Commentary – Earplugs an apt symbol for Kenney’s heedless leadership

Tom Henihan

Apparently, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney believes there is no better time for light-hearted, practical jokes than when he is revoking the bargaining rights of 180,000 public sector workers in Alberta.

Smug in the knowledge of having a majority, Kenney walked the aisles while handing out earplugs to UCP members so they could ignore what the opposition NDP members were saying, especially Thomas Dang who was speaking at the time Kenney got up and did his routine with the earplugs.

Wearing his trademark arrogant grin and laughing like an obnoxious schoolboy, Kenney handed out approximately 20 sets of earplugs. Six of his caucus members, including house leader Jason Nixon, put them in their ears.

Albertans should take note of the political sycophants who wore the earplugs, and ask those members of the legislature if they will have them in when their constituents express opposing points of view.

When this adolescent and offensive gag failed to go well, like all bullies and cowards, Kenney avoided addressing the issue himself, instead having his office issue a statement minimizing the incident, claiming that it was just a little levity to reduce stress.

Humour is usually spontaneous, especially in political debate, but arriving at the legislature with a box of earplugs is evidence that Kenney planned this crass attempt at humour.

In typical cowardly fashion, the cavalier Kenney declined to address the issue himself but had the premier’s office released this statement:

“This was a harmless and light-hearted attempt to boost government caucus morale after being forced to listen to the NDP’s insults, lies and over-the-top rhetoric for hours on end,” said the statement.

Nixon added that it was “a joke between members about the ridiculous speeches that were coming from the NDP.”

Of course, if it was a genuine response to the “ridiculous speeches” from NDP members, it was fortuitous that Kenney happened to bring a box of earplugs to the legislature before the debate began.

There is certainly a place for humour in politics and a show of wit, all too rare in today’s political discourse, is always welcome, but Kenney’s earplug routine is neither witty nor droll.

Apart from being a lame attempt at humour, using such antics as handing out earplugs, is a mockery of the democratic process, showing contempt for the elected members of the opposition and the Albertans who voted for those MLAs.

The earplug gag also suggests the premier is not prepared to listen to Albertans who oppose his approach, and like the archetypal class clown, Kenney also seems to confuse hubris with humour.

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