You almost have to feel sorry for Jason Kenney. After devoting years of his life to creating a United Conservative Party in Alberta back in 2017 and then leading it to victory in 2019, he now has to watch as the contenders to the throne he built compete to see who can debase it most creatively.

Nobody has been better at that than Danielle Smith, whose blatantly unconstitutional and fundamentally unserious “Alberta Sovereignty Act” has managed to capture the hearts and minds of Kenney’s once faithful. It pretends that Alberta can prohibit its public employees from enforcing federal laws or court decisions that the provincial legislature believes “unfairly attack the interests of Alberta’s People,” as though the Constitution was an optional arrangement rather than a legally-binding document.

That might help explain why he waded into the leadership race this past weekend in an act of political desperation that could easily jeopardize the unity he spent so much time and energy trying to forge. When asked about Smith’s idea on his weekly call-in radio show, Kenney pulled no punches. “The proposal is for Alberta, basically, to ignore and violate the Constitution in a way that is unprecedented in Canadian history,” he said. “To not enforce the laws of the land, including federal laws, which include the Criminal Code, which is nuts.”

He’s right, for a change. It is nuts. That’s a point that’s been made in various ways by everyone from Howard Anglin, his former principal secretary, to Calgary Chamber of Commerce president Deborah Yedlin. It’s a dangerous flirtation with the blend of delusional conspiracy theories and aimless tough talk that animated Donald Trump’s presidency, and it would do nothing to actually improve Alberta's position in Confederation.

But if Kenney wants to blame someone for his party’s apparent embrace of Smith’s toxic populism, he ought to look in the mirror. He was the one who introduced this brand of politics to Alberta, after all. He built his reputation and his brand around being forever in conflict with Ottawa, and aggressively contemptuous of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He proudly talked up his “fight back” strategy, which was far more focused on throwing punches eastward than bringing resources and funding west. He struck a “Fair Deal” panel that travelled across the province amplifying and validating the grievances that some Albertans had against Ottawa, and raised false hopes about changing the equalization program he knew were impossible to deliver. In all of this sowing, he apparently never understood what he would eventually reap.

At the time, Kenney and his allies claimed these efforts were aimed at diverting the province’s separatist movement into more productive and constructive channels. But the tone of the race to replace Kenney, and the role Smith’s separatist-friendly ideals are playing in it, shows just how big a failure this apparent strategy was. Instead of pouring water on the fires of alienation and frustration, Kenney’s willingness to pander to them served as a splash of gasoline. Now, Alberta may be about to get burned by the flames.

If there’s any hope for non-conservative Albertans, it’s that those flames will burn the UCP down first. Smith and her proxies have already clapped back at Kenney, pointing out that an outgoing leader should be a neutral steward of the party’s interests rather than an active participant in determining its future. It’s entirely possible Kenney would rather destroy his party than hand it over to someone like Smith, and he certainly has the means at his disposal to try that.

But it might be too late. As an avid reader and student of the classics, he can probably see (if not appreciate) the parallels between the movement he’s created and the famous namesake of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the party he created now has a mind of its own. And while it’s a mind he played a key role in shaping and guiding, it’s now one that seems determined to go further than even he would want.

Kenney, after all, almost certainly prefers the buttoned-down version of conservative politics he practised under Stephen Harper’s tutelage to the no-holds-barred brand currently in style. He would rather talk about the merits of corporate tax cuts than the evils of the World Economic Forum. As he apparently told his caucus back in 2021 when a “No More Lockdowns” rodeo in Bowden caught the public’s eye: “If they are our base, I want a new base.”

But as Smith keeps showing, that is the UCP’s base. And of all of the fumbles and bumbles that have defined his government, this will be Kenney’s enduring legacy. Things like his impossibly incompetent “War Room,” his ham-fisted handling of COVID-19, and his billion-dollar blunder with Keystone XL will fade from people’s memories, especially if the UCP is replaced next year by the NDP.

Opinion: Jason Kenney introduced the UCP's current brand of toxic populism to #Alberta. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver. #populism #UCP

But the creation of this Frankenstein monster of paranoid populism and the control it now wields over contemporary conservative politics in Canada will endure. The only question left is how much damage it will do — and who will be left to clean it up.

