, he’s politically radioactive in relatively progressive Edmonton, and Calgary has caught up in that respect. But even in more rural areas of the province, where a ham sandwich could get elected if it ran with a Conservative party label on it, he’s polling under 30 per cent. Men are now just as unhappy with him as women, and even among those 55 and older he’s underwater by a nearly three-to-one ratio. One wonders if he’d even be able to cross the 50 per cent support threshold if you polled his own MLAs and political staffers.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for Kenney, who came back to Alberta as a conquering hero and clearly still had his eyes on the top federal job.

Now, instead of assessing his chances of taking down Justin Trudeau in the next election if the Conservative Party of Canada decides to replace Erin O’Toole, political analysts will be trying to figure out where he ranks among the worst premiers in Canadian history. And while he hasn’t yet scaled the same heights of shameless corruption that Saskatchewan’s Grant Devine and B.C.’s Bill Vander Zalm reached, his blend of bumbling incompetence and ideological stridency may eventually put him at the top of the list.

Regardless of his ranking, the death toll from a self-inflicted fourth wave, along with the thousands of postponed surgeries and medical procedures, will be his ultimate political legacy in Alberta. Even when the case surge subsides, the health-care system and the thousands of people who work in it will spend years recovering from the damage it has done. And there’s no recovering from the unnecessary loss of life that thousands of families have had to endure — and others will suffer in the weeks ahead.

Opinion: It’s become increasingly clear Jason Kenney's political career will end as it started: with an indifference to the lives and suffering of others, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #abpoli #COVID

Kenney’s political demise won’t bring any of those people back. But it can serve as a lesson to Conservative politicians in Canada, including those here in Alberta who might be eyeing his job.

In a moment that demanded intellectual agility and ideological flexibility, Kenney doubled down on his pre-existing beliefs. And when presented with the choice between protecting the public and promoting his own political survival, he gleefully chose the latter.

But a virus can’t be spun or gaslit, and it doesn’t respond to the tender missives of right-wing columnists and well-paid issues managers. Conservatives would do well to remember that for the next time they face down something equally intractable — voters don’t take kindly to politicians who risk lives in order to flip a few pancakes at the Stampede.

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Not that the pandemic is intractable. Just that it can't be ignored or 'spun' as a matter of opinion, or falsely debated as being an unsettled or doubted issue.

Lie, Deny, Delay, Distract and Defy. If that playbook sounds familiar, it should. It is the preferred of autocrats, faceless corporations and religious zealots everywhere when facing any inconvenient truth about the true damage they are inflicting on the common good.

Smoking causes cancer? Emissions are causing climate collapse? COVID is destroying the public health care system in Alberta and literally killing people?

Saying it isn't so or wishing it wasn't so may continue to line your pockets but for the rest of us it doesn't cut the mustard.

But the current COVID situation in Alberta is not Mr. Kenney's fault. Nope. It falls at the feet of Albertans. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: the government Albertans elect is the government they deserve.

Write letters. Ask questions of your politicians. Talk to your neighbours. Get out the vote.

I'd meant to say "COVID policy".

Albertans, ponder this: how different is the image of a speedo-clad and shirtless Vladimir Putin holding up in the air a freshly caught trout from that of Jason Kenney in a cowboy hat, flipping flapjacks?

Agreed. The only thing I would add is the suggestion that we stop assuming conservatives are capable of actually learning which involves having at least some semblance of an open mind. The phenomenon of a "conservative brain" unfortunately precludes that. As with religion, so closely allied with current conservatism, a certain mental incapacity is on display. The recent federal election flushed that out for all to see, the baffling, persistent irrationality best described by Chris Turner in the last Alberta Views issue as "braying intransigence" and by Max as "ideological stridency." Or just plain "nutbar."
Ever since the religious Reform Party took over the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada, bozo eruptions have been the order of the day for that very reason. At what point do we concede that the current right wing has become completely unfit to govern?
This also explains why we never talk about a "conservative democracy," only a liberal one. That fundamental incompatibility is now fully manifesting before our very eyes in the U.S.

I find it fascinating that cognitive dissonance has not been natural-selectioned out of the general population. Either it’s just that the human gene pool is not that deep else there must be some collective evolutionary advantage it provides that I have yet to understand.

This probably won't be appreciated, but remember that we are tipping toward extinction at the moment, and I think the main challenge before us is actually whether or not we can survive the male of our species.
Our only hope is to feminize our systems, thereby allowing women more power to mitigate the truly otherworldly male ego.

An excellent point. As a male of the species I think women need to attain rule and run things for a generation or two. Angela Merkel, now retired from the German chancellorship, was the leader of the free world during Trump's presidency and did a pretty good job. There are several women in parliament who could assume a majority of leadership positions in all parties.

I eagerly await the day when we can replace the present gang of incompetents with an NDP government.

Careful what you wish for. The NDP in British Columbia is totally incompetent.

Totally incompetent? Compared to who? The pandemic created a unique platform to show competency, and their numbers have been consistently much better than ours. AND they've had disastrous fires to contend with in addition to plague.

Thank you for this article. Conservatives have always put their own agenda ahead of public interests. Covid-19 just put that in full display. I can attest from Ontario, as politics (ahead of science) also devastated our health care system during the 3rd wave.

Under the provincial conservatives, Alberta had better programs for seniors and disabled people, as well as better welfare and other financial supports rates than most provinces in Canada. And don't forget that they pay less for gasoline than other provinces, and they are the only province with no provincial sales tax.
They've also had above-average wages, as the standard gets set by the oil patch and the construction industry that supports it.
IOW, Albertans have had reasonably good historical reasons for voting Conservative.

