Commentary – Kenney focuses on “separating Justin Trudeau from the Prime Minister’s Office”

Tom Henihan

Jason Kenney seems unable to fully relinquish his role in federal politics and adapt to the less glamorous and lower profile role as premier.

So far, he is behaving not so much as the premier but as a federal politician, with his own province to use as a big stick.

Ottawa is still Kenney’s spiritual home; it is where most of his enemies reside, so he is understandably homesick.

It appears that Kenney takes his attention away from the federal scene just long enough, to cut wages, rescind benefits and put a halt to any project initiated by Rachel Notley’s NDP government. To ensure that one enemy in Ottawa does not forget him, Kenney jumped into the fray of the upcoming federal election, managing, once again, to reconcile his political vision with his penchant for personal vendetta.

In a sixty-second video posted to social media on August 3, Kenney said, “Rather than focusing on Alberta separating from the Canadian federation, I’d like to focus on separating Justin Trudeau from the Prime Minister’s Office,” in yet another frumpish attempt at delivering a slick one-liner.

He said that removing Justin Trudeau from the prime minister’s office is the biggest challenge facing Albertans as they approach the federal election in October.

In the video, Kenney stressed his commitment to seeing Alberta remain within confederation, while still managing to keep that phantom alive.

“Let me just put it this way,” Kenney said, “I don’t think we should allow Justin Trudeau to push us out of our country.”

In saying that Albertans should not allow Trudeau to push the province out of Confederation, Kenney is trying to have it both ways: for now, he is a committed federalist but if he comes round to the idea of Alberta separating, we can blame Justin Trudeau. By evoking the specter of separation in the first place, and by repeatedly broaching the subject as a viable alternative, Kenney has resurrected the idea of secession and given it currency, which is reckless behaviour for a leader.

It seems somewhat treacherous for a man who spent his political career in federal politics, to so quickly change stripes and allude to the idea of separatism shortly after entering provincial politics.

Of course, pragmatism not patriotism guides most career politicians.

Justin Trudeau deserves criticism on a great many matters, from his languid response to Alberta’s urgent need for pipeline expansion, to the more venial but no less puzzling lapse into playing Mister Dress Up in India.

While Trudeau may not share any affinity for this province, squeezing Alberta out of confederation is hardly on his agenda.

Kenney also said that the federal government and other provinces have treated Alberta, “unfairly and with disrespect.”

This claim fosters isolationist, anti-Canadian sentiment, and eerily echoes Trump’s assertion that the world is taking advantage of the U.S.

Albertans have a well-deserved reputation for self-reliance and fortitude but Kenney singing a dirge about life being unfair and getting no respect, portrays Alberta as a weak, petulant child who will, in this instance, take his ball and leave home, if he isn’t treated nicely and with respect.

It may be Jason Kenney, not Justin Trudeau, who poses Alberta’s biggest challenge going into the future.

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