I Feel Sorry for Jason Kenney
There are times that I see a photo in a newspaper or a magazine that grabs my attention and makes me think. That happened a few days ago and it led to some thoughts about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
I know I'll be in the minority here, but the photo made me feel sorry for Kenney because of everything he's been through the last couple of years.
They say a photo is worth 1,000 words, but this one was worth a lot more.
A Photo That Stands Out
As I sat at the kitchen table eating a bowl of oatmeal and reading the Edmonton Journal on my iPad last Friday, I came across a photo from photojournalist David Bloom, who has done some excellent work for the Journal.
It was a picture of Premier Jason Kenney, apparently coming out of a building by himself. He had his hands in his pockets, the wind was whipping his tie around and he was wearing a mask. It was a picture worth far more than 1,000 words.
I’ll come out and say it. I felt sorry for Jason Kenney as I looked at Bloom’s photo.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to go all Postmedia on you and tell you why he’s been doing a great job because I can’t. He inherited a bad economic situation in Alberta and things have only got worse.
That doesn’t mean I can’t feel sorry for him and especially what he’s gone through for the last year or so.
Mr. Premier, This Will Be Your Life
The last Alberta election was held two years ago this Friday. The election capped off a big trifecta for Kenney. He entered provincial politics in Alberta to unite the Conservative and Wildrose parties, knowing if he could pull it off and become party leader, it was a solid path to victory in the next election. On April 16, 2019 the UCP took 63 seats and a big majority. He had helped unite two parties, won the leadership and led the party to a landslide election victory.
Kenney campaigned on creating jobs, expanding pipelines and improving the economy. Imagine a few days after the election if somebody would have pulled him aside and told him here’s what your next two years will look like.
“Mr. Premier, the price of oil will take far longer to improve than anyone expects. Lower for longer will continue to be the theme for oil. It will also continue to be difficult to get it to market. Regarding your commitment to expand pipelines, well Joe Biden will become the next US President and promptly cancel Keystone XL. Somewhere along the way your government will double down on Keystone’s prospects and invest big dollars into it and you’ll look even worse when Biden hits the brakes.
Mr. Kenney, that will be small potatoes though compared to a pandemic that’s going to hit about a year into your term. 2,000 Albertans will die from it in a year, you’ll need to close down schools for awhile and businesses for much longer. Due to the fact you won’t know how to handle the situation, you’ll do your best to keep everyone happy and as a result, nobody will be happy.
It gets even worse sir. Most of your rural MLAs will turn against you because they think you’re bringing in too many restrictions and taking away too many freedoms. You’ll have a hard time making sense of it because a few of these MLAs will be representing areas hardest hit by the pandemic, but they’ll still openly criticize your decision-making and leadership. Even the Speaker will join them.
Oh, and one thing more. A huge controversy will erupt just after your second Christmas in office when some of your MLAs will be caught traveling outside the country to warm places for the holidays, even though you and your Chief Medical Officer of Health will have recommended against travel for months.
More than anything else Mr. Premier, because you’re in charge, you’ll take some of the blame for everything.
Now good luck with that sir”.
9 Out of 10
I’m sure that many, and perhaps even most people would say that Kenney made his own mess and there’s no reason to have sympathy for him. I understand I may be in the minority who feel sorry for him and that’s okay.
Consider this though. The pandemic is the biggest single story to affect almost all of us in our lifetimes. The pandemic is clearly the biggest issue that Kenney has had to deal with in his political career. Late last week, an Angus Reid poll showed how Kenney is in a no-win situation. About 45% of the people polled in Alberta think the restrictions currently in place go too far, while 42% said they don’t go far enough. That means, almost nine in every ten Albertans disagree with what the government is doing when it comes to restrictions brought in because of the pandemic.
Nine out of ten.
I’ve written before that Kenney seems to be trying too hard. His answers to questions from the media go on for far too long and he’s been too front and centre, in my opinion, on issues related to the pandemic. The only Premier in Canada who has clearly been in the news more about COVID is Ontario’s Doug Ford. It’s not surprising his approval ratings in Ontario are in the toilet too.
Maybe an approach like BC’s John Horgan has taken would have worked better for Kenney? Horgan has not been in the spotlight much. He’s left the government response to Health Minister Adrian Dix, backed by Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Every time in Alberta when restrictions have to be changed, it’s been Kenney front and centre. With nine out of ten Albertans disagreeing with what the government is doing, it’s easy to see why his popularity ratings have plummeted.
Kenney faces a leadership review in a year from now and I’m sure he’s hoping by then people will be vaccinated and life will return to whatever normal will look like post pandemic. If not, he’ll be tossed out by the party like Ralph Klein was almost exactly 15 years ago.
In the meantime, I can’t help but feel sorry for Jason Kenney.
Photo credit: David Bloom, Edmonton Journal
agree with the suggestions that he could have other people speak more. in a recent conference, he went on too long, and then had the experts come in at the end and by that time many people would no longer be listening. Why not introduce the experts, let them talk, and then come in at the end to sum up and make a few key points?
Grant, As a person I can feel sorry for Jason Kenney but not as a Premier. He is argumentative with everyone as if politics is just a series of debates that can all be won (meaning the other side must lose). Both sides disapprove of his performance because he treats them both the same which means he supports neither unless debating with the other. He didn’t take Sweden’s laissez faire approach (thank God) but he didn’t take the full measures he should have near quickly enough either. It was like he was trying to do enough to win the debate without really addressing the issue - it was always someone else’s fault when things went wrong, Trudeau for not sending enough vaccines fast enough and Albertans for not getting more restrictions because they weren’t voluntarily following the insufficient rules already in place. So while I can feel sorry for Jason Kenney, I feel more sorry for Alberta and Albertans because we deserved better in all those areas you noted, not just COVID. Ken Cantor
I agree Ken. I guess that's my point. I feel badly for him as a person. With him especially, it's very hard to separate the person from the politician.
Well he did in many respects, albeit with Preston constantly in the background, both create and campaign for the role and the place he currently finds himself in. It’s not as if he rose from within or had strong connections and was nominated from the floor... despite all his grass roots theatrics, he was an outsider in both of the parties he merged (I hesitate to say united despite the new name) and he is a top down manager, just not a good one. To be an effective/good top down manager, you need to have a vision, not dogma, to implement.
I just feel he's in a no-win situation now, which may be because of his doing. How can you win when almost everyone isn't happy with the moves you've made on COVID?
Kenney can't do what Horgan did because his health minister is despised even more. Yes he inherited a bad situation, but he has made things worse and is an embattled premier mostly by his own doing. If there was a premier to feel sorry for, it's Rachel Notley. She also inherited a bad situation and did a decent job steering a crippled ship, but nothing she ever did was good enough to the Kenney base.
Thanks for the comment. I can't disagree with anything you said. You're right, there are big differences in the way the public in AB and BC feel about their health ministers. I'm pretty sure, come to think of it, that approval ratings for most BC cabinet ministers would be far higher than their counterparts in AB.