During Jason Kenney’s reign over our province, I never thought of him as a particularly nice man. Actions like de-indexing the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program from inflation left a bad taste in my mouth. In fact I thought that was one of the crueler actions a government in this province has ever taken. Indeed, if there has been a bright spot in Danielle Smith’s short tenure, it’s scheduled legislation to re-index benefit payments for seniors and the severely handicapped.
I did feel a little sorry for the man as he wheeled around the province in his Stetson and oversized pickup truck desperately trying to be one of the boys—to be a real Albertan—but never quite succeeding.
As to his position on the political spectrum, he seemed to be closer to the Wildrose fringe than the Conservative centre, more right-wing than moderate.
But maybe I was a degree or two off the mark. For example, Danielle Smith’s Sovereignty Act, a right-wing, even separatist project, has met with nothing but scorn from Kenney. In his words, it is “risky, dangerous, half-baked” and it will “do devastating damage to jobs, the economy and the prospect of pipelines.” Not entirely coincidentally, he resigned his seat in the legislature the day the bill was introduced.
In the run-up to his ouster from the UCP he warned that if he stepped down from the party leadership the lunatics would take over, implying that he was one of the rational members. In his resignation letter, he again implied his moderation by attacking both political fringes: “From the far left we see efforts to cancel our history, delegitimize our historically grounded institutions and customs and divide society dangerously along identity lines. And from the far right we see a vengeful anger and toxic cynicism which often seeks to tear things down, rather than build up and improve our imperfect institutions.”
As someone on the left, I believe his critique of our end of the spectrum while immoderate was not without some elements of truth—unfortunately we often see reconciliation expressed more like retribution. His comments on the far right appear as bang-on as when he predicted his departure would lead to takeover of the UCP by the crazies.
So maybe I should adjust my opinion about Mr. Kenney a few degrees toward the centre. On the other hand, maybe Alberta conservatism is devolving into such a bizarre loonyland the centre is no longer where it used to be.