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In the Alberta provincial election expected next year our task is to consign Kenney's Frankenstein to the dustbin of history. The same bin that swallowed social credit, wexit, wild rose, and other uniquely Albertan monsters. The groundwork necessary to elect an adult government is already underway. But success is not guaranteed. Let all progressives work as hard as possible to complete the task.

Get used to saying Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

Sadly, you know it will happen.

Yes I agree with Cool Xenu, just get used to the fact that the coming premier will be someone further right of Jason Kenney. Hard to imagine but that is what the UCP is about. The Conservatives in the UCP are now in the basement trying to figure out what happened to them.
Alberta has been preparing for this day since Ralph Klein crazy years. They have been pushing hard and along with this First Past the Post voting system they finally got to the point where a nut like Danielle Smith can kill the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs. I am sure she will if given a chance.

We hope to succeed but so many Albertans believe in conspiracy theories it's hard for me to comprehend. We live in a social democracy. All those socialist things Conservatives go on about , make life liveable in Canada. Medicare. Senior Pensions, employment insurance, help with prescription drugs , public education even, public owned and operated universities

Don't forget the vast road networks, urban / regional / provincial / national parks, the military, public transit, public libraries, public rec centres, airports, law courts, Via Rail train stations, emergency services, underground utilities and more.

Decrying "socialism" is just hot air issued by folks who never developed critical processing skills and prefer being told what to think, or who have nefarious intentions about maintaining control and gaining profit through conspiracies, fundamentalism, lies and propaganda.

The Alberta politik has been on a Loony Tunes binge for a generation. To ex-Albertans it's kinda the I'm-so-glad-to-have-moved-out-decades-ago brand of entertainment. There is nothing for the rest of Canada to fear: Alberta's loss will be much, much greater. Canada will hurt for a while, but it move on. Alberta is NOT Quebec. The entire Alberta economy creates as much annual wealth as the Greater Toronto Area ($350B), and that's when commodity prices are high and there's no pandemic.

If the separatist-speakers ever get down to unconstitutional action, then the nation needs to demand that the UCP et al hold an actual referendum on separation. Put their money where their big defiant mouths are. Give them enough rope. And tell them stop appropriating the word "west" to define essentially a small rump of Alberta and Saskatchewan rural discontent with a cadre of corporate and media types thrown in for the appearance of legitimacy.

A half century of complaining 'n blaming without an intelligent, serious rationale for genuine sovereignty has gotten nowhere, especially when it's so deficiently underpinned by a single-piston economic engine called oil. Well, stop being so annoying and get serious about a referendum and try to explain why businesses, investment money and a million or more people flee for the exits.

A "sovereign" Alberta will be a very diminished place once the marital assets from the Canadian household have been divided. It will have nothing to sell except for oil and maybe a couple trainloads of wheat from a few remnant farms tossed in to a world insidiously moving toward electrification. It will likely seek a quick partnership with the US, which "separatists" see as a saviour and messiah. We'll probably see how quickly they will divest themselves of their independence within weeks to US jurisdiction, hoping for a fine marriage with the Republicans at a time when the GOP is fomenting if not a full-on a civil war, then great instability.

So put up or shut up. Have your referendum. Anything less is mere tinkering at the edges for show. Plan for all scenarios. Keep the question simple. Accept the results. And then we can all finally move on.

Referendum? Why would they hold a referendum? They'll have a made-in-Alberta decree!!!

And oh dear! You forgot to mention that the only oil pipeline they have "to salt water" is owned by the Canadian populace, and goes through BC (transit tax anyone). Not only that, but when there's no PM bullying BC and its First Nations, there's no one to pull rank over the BC government ... or do they think that being "Sovereign" would mean they could push BC and its people around???

Absolutely. We vacation there don't we? We fish your salmon streams...for a while longer, and take a full freezer home in our campers. We love your scenery....when its not on fire. Face it you lala land dreamers...you depend on our Alberta cash....we have no doubt you'll see the light, even under an NDP government.

Just remember how all powerful we are, and what delightful guests, and worry not. We need your tidewater and you need our oily cash. It's going to be win win...for sure.

