Jason Kenney Is A Necessary Evil

May 3rd, 2019 | R. Rados

I don't dislike Jason Kenney, but I don't trust him either. The bottom line is that Jason Kenney needed to beat the NDP and we needed someone like him to unite the right. For most Albertans, it wasn't even a question. Jason Kenney is now the premier, not because we like him, but because we need him. In my opinion, someone else from the federal ranks could have pulled it off, but that didn't happen. Kenney is a career politician, which makes me automatically wary, but I have always admired his political competence. His leadership non-scandal, involving Jeff Callaway, was exactly what I would have expected from a competent and Machiavellian politician like Kenney—I was just shocked he let it get leaked. If Kenney applies this kind of strategy and mastery to leading Alberta against Justin Trudeau, he might grow on me.

It's always possible that Jason Kenney could be a total failure and show us all why career politicians need to become obsolete. It's also possible he might be a total success in the eyes of Albertans. To be a total success, Kenney needs to accomplish a few big things before the next election—which will be tight no matter what he does. If Kenney takes the safe road and proves that all his promises and talk during the campaign were just typical nonsense being spewed by a career politician, Albertans will get annoyed fast. If he sticks to his promises and brings a good, strong fight to Justin Trudeau, he'll become Ralph Klein's replacement on the conservative shrine.

Jason Kenney's well crafted and scripted—but often corny and annoying—political language from the campaign will have been a waste of breath if he doesn't accomplish a few of these big things by 2023.

Beat The Federal Carbon Tax

If Jason Kenney scraps Rachel Notley's carbon tax, Justin Trudeau will just impose his carbon tax on Alberta. Kenney made a big promise during his campaign to end the carbon tax, so if he fails on this, he'll surely fail in 2023. Albertans will need to see that Kenney at least tried to fight the federally imposed carbon tax with all of the premiers who currently oppose it.

Being as competent as he is, Kenney should be able to bring new ideas to the growing table of conservative premiers who plan to challenge the federal carbon tax. Is there a loophole? Is there a way to argue that it's unconstitutional? Is there a way to overthrow it with the support of enough provinces, no matter what Justin Trudeau does? If there is a way, Jason Kenney is the guy to find it.

Is there a way to change the federal benchmark carbon price? Currently, the federal benchmark requires provincial carbon levies to be no less than $10 per tonne (and rise by $10 every year), but could there be a way around that? Could Alberta find a way to keep its own tax to avoid federal rules, but make it so low that it becomes almost inconsequential? How about changing Alberta's rebate scheme so drastically that everyone gets their money back?

Somewhere, hidden in some haystack, there has to be a way to beat Justin Trudeau's carbon tax in court and outside of court.

Kill The Tanker Ban

Bill C-48 plans to ban oil tankers off the coast of BC. It's yet another move to damage Alberta's oil industry. Combine with C-69, the tanker ban is a part of Justin Trudeau's aggressive plan to totally destroy Western Canada's energy sector. Jason Kenney has vowed to challenge C-48 as unconstitutional, but whether he does is another story. It'll be another legal battle against Justin Trudeau's federal government that might not be winnable, so Jason Kenney better have another trick up his sleeve.

Bill C-48 falls in line perfectly with the Liberal government's efforts to alienate Alberta from the rest of Canada. Trudeau favoured SNC-Lavalin and jobs in Quebec over Alberta's struggling oil sector, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he's willing to allow tankers from Saudi Arabia to continue accessing the East coast. If Kenney can shed a light on C-48 and bring the debate to the national stage, he can successfully showcase Trudeau's one-sided environmental vision.

Trudeau's environmental vision for Canada isn't about the environment at all. It's about working with American-funded interests that are working in Canada to undermine Alberta's oil sector. Jason Kenney has also vowed to challenge these same foreign interests who are clearly aligned with Justin Trudeau.  

