By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 23, 2021.
When I first started writing about what a Jason Kenney-led Alberta would look like I knew it would be met with skepticism.
After all, a man with a track record for political prowess was parachuting in to unite conservatives against the spend-happy ways of an accidental “socialist” regime.
His fiscal genius would right the sinking ship with a bewitched flick of his nose, and Albertans would simply kick back as jobs rolled in, companies flocked here and the oil industry boomed. As Kenney declared on election night that Alberta was “open for business,” the corporate world was to respond like a vigilante to a bat signal.
So, when certain locals suggested Jason Kenney would be the “best premier since Peter Lougheed,” it wasn’t shocking to read letters to the editor saying I was Chicken Little with a negative attitude. The sky will be fine, they’d say, and the News ought to corral its overbearing layout editor before he makes a fool of himself.
Now that we’re approaching the halfway mark of his first (only?) term, I think it’s fair to say Kenney has lost most of that lustre, and Albertans in every corner are starting to see the man behind the curtain.
A columnist no longer needs to predict that slashing corporate taxes won’t create jobs. It didn’t. A columnist no longer needs to predict that the UCP will work to privatize as much health care as they can. They are. A columnist no longer needs to predict that picking fights with half the known world over a dying industry will backfire in his face. It has, and on multiple occasions.
At this point, what’s left to guess about? And who hasn’t felt the sting?
Will the UCP gut services while spending billions on corporate subsidization? Of course. Will they sell our environmental (and health) future in the name of expanded resource extraction that pays Albertans pennies on the dollar? You bet. Will they make rules for you while doing whatever the hell they please, whenever the hell they want? ‘Ae. (That’s Hawaiian for ‘yes’).
And, in 21 months since they took over, have any of these ideological choices made Alberta better in even the smallest of ways? Nope, not one.
It would be one thing to go after public jobs and services at this rate if anything they did was working, but everything they came to fix has only gotten worse. Jobs, economy, debt, oil and gas… you name the issue and the UCP has added to the headache.
But that’s not even the saddest aspect in all of this.
Kenney’s abysmal popularity speaks for itself, and his political clout diminishes by the day. The conservatives of Alberta are anything but united (I’m not sure they ever truly were), the province is chock full of angry citizens and, once again, the emperor himself is off playing hide and seek wondering if he’ll ever get to put his clothes back on.
The short answer, Mr. Kenney, is no. You’re now officially on full display, and you can either stand up and address your province properly, no matter how naked you seem, or you can quit.
But hiding is unacceptable.
Just because you arrived believing the nonsense you were selling doesn’t mean it’s OK that your handling of its failure is atrocious. And just because it was your leadership that created most of the messes your government is now drowning in, doesn’t mean Alberta isn’t in need of someone to stand up and attempt to lead.
I may have predicted the type of government Kenney would usher in, since he didn’t exactly hide his plans for Alberta while convincing the electorate it was too “broke” to fix any other way. But what I didn’t anticipate is his tendency to disappear in the face of adversity.
Forget the mounting examples already available, such as going to Texas while his party fires the elections commissioner investigating him for election fraud, or issuing a Facebook post in response to several of his colleagues taking international vacations at Christmas. This week while Kenney was busy making Fox News appearances and acting like betting billions on Keystone was anyone’s fault but his own, the latest deadline for COVID restrictions came and went, and our premier sent his top doctor to the podium to gloss over the fact that all rules remain until further notice.
What kind of a leader keeps an entire province on the end of a rope like this? After alienating most of Alberta for two years, Kenney is now taking liberties with the entrepreneurial sector, which might have been the only group left that didn’t already dislike him.
Albertans are still mired in a pandemic, whether we believe it or not, and health and safety should remain the No. 1 priority. But when your government offers minimal assistance to the small business community, and zero for the workers that fuel the entire thing, and then hides away while forcing the lot to fend for themselves with no income, the least he could do is offer an update on the day he told everyone to wait for.
I knew Alberta was getting a leader that would be far more loyal to his ideology than he would be to the people who elected him. What I didn’t see coming was one who cowers away whenever it comes time to defend it.
Alberta is in desperate need of direction and leadership, and it can’t afford to wait two more years. If Jason Kenney can’t even show his face when it matters most, maybe he should go away and hide for good.
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor for the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org