Unlike the USA, Canada does have a mechanism for a province to secede from the federation. It has two parts under the rule-of-law: democratic, and constitutional federalism. The first is manifest in referring the question of secession to that federate’s electorate, its provincial voters: the federal Clarity Act which requires a properly conducted referendum with a clear, unambiguous question and two possible options, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The second rests upon a SCoC reference case which, in the court’s opinion on constitutional and legal grounds, said that secession of a federate must be ratified by the remaining federates and the federal parliament. The reference has not been tested, so it’s not entirely clear if the metric requires all eleven sovereign jurisdictions in Canada to ratify or if the constitutional amending formula —ratification by 7 of 10 provinces representing at least 50% of the national population—would serve the process.

In any event, a referendum with a clear question is absolutely required—‘secession, yes or no,’ instead of a fuzzy question about “sovereignty association” (Quebec’s Referenda provoked the federal Clarity Act legislation) which, naturally, would be a matter of negotiation about what that means only after the referendum, and therefore hardly an answerable referendum question. And a federate cannot simply expropriate federal interests if a majority of its electorate chooses secession: as secession would affect the whole federation, then each federate should rightly have its say.

(In the USA—which fought its most costly war against itself, Civil War casualties totalling more than all other American wars combined—the concept of all federates’ approval of a single federate’s desire to secede was tangentially mentioned in the 1869 SCotUSA White vs Texas: the main case was that US treasury bonds issued to Texas before the Confederacy seceded were subsequently sold by the state’s Confederacy government, but the SCotUSA found that because the CSA secession was illegitimate —it was done unilaterally without approval of all federated American republic states—, then the sale was null and void and the bonds remained the property of the post-Confederacy state of Texas; tangentially, the court found that no state could unilaterally secede. That’s it, that’s all: there is no other document that defines a mechanism for secession of American states.)

I suspect that the SCoC decided, in this reference case (which does not comprise a legal precedent), that treating a province’s referendum approval of secession like a constitutional amendment would introduce the kind of horse-trading and particularist demands that make amending our Constitution so difficult—thus the court suggested the more jury-like unanimity threshold: all sovereign Canadian governments must ratify the successful referendum if secession is to be achieved, hoping that it would not devolve into individual provinces making particular demands for themselves alone in return for ratification (to preclude a ‘quid-pro-quo’ motivation for ratification), and that it would focus province’s attention on the country as a whole. IMHO, Alberta’s secession would not require a change to our Constitution—that is, it would be the same Constitution if any federate seceded. Thus the amending formula need not be used in entertaining a successful secession. This area seems arcane to most people, but they should remember that in most nations, even the mention of secession of any of its parts is illegal and could result in severe punishment. Some might argue that the Anglo-Saxmaniacal obsession with democratic principles has gone too far with respect national integrity, but in any case, the constitutional and legal encumbrances placed upon secession under the rule of law serve, as far as we can tell (no secession referenda has ever succeeded in Canada), serves as a powerful bulwark against the “tyranny of the majority.” Federalism (which antedates democracy by a long margin) effectively invites democratic principle of the entire nation into the electoral jurisdiction of each federate. That’s the nature of federalism. If Alberta doesn’t like it, fine, but it can’t simply declare itself independent without suffering severe consequences that would otherwise dissuade its voters from approving secession. Thus, Danielle Smith’s proposed “Alberta Sovereignty Act” is literally preposterous: it is doomed even before reading to the end of it.

Although there is a ‘technical’ mechanism for secession in Canada, it would be difficult to achieve, even if a federate’s entire electorate turned out to vote in the referendum and were unanimous in supporting secession. That’s because of the interconnectedness of federal and provincial authorities, because of existing federal treaties with other countries, and because of federal treaties within Canada, namely with Aboriginal nations. A referendum might approve secession, but it cannot sweep these other factors away. The would-be independent state would have to assume its share of national debt and purchase federal facilities inside its new borders, not to mention supplying itself with its own national security forces and currency. Then there’s the matter of, as Chrétien put it so succinctly, “If Canada is divisible, Quebec is divisible,” a jab which got exactly the reaction the wily PM intended and, without saying so much, introduced the idea that Aboriginal treaties could not be abrogated by secession, a position Chrétien knew the separatistes could not easily parry. If all the many factors were to be negotiated in detail, item-by-item, the applicant would find itself in virtually the same situation as an independent —except, ironically, with less independence, now beholden to a morass of contractual treaties and new responsibilities rather than subject to the same rights and freedoms all federates and their citizens have (as well as all Territorial citizens—their Territories are not yet confederated: 40% of Canada is, in effect, federal-non-confederated territory; these jurisdictions are not sovereign by themselves like provinces, are not equal federates like provinces are, and cannot seceded by any mechanism without confederating first).