The main difference between Conservatives and Liberals these days seems to be that the Liberals "lie progressive" to get elected. They are equals in all the rest of the chicanery, disregard for the have-less part of the populace, disregard for nature and climate, refusal to listen to science (choosing cherry-picked "experts" instead), acting with disregard for the law of the land, refusing to accept real authorities' decisions, and subverting democracy at every turn.
Both also lie bald-facedly about facts, whether documented or not.

You're kidding. You're putting that tiresome"bothsidesism" forward? You who reads the National Observer?
You are leaving out of course the entirely valid reasons given by Trudeau for the last election, which is that during a time of serious climate change and an actual pandemic, only ONE party voted climate change doesn't exist, and only ONE party has produced offshoots that are consistent replicas of the GOP, the party of NO, as Jon Stewart so accurately characterized them, i.e. only ONE party is in truth anti-science, anti-vax, anti-intellectual, anti-arts and if you consider religion, anti-reality.
Let's also just admit that the cons still haven't even accepted that homosexuality in fact exists biologically (conversion therapy anyone?), or that gender isn't potentially more fluid, or that people have the right to choose medically assisted death, or that women are equal human beings who deserve the right to choose for gods' sake! Agreed the Liberals need to lean more toward the Leap Manifesto, I'm with Greta Thunberg and her generation, but they at least retain open minds, can be pushed, and WILL. Get a perspective how about?

Yes, in the past that was true, there was an "Alberta advantage," except the no sales tax nonsense which ensured harrowing boom and bust cycles, and enabled systemic undercutting of health care and education. But it has NOT been true for some time, and not being able to take that in is a classic con trait; they love tradition, hate change, despite it being the constant in life. Another strike against them being in charge of ANY modern society.
The people in Alberta who haven't been able to even remotely consider "pivoting" due to changing circumstances are the hard-core, tribal, cult conservatives, mostly rural. I know this because I am from there, but due to NOT being tribal, only human and progressive, I am one of the thinking exceptions. To say that whoever was stupid enough to vote for the UCP last time now has massive egg on their faces is an understatement. But I know for a fact that they are also busy rationalizing that, another thing they're very good at, talk about "cherry-picking."

Seems to me that the only recourse of disgruntled conservatives now is to argue as you have that both parties are the same in essence. I suspect that once conservative 'back to basics' ideology is exposed.......and we don't have to fear the return of the Harper years any longer............Liberals will find they have to walk the talk, or they too will be looking at inevitable declines in voter support.

Young people aren't playing this either-or game any longer. They understand the climate crisis, the housing crisis, the good job crisis...........and they're looking for better ideas. Ideas that we can well afford to put in place. We should all of us join them in expecting a Green new deal........equality is affordable.

Politics as a kind of football game between Libs and Cons is not....those of us who can't change will likely be dead in a decade or two. New ideas are all around us....ideas like a progressive tax, a surcharge on the wealthy, a system that closes tax loopholes, anti trust legislation that breaks up monopolies, the end to fossil fuel subsidies, and on and on.

Arguments that suggest all parties are the same are conservative arguments. Let's not waste any more time on them.

"And while he hasn’t yet scaled the same heights of shameless corruption that Saskatchewan’s Grant Devine and B.C.’s Bill Vander Zalm reached"
--By which we mean, he hasn't been caught.

Based on actual events playing out so far, Kenney seems to have a lock as the worst. But if Ontario had been unlucky enough to have Mike Harris (and his malevolent dislike of most Ontarians) as premier during the pandemic rather than Doug Ford's shambolic incompetence and low-level corruption, it might have been a closer race for last place.

Can you imagine Kenney as Conservative Prime Minister? I can and it isn't pretty. He has my vote as the worst premier ever. He also has high marks for the best gaslighter. He has a whole province convinced money will magically appear as we vote on equalization. He dropped out of religious university to become a political hack then the real thing, a politician whose ideology is so set in stone it is scary. He is the Ultimate Neoliberal at a time when we hopefully will throw this hard to pin down theory on the funeral pyre. Hopefully he will go with it.

Heir Harper has purged the "Right" of Red Torries and Progressives, all that remains are Pius Manning's Bastards, the people who bought into the vacuous policies of the Reform Party

If nothing else, Jason Kenney has us talking. Perhaps in the course of having these conversations, we might explore the alternatives to a Jason Kenney. Albertans elected him in spite of knowing his history as outllined above. Why did they do so???

I suspect it wasn't simply blind conservative ideology, though that did play a part. The Notley government made some very progressive and needed changes....to our 19th C labour legislation, our payday loan rates, our daycare, and began incentive programs to diversify the economy toward more clean energy.

None of that mattered. Albertans wanted to go back to the boom years.....before oil prices tanked and unconventional fuels became our bread and butter. Jason said he could take us there........and no doubt he believed his own hype. His tax cuts for corporations, from 12 to 8 percent, his war room, and his bankrolling of the Keystone suggest he was willing to work hard to get Alberta a 'fair deal'.

Trouble is, those boom days are gone. Conventional oil mostly done. Dirty and expensive bitumen all that's left.....and fracked gas of course. So jobs continued to disappear in the patch, as AI(machine intelligence) continued to replace workers. STILL: he might have pulled off the illusion of a return to Fossil Fuel Advantages.

Until Covid. That little virus has proven him a bit of a magician without sufficient props.
Perhaps if he succeeds in destroying our health care system, and then bullies Ottawa into giving us swaths of health care transfers without conditions, he can privatize all public service, and create a new Alberta boom out of those spoils of private capital.

Failing that, the poor guy's likely done. But the joke's still on us Albertan's for believing in the political equivalent of the tooth fairy.

Another commenter mentioned Vander Zalm. Yes, Kenney is worse.

Kenney has to get in line behind Doug Ford and Mike Harris.