Call That Referendum On Equalization Now

Jason Kenney promised to hold a referendum on equalization in 2021. I'm not sure what good a referendum on equalization would do us if it's held that far in the future. Kenney's equalization referendum needs to be held this year, in close proximity to the federal election in October.

Being a career politician, Kenney knows what it takes to build a successful campaign. He also knows how long bureaucracies take to get their shit together. On top of that, he wants to give himself time to work on getting pipelines built. Either way, it's too far in the future. For such a referendum to be successful, or effective, it needs to be timed in a way that it would inflict maximum damage on Justin Trudeau.

Being a career politician, Kenney also knows how to successfully break a promise and get away with it. If Justin Trudeau happens to lose in October, Kenney won't have to bother holding a referendum at all. He'll be able to point to a new federal Conservative government as a way out. Even if that same Conservative government doesn't promise to reform equalization, Kenney will hail the new government as a victory for Alberta.

Holding a referendum on equalization is sure to rile up separatist sentiments in Alberta, meaning Jason Kenney might be looking to avoid it all together. It was a good way to win votes in the election, but actually going forward with a risky referendum is another story. I suspect that might be the real reasoning behind Kenney's promise to hold the referendum in two years.

If Trudeau does win in October, I hope Albertans will have it in them to partially blame Kenney for not holding that referendum at the best possible time. I know I will.

Cut Off British Columbia

Jason Kenney said he would turn off the taps to BC, but he has already lightened his rhetoric after being sworn in. Following a phone call with John Horgan, it was reported that the conversation was amicable and that the two premiers expressed a willingness to work together. Kenney has stated publicly that he would rather work with BC than actually turn off the taps. Meanwhile, John Horgan has threatened to challenge the constitutionality of the possible new law.

The law has apparently been proclaimed, as per an op-ed by Kenney himself, but whether anything will really happen has yet to be seen. John Horgan hasn't shown a willingness to accept a blockade of Alberta oil into BC, so we should probably expect yet another legal fight in the courts that may or may not result in anything worthwhile.

Prove It's About Alberta, Not About Becoming Prime Minister

I suspect Jason Kenney is portraying himself as a national leader because he plans to eventually be one. Once Andrew Scheer is finished his tenure as the federal Conservative leader, Jason Kenney will have a term or two under his belt as Alberta's premier. However, his success and popularity as premier will determine whether he takes a stab at the Conservative leadership. Chances are, he would only do it if he saw a chance of becoming Prime Minister.

Anyone who paid any attention to Kenney's provincial campaign saw a person who wasn't just running to lead Alberta. Even his victory speech seemed aimed directly at all Canadians.

“We Canadians have been blessed with the world’s third largest oil reserves, and an abundance of natural gas. But we have been targeted by a foreign funded campaign of special interests seeking to landlock Canadian energy,” Kenney said. “This means that we Canadians have become captive to the United States as the only market for Canada’s largest export product: our energy.”

That's one heck of a national pitch. He wasn't just talking about fighting for Alberta oil, he was talking about Canadian oil. He went on to say, “We have been selling our country’s greatest asset at fire sale prices, losing billions of dollars of value, money that could build schools and hospitals across Canada.”

Hospitals and schools around Canada? We get it, Alberta oil helps fund several federal and national projects, but it's been a while since I've heard a provincial premier use the word Canadians and Canada so much in a provincial victory speech. The real kicker was when he said something that sounded very familiar.

“Fellow Canadians, the world needs more Canada and more Canadian energy.”

The last person who said the world needs more Canada was Barack Obama when he addressed the House Of Commons in 2016. Regardless, we can only hope that Kenney tries his best not just to be popular, but to be effective. The last thing we need is another Brad Wall: a totally ineffective premier who somehow managed to become popular around Canada while leaving behind a legacy of nothing.

Brad Wall left Saskatchewan exactly how he found it in 2007. Some would argue he made it worse. Yet, somehow, he has become one of the most popular conservatives in Canada and could have—probably—won the Conservative leadership had he tried.