The real question is not so much if or should Alberta secede but, rather, whether it can meet all these conditions of secession. Winning a referendum is only the first step—and it’s surely the easiest one, by far.

I was born in an era where politics was less confrontational. Kenney, since he came to Alberta after 2015,began as Premier since 2019, has non stop gaslighted and dog whistled we Albertans about how poor Alberta is, how we are mistreated and how unfairly Ottawa looks at us and all those fossil fuels.
Kenney himself created the extreme views of " his " party by encouraging these conspiracy theories, welcoming the extreme views instead of rejecting them. So he made his bed, and now he must lay in it. But as former conservative Premier of BC, Christy Ckark recently stated. Almost all the candidates running for Premier have ideas that are " bat-shit crazy" . And so do many rural Albertans

Another good article from Max Fawcett - thank you
If we are waiting for the Progressives in Alberta to save us from what it seems the last fatal blow to Alberta politics we are dreaming in 3D.
What Progressives? The NDP does not have the firepower to change the situation that much. We had a 4 year trial and we all saw that not much was changed at all. A little tax here and there but everything else stayed basically the same. Neo-Liberal is more like what the NDP has in mind and that is no social democracy.
I think unfortunately we are not in a great position to save this province from becoming even more the laughingstock in Canada. This is a great example that money alone does not bring what we all aspire as humans unless there is a very careful oversight of all these greedy companies and individuals that are always waiting for an area in the world to flip to come and make sure even the bones are clean.
We allowed these animals in and it is not easy to kick them out. They already control those that we vote to represent us. The end of this story is not going to be pretty.

That was 8 years ago, though: when the majority of Albertans were not in favor of climate fighting measures of any kind. That has changed, though I expect no one really *wants* to have to change their own behaviours in any manner. I certainly see that all around me!
And there's some attempt in the NDP now to run candidates in rural ridings as well.

PS: Welcome to my world. First we had Doug Ford running city hall, while his brother didn't even have a clue that he'd made Toronto-the-Good the Best Joke of the century so far. And then he lied and lied and lied about every aspect of what-happened-in-Toronto-and-why, and won he election. Since his fans only follow "his" channel, they're none the wiser for all the disambiguation that's gone on.

And now inflicts himself upon every community in Ontario, though so far only TO has had their council cut in half (mid-election campaign, no less). We now have the same number of representatives locally and provincially, as we do federally. His latest outrageous move is to decree that Toronto and Ottawa both shall have a "Strong Mayor" system ... no more BS with citizens/residents/councillors demanding such outrageous things as engineering and environmental certificates, before the shovels get going. Nope. Now the Mayor (former leader of the Conservative Party) is to have the power to pass city law all by himself.
All the MPPs elected in the "old city" or in old "East York" are either NDP or Liberal ... and very few of the latter. So it's not really a matter of "getting what we voted for," regardless of whether it's what we "deserved."

I don't think you were paying attention during the Notley years....but there is a good list of what the NDP did in an old issue of Albertaviews. The May 2019 issue has a cover titled What the NDP did...its a long list, which included the solar panels rebate that increased our rooftop solar for 1/3 of the cost of what we'd put up in 2009....and allowed us to solarize our daughter's home as well.
We had the best government in decades........and you slept through it????

Sounds suspiciously conservative of you.

Mary if anything I am way left of the NDP because Social Democrats have moved too much to the right to be able to stay relevant in a failing Neo-Liberal world, as a consequence most of their basic progressive ideology gets easily absorbed in the current political system.
I give my congratulations to Sarah Hoffman that handled Health in a way that make the public confident.
They completely ignored a voting system that is completed outdated. We are not in 1867 we are in 2022 - we need a much more democratic approach to voting system that represents us rather than just a constituency the winner gets all.
We need to modernize labour rules to accommodate the new virtual economy which needs to betaken seriously rather than waiting for someone else to figure it out. We need to continue to educate our citizens at all ages with a life long learning system instead of brutal cuts
What I meant is that they have to have a plan that clearly establishes a progressive future.

