A recent survey, conducted by Maru Public Opinion and Janet Brown Opinion Research, took a reading of Canadians’ views of Alberta. The poll measured the reaction to a number of statements about the province including “I respect Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.”
The answer to that statement was, unsurprisingly, not much. Just over 40 percent said they respected the man. This however was generous considering Albertans’ response. Fewer than 30 percent of the premier’s own subjects respect him. This wasn’t a surprise. Other surveys have shown he’s the least popular premier in the country with an approval rating of a mere 22 percent.
Not respected. Not approved of. Even the members of his own party are restive under his leadership. What is going on here? He is after all a Conservative and we are reputed to be a conservative province.
No doubt part of the answer is his erratic management of the Covid crisis. But it has to be much more than that. The head of one of the polling firms, Janet Brown, suggests that while Kenney is still focussed on his election message of “jobs, economy and pipelines,” Albertans want to move on. Alberta, she says, is now “a very different place, and Albertans have very different concerns.” David Herle, a political consultant and partner at The Gandalf Group, wonders if Kenney really knows Alberta, commenting “I’m wondering whether Jason Kenney himself doesn’t have an outdated, stereotypical view of what Alberta is.”
There’s a lot to be said for Herle’s view. Albertans are inclined to be conservative but not in Kenney’s ideological fashion. For example, many are conservationists with a deep love of the province’s natural heritage. Kenney has little time for such sentiments. When his government announced that to save money it intended to delist or close dozens of park sites, the reaction was swift and angry. Tens of thousands of lawn signs and letters to the government protested the proposed changes. The government was forced to back off and ensure Albertans that all current parks would remain open.
A similar reaction resulted from the UCP’s cancellation of the province’s Coal Policy without public consultation. Coal companies would be allowed to buy mining leases on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Once again, Albertans reacted with outrage and the government was forced to reinstate the policy.
Kenney works hard on his Alberta image, wheeling around the province in an oversized pickup truck trying to be one of the boys but never quite succeeding. In the words of David King, Minister of Education under Peter Lougheed, “Jason Kenney is tone-deaf and colourblind to the sounds and sights of Albertans, and he’s content to remain so, since his purpose seems to be to use Alberta in pursuit of some more distant—and more personal—goal.” He is “trapped in brittle ideology.”
A province deserves a premier who is imbued with its spirit. Ours apparently is not.