rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney mocks 29-year-old NDP candidate with sophomoric and offensive joke

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

I hear, "a gay 19 year old." Quite clearly.

I speak, of course, of Jason Kenney's notorious cheap shot in Cochrane on January 31, in which he mischaracterized the NDP's newly acclaimed candidate in the Airdrie-Cochrane riding for a few laughs.

Speaking at a United Conservative Party rally at an upscale golf club in Cochrane, just west of Calgary, to a mostly male crowd of folks old enough to know better, the Opposition leader mocked Steve Durrell for his age and -- quite apparently to many who have listened to the smartphone video recording of the event that has been circulating ever since -- his supposed sexuality.

Durrell, it must noted, is 29 years old and the father of three children.

I've listened to the recording about a dozen times now. What I hear every time is: "The NDP acclaimed their star candidate to take on Peter Guthrie, a gay 19-year-old." Guthrie, just in case anyone is confused by dangling modifiers, is the UCP's candidate in the riding. He is 49.

When Adam Toy, identified as the digital content coordinator for a Calgary talk radio program listened to it, what he heard was: "The NDP acclaimed their star candidate to take on Peter Guthrie, a 19-year-old." We know this is what Toy heard because that's the way he reported it in his Global News story.

So maybe this is going to be one of those Internet memes like the recording that sounds like "Yanny" to some people, and like "Laurel" to others. (I hear Laurel.) Could be. Listen for yourselves.

Kenney's supporters insist, very forcefully, that Toy's stenography is the accurate version. They've said it so forcefully that some others who are not Kenney's supporters acknowledge that this must be so, perhaps in spite of what their ears tell them. Durrell, it must be noted, responded mildly to Kenney's misstated shot at his age, and let the other matter slide.

But one thing that everyone who has listened to the tape or attended the meeting agrees on is that Kenney's shot got a few laughs and a smattering of applause from the grey-haired men who were there.

So did his next line: "Now don’t take it for granted, because they elected a lot of them last time." 

As my friend Mimi Williams pointed out in a sharp exchange on Twitter with unsuccessful UCP nomination candidate Roger Millions, 59, a retired sportscaster who is not unacquainted with recorded bloopers, "there were *no* 19 year olds elected with the NDP in [20]15." She noted that Thomas Dang, the youngest MLA elected that year, was 20 years old. 

"But there *were* 3 openly gay MLAs elected," Williams tweeted. "So what got the laugh? They elected 'lots' of them last time meant exactly what?"

What I think -- Yanny, Laurel and the many angry UCP denials notwithstanding -- is that it meant exactly what it sounded like.

But whether or not the most potentially controversial part of Kenney's statement is ambiguous, there's no ambiguity about what he thinks of the contribution that young people have to make to public life -- at least, if they're not starry-eyed acolytes of his 50-year-old self.

This is a pretty bold attack for a guy who was exactly the same age as Durrell is now when he was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1997 and quickly became known as a party-hearty member of the Reform Party's sophomoric "Snack Pack" Parliamentary heckling team. Of course, Kenney didn't have family responsibilities in those days to keep him from staying out late at night to come up with new Question Time catcalls. At the same age, Durrell does.

Notwithstanding Kenney spokesperson Matt Solberg's claim "no offense was intended," it does seem as if young politicians, no matter how serious, are bound to be publicly attacked for their youth -- unless they happen to be conservatives, of course, in which case no shirt's too young to stuff.

Consider the inspiring American Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last month, the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. Despite her academic success, her obvious charisma and her rhetorical skill -- or perhaps because of them -- old, white, male Republicans and others in the U.S. gerontocracy just can't seem to stop mocking her age.

Ocasio-Cortez, like Durrell, is 29. Under the U.S. Constitution, that's six years too young to run for president, which is lucky for the old Republican geezers, and some Democrats too, making fun of her youth now and contemplating a presidential campaign next year.

Well, if this shows anything, it's that when it comes to their attitudes about young people, there's not much light between Kenney's grey-haired, mostly male buddies at the Cochrane golf clubhouse and their Republican analogues south of the 49th Parallel. This is something, perhaps, of which younger voters might want to take note.

The same night Kenney's offensive remarks were being recorded at the Gleneagles Golf Club, a boisterous crowd of New Democrats of all ages, more women than men, acclaimed Durrell's candidacy across town.

As Durrell tweeted: "I'll take young people getting active in politics over the #OldBoysClub any day." Speaking as a 67-year-old, I second that motion!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Steve Durrell/Facebook

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.