I forgot to say that I agree that they were a good government and there was a clear sense of stability - now is a complete chaos. I have nothing against them I just think they need to become more progressive rather than fearing the reaction from an extreme right opposition.
The UCP on the other hand have been pushing their reactionary ideology constantly and could careless about NDP reaction - I understand that the UCP has the businesses behind them but you know sometimes we have to sacrifice to move to a more progressive future rather than this feeling that everything is inevitable, because we know that it is not.

I think Jason Kenney availed rather than created a monster, whatever his motivations might have been, whether his own political career, the development of neo-right principles (the usurpation of moribund traditional conservative parties by globalizing neoliberals), the advancement of Alberta, or the welfare of the Canadian federation. The monster’s ingredients come from as far back as the geographical elevating of the Continental Divide on Alberta’s western boundary and southern border; it put the region at the zenith of its remote fastness, at or near the headwaters of rivers which flow to Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic and Pacific Oceans: it is naturally situated where migrating humans might find a defensible refuge from pursuers and a redoubt in which to recover from the exhaustion of defeat and retreat. Today it is the redoubt of the partisan right and the petro-industrial complex, as Jason Kenney found it when he went looking.

Circumstances have swirled around this high and dry pillar of the continent, of course quickening with the meeting of the two last great human migrations, first from Asia, then from Europe. The circumstances which Kenney availed may be easily likened to a kind of last-stand mentality in geologic, Gaiagenic and anthropocentric terms. So much of its ingredients gravitated toward western badlands long before oil was discovered, the lubricant and fuel of today’s socio-economic globalization. The last cultures of the dog-powered travois took refuge in these rough, inhospitable lands as neighbouring indigenous nations occupied the plains with horses ultimately acquired by contact with Europeans colonizing the Eastern Seaboard and Caribbean shores. So, too, the Metis and Mestizos of the most far-flung regions of Catholic New France and New Spain surrendered their redoubts to white inroads into the continent. On the western Great Plains last stands were made by Sitting Bull and Poundmaker, respectively chiefs of the once mighty Sioux and Cree peoples; also Métis leaders Gabriel Dumont and Louis Riel; even Brigham Young’s Mormons (after capitulating to the US federal government in order to achieve statehood, many newly-outlawed polygamists migrated into what would become southwestern Alberta). Hucksters and remittance men of all kinds availed opportunities along the Prairie land routes to the Cariboo and Yukon gold rushes, but just as many probably came to evade the then-short arm of the law. In these circumstances, the progenitor to the RCMP was created to keep a semblance of order in the Wild West.

By the late 19th century, the Canadian government availed the straits of many religious anarchists whose communes were persecuted in Imperial Russia and Prussia, and they in turn availed the opportunity to, in effect, take refuge in Canada. It’s small wonder that the undercurrent mindset of Albertans was, for generations, that of communities beset and besieged by invaders, of being forced by circumstance to make a go of it on the high prairie.

As the Prairies were put to the plow by white farmers, the complaint became about unfair rail freight rates for their grain while the central government and business interests plainly intended to profit from the guaranteed need for food—not just for Canadians, but for export, too. Thus germinated the notion that Canada only wanted to exploit the Prairie provinces, but wanted to do it unfairly. The charge is a little unfair given that, in the circumstances of Ottawa’s National Policy, confederating BC, thousands of miles from Canada, was of critical priority, perhaps especially for Prairie grain farmers (with the Oregon Treaty and the Alaskan Panhandle Purchase negotiated between the UK and USA, it looked as if the opportunity for Canada to acquire Pacific ports vital in competing with our huge southern neighbour might soon be pinched off). The interceding vastness of the prairies was a temporary inconvenience, growing irritant, and formidable project for settling: two rebellions and numerous incursions by American fur and whiskey traders cost Ottawa dearly to put down (on the other hand, Ottawa simply starved the fugitive Sioux out of the Cypress Hills), as well as the federal immigration program which afforded recruitment offices across Eastern Europe (since many immigrants soon abandoned their Canadian land grants for better weather in the USA, this expensive investment didn’t profit much). Massive inducements, bribes, kickbacks and corrupt land speculation attended the building of the railway to BC—the star condition for its confederation with faraway Canada rather than with the USA just across the border. In these circumstances, Ottawa rather planned to recover these expenses and rationalized retaining control over Alberta and Saskatchewan’s natural resources for a quarter century after they confederated in 1905. Naturally this caused resentment and germinated the idea that Alberta never got a fair shake from confederation.

Despite resolution of these legitimate complaints (the Crow Rate and the Act of Westminster in 1931 which finally cleared up centuries of British commercial charters and Arctic claims, and recognized the absolute independence of the Dominion of Canada over these territories), subsequent controversies served to refresh Prairie resentments against Ottawa; for example, the Alberta Socreds’ attempts to issue provincial currency the courts struck down as unconstitutional, and the living-memory row between Peter Lougheed and Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program which sought to regulate the price of Alberta oil domestically purchased. Thus, although many of these resentments were legitimate at the time, they have been anachronistically mythologized as if they still exist or are responsible for Albertans’ problems today.

Kenney didn’t situate the huge, sandy deposit of bitumen in Alberta, but he did come to avail the circumstances swirling around it. It would be a mistake to figure him a child of the NEB controversy which really marked the end of the previous era that opened in the 1880s with coal-fired railway magnates and closed with the global Oil Crisis of the early 1970s. Corporations got fat and consolidated fatter on citizens’ blithe presumption that cheap oil would continue to fuel the incredible technological advancement they’d become cheerfully dependent on just to be a participant in a complexifying society. In the 50 years since the NEB “crisis,” much has changed to put the once gloating Big Oil on a more defensive footing, and Kenney arrived in Alberta because one of Big Oil’s last stands happens to be situated there.

Big business decried government bureaucracy, taxes, and regulation since Peak Oil in the early 70s, but it does so hypocritically from its very own giant office towers stuffed full of its own internal bureaucracies required to regulate its own, single, highly complex industry—as if regulating all industries, their employees and owners and all citizens doesn’t warrant a proportionately bigger bureaucracy —which happens to be democratically elected government. It’s true that governments do regulate, among other things, the bitumen industry in Alberta, but until recently, not many were bothered by the increasingly generous tax-breaks and royalty cuts governments were awarding big oil—or, in Alberta’s case, Big Bitumen. Now, after the post-war boom (which named a generation) and the Oil Crisis (which inspired that generation in adolescence), the environmental costs of all that cheap oil began to be questioned just as it happened the cost of getting a diminishing reservoir of it was increasing. Disillusionment thence produced social dissonance: we are all hooked on oil in some way (even EV drivers) but the ecological degradation resulting is becoming undeniable. Thus the conundrum: as scarcity drives prices up, the lowest grade of petroleum—bitumen—becomes feasible, but then more suspect as natural disasters more clearly resulting from burning fossil fuels, the high GHG emissions associated with distilling bitumen out of its sand matrix (burning almost as much polluting fuel per barrel of smelted bitumen as that barrel yields when it, too, is burned into the atmosphere). Increasingly hyperbolic controversy about fossil-fuel-caused climate-change is sponsored by Big Oil, the fattest, most powerful concentration of wealth and influence in all history, but Alberta plays its part, vaguely on the world stage, much more significantly upon the North American, and critically in the province where, once again, circumstances swirl around a situation—that is, the massive, jurisdictionally landlocked deposit of goo in situ.

We do well to recall that Lougheed, despite his bitter feud with Ottawa, never blamed Canadian federalism for the controversy. Neither did he recommend the stateless corporatocracy neo-rightists praise today. Rather, he prudently created a fund into which petroleum royalties would be paid for the anticipated day when easy oil ran out—as, indeed, it has in Alberta. He also spent some of that wealth on social infrastructure and services while keeping all other taxes low—what became known as the Alberta Advantage. But, being the self-satisfied and most invigilate electorate in the country (only two parties, both of the right, governed the province for eight decades), most Albertans were slow to pick up on changes Ralph Klein brought in to obscure the tarnish developing on the golden goose’s eggs—reducing petro-royalties and taxes and dipping into the rainy-day fund until it was nearly gone. Meanwhile the industry had to transition from conventional oil (the easy stuff had run out) to the much more problematic, polluting and less profitable “tar sands.” Lougheed’s later successors tried futilely to right the ship by re-establishing a better return for the public coffers, but Big Bitumen began to step into politics much more actively, bankrolling a new breed of petro-politician to conceal the plodding impoverishment of the province and keep royalties, taxes and other burdens down. It had powerful effect on the whole country…

