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Canada Day mystery: Why was Jason Kenney's holiday message removed then replaced with alternative version?

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Image: Jason Kenney/Twitter

It's a true Canada Day political mystery!

What happened between 9:03 a.m. and 1:02 p.m. that dramatically changed Jason Kenney's holiday message?

At 9:03 a.m. yesterday, a minion on the Alberta premier's staff sent the media the sort of Canada Day message you'd expect from a Canadian premier -- upbeat and anodyne.

"As we recognize Canada Day this year, our festivities may not resemble the large gatherings of the past," the morning version of Kenney's message said. "But I believe our celebrations are more relevant than ever, because we have more reason to rejoice in what it means to be Canadians and Albertans."

The 189-word e-missive continued in this positive vein right through to "this Canada Day, please join me in celebrating all that Albertans have done to benefit their communities and fellow Albertans during these uncertain times."

Four hours and two minutes later, the premier's good wishes mysteriously disappeared and were replaced by a more verbose and darker message -- now almost twice as long.

"Happy Canada Day," it began, predictably enough, before launching ponderously into a windy lecture worthy of Conrad Black at his most pompously tedious.

Did you know that 153 years ago when "our great Northern Dominion began, binding together the colonies and territories of British North America," that "their unity was built on a shared belief in ordered liberty"? (Emphasis added.) The author of this jeremiad apparently wishes to persuade us this was so.

"On this Dominion Day, let us be grateful for their sacrifices, and for the vision of our founders, foremost amongst them Sir John A. Macdonald." (Take that, you would-be Canadian statue topplers!) As became apparent throughout the day yesterday, wishing your neighbours a happy Dominion Day falls somewhere between indicating just how out of touch Conservatives are with contemporary Canadians to flying a Confederate battle flag south of the 49th Parallel.

The screed rambled on, equating "the path of reconciliation with Indigenous people" with Alberta's picