How the mighty have fallen. Just two years ago, Jason Kenney, flush from a convincing election win over the NDP, was the Conservatives’ golden boy. Even the national leader had to kowtow before the man who many predicted would be the next national leader himself, even prime minister. Today Kenney is struggling to maintain the respect of his own party members, including MLAs and even cabinet ministers.
Both Leela Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women, and Rajan Sawhney, minister of community and social services, have lashed out at the premier for his patio dinner which violated a number of Alberta’s Covid protocols. Kenney , some staff and three other members of cabinet—including the minister of health, the bumbling Tyler Shandro—were caught in a much-publicized photo having a boozy dinner on a patio atop a government building in downtown Edmonton. Kenney claimed distancing rules were followed but the photograph revealed the lie—he and his minsters were practically in each others’ arms. Other MLAs joined their cabinet colleagues in voicing concern.
Aheer didn’t stop with criticism of Kenney’s violation of the government’s own Covid rules. She further chastised him for calling criticism of John A MacDonald and friends’ establishment of the residential school system “cancel culture.” Both cabinet critics are women and we all know how dangerous it can be to discipline female cabinet minsters.
This follows a caucus revolt a few weeks ago when almost half of his party’s MLAs, including the Speaker, wrote him a letter criticizing his approach to the pandemic. He booted two of them from caucus but this hasn’t shut them up. They continue to harass him from their distant seats in the legislature. The party caucus appears more chaotic every day.
Meanwhile, out in the country, even municipal councillors are grumbling, with a number accusing the premier of not listening to rural concerns. And this is the UCP heartland.
Kenney, reputed to have exceptional political skills, may yet maneuver himself out of this mess, but in the meantime we might speculate on what effect this is having federally. Specifically, how will it influence the proposed election which keeps popping up in the news even though it hasn’t yet been called.
In the 2019 election, some pundits suggested that the need to please Kenney precluded the Conservatives developing an environmental program strong enough to win critical votes in Ontario and Quebec. And the pathetic excuse they offered up as a climate change policy would support that. But if Kenney is floundering in Alberta, staying sweet with him would no longer be a high priority. And the Conservatives will win the province regardless. This would free up the federal parry considerably on energy and the environment, and possibly other issues.
One wonders how Erin O’Toole is reacting to his fellow Conservative’s tribulations. Is he commiserating, or is he quietly rejoicing at getting this monkey off his back?