…starting with cultivators of old resentments, Manning and Klein, the victimization of Alberta was stumped in every corner of the province, demonization of Ottawa and Quebec (especially the happenstance of its separatist Referendum), and emulation of the ideological, or “culture war,” of the Republican Party in the USA. Thence to the most direct connection to the scion Jason Kenny: Stephen Harper, the radical, ex-Reformer who co-wrote the infamous “Firewall” letter in 2011 and broached the overt idea of Alberta secession. Eventually Harper would avail another happenstance—the self-immolation of the Canada’s “Natural Governing” Liberal party—to become the unloved PM of the wholly new kind of party which is, more properly, the nursemaid of Jason Kenny.

Kenny’s self-righteousness gene is strong: he quit a Roman Catholic university on principle before graduating because the Pope (whom he petitioned) would not condemn pro-choice student activists from advocating on campus. His head swelled more when Harper bequeathed an anti-tax org to him, then recruited him to run for the new CPC where he was soon promoted to cabinet. This government was, of course, Big Bitumen’s proxy, and protecting—as much a promoting—it from growing environmental criticism became the heart of Kenney’s political education which included uncompromising hardball partisanship, lying, and cheating to stay in power. Thus, when many wondered why he didn’t contest the leadership when Harper resigned (following the CPC’s first and last majority), Kenney was smart enough to see where the action was: Alberta, not Ottawa. After all, almost the entire Prairie provinces and the BC Interior were represented by CPC MPs, and there was little Kenney could do to improve upon that—except to get rid of the starkest manifestation of the status quo’s failure: Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

Many were impressed—and not a little appalled—at Kenney’s initial successes in Alberta. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time the radical presumptions he made about Canada and democracy and Alberta’s place in it have to be looked at in the context of the simple fact that Big Bitumen wants to protect the third-largest, although most dirty, source of petroleum in the world. That, it says, requires low royalties and taxes, no carbon tax, generous subsidies, no liabilities for environmental damage, and access to a variety of potential buyers in the hope that the price of the lowest-grade of petroleum (but for asphalt) will get bid-up. To obscure the appearance of an industry in such peril as these demands suggest, it requires a collusive government and an electorate that’s paid well enough not to notice the signs of the industry’s longterm decline—solar panels, EVs, windmills,&c—and that means very low income taxes and no sales taxes which virtually every other jurisdiction on the continent levies. A happy coincidence is that federal taxes look big in comparison so that Ottawa can be blamed for victimizing Albertans in every way—even to the point that may Albertans miscomprehend the federal equalization transfer as an unfair tax when, in fact, Albertans are taxed at the same rates as other Canadians—Albertans just want theirs back or it’s all no good.

We observers marvel at the audacity of the UCP’s rhetoric, it’s outright lying and ad hominem attacks, especially against the PM. How does it get away with it? Well, it did, for a while, and that’s the point here: Kenney assumed rather than created the monstrous anti-federal sentiment in Alberta which was actually the concerted and coordinated project of many neo-rightists, especially from the West. How he was convinced he could pull it off has a lot to do with the presumptuous attitude of Big Bitumen which rather believes it is too big to fall, that the world is too addicted to fossil fuels, and that slick politicians like Kenney can blunt the democratic forces that have successfully cornered this skunk in the Athabasca tar sands.

Yes, truth might have taken a fall of late, and illusions swirl about in confusion, but there are two failsafe indicators to mind: first is that Kenney et al have ultimately failed and, second, that Big Bitumen wouldn’t be acting the way it is if it wasn’t worried about increasingly suspicious electorates—the people Kenney spent millions trying to portray as radical and unpatriotic—even blaming Sasquatch.

Finally, we should never lose sight of the fact that the monstrosity of the Canadian neo-right is a consortium of parties of the right, particularly of Alberta at two levels (although notably not at the municipal level—at least not in the four bigger cities, Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton). No individual like Kenney is controlling it, not he, not Poilievre, not the D’ohFo. But Kenney has demonstrated that the monster can be cajoled for a time. The question is rather who among the highly ideological neo-right can manage a wholly demagogically-motivated Frankenstein?