Alberta Premier Jason Kenney can’t seem to catch a break. He just keeps on losing.
But let’s get the winning out of the way first. It’s a much shorter list.
In 2017, Mr. Kenney ‘won’ the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party. Later that year he ‘won’ the leadership of a new party cobbled together out of the now-defunct PC and Wildrose Parties. Finally, in April 2019, the United Conservative Party won the provincial election, defeating handily the first-term NDP government of Rachel Notley.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that at least some of this ‘winning’ led to Alberta’s election commissioner levying a series of fines against various individuals and organizations associated with the UCP’s 2017 leadership race for breaking Alberta’s election laws. The election commissioner continued to investigate further complaints and allegations about the race—until Kenney fired him, that is.
Some of this ‘winning,’ it’s worth pointing out, is currently the subject of an RCMP election fraud investigation. As most Albertans know, of course, the Kenney government is at present trying to run the RCMP out of the province, and replace the federal force with a provincial one.
Anyway, it’s been pretty much all downhill from there.
In October, 2019, Kenney lost billions of dollars on a needless corporate tax cut that’s produced zero promised jobs.
In February of the following year, Kenney and his party lost more than $2 billion dollars by cancelling the previous NDP government’s oil-by-rail contracts that would have brought Alberta crude to BC and then to markets around the world.
He lost billions of dollars in lost revenue by shelving the previous NDP government’s so-called ‘carbon tax,’ which was promptly replaced by a federally imposed one. Had Kenney retained the made-in-Alberta carbon levy, all of it would have gone into Alberta’s coffers.
He lost at least $1.3 billion on a pipeline to nowhere after US President Joe Biden predictably cancelled Donald Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL from Hardisty to the Gulf Coast.
Kenney also lost millions of dollars more on a ‘public’ inquiry investigating secret cabals of foreign-funded tar sands foes that, as it turns out, didn’t exist.
He’s thus far lost millions of dollars on an incompetent and amateurish ‘war room’ that’s proved itself to be nothing more than an international laughingstock.
For growing numbers of Albertans, Kenney has lost all credibility—he’s simply not the savvy politician and smart fiscal manager he made himself out to be.
Not surprisingly, the most recent party fundraising figures show the opposition NDP trouncing the governing UCP by a two-to-one margin. And the NDP has been consistently outpolling the UCP for months to boot.
Mr. Kenney’s most recent loss, of course, is a big one, and it’s unfolding in realtime. In July Kenney declared the COVID-19 pandemic ‘over,’ lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions, and boasted that Albertans were in for their ‘best summer ever.’
Concerned observers, eyebrows raised, worried that such a move made so early, especially with the delta variant on the rise, was pure hubris. Perhaps the premier had lost the plot, some wondered. Perhaps the Alberta government had lost its marbles.
Not to worry, Mr. Kenney assured Albertans. When asked whether Alberta, like jurisdictions everywhere, might be in for a fourth wave, he confidently explained that “we just don’t see that scenario.” The science behind the plan, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw insisted, was based on solid data. Unfortunately for Albertans, it was data that she couldn’t share. Later, amid much outcry from Albertans, she promised to share it. It’s been weeks since Hinshaw made that promise, and Albertans have yet to see the data.
It might be lost.
It’s now late August, and Kenney’s ‘best summer ever’ looks bleak enough. After enduring grueling climate change induced heatwaves and smoky air caused by out of control wildfires since early July, Albertans are eyeing warily daily COVID case counts as infections once again spike across the province. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Non-acute surgeries are being cancelled. Healthcare workers are burnt out.
As for the premier, Mr. Kenney hasn’t been seen in public since August 9. His secretary insists he’s on vacation. Maybe he is.
Or maybe he’s lost.
Eric Strikwerda teaches Canadian history at Athabasca University. He is the author of The Wages of Relief: Cities and the Unemployed in Prairie Canada, 1929-1939 (AU Press, 2013). At present he is working on a history of western Canada following Canada’s acquisition of the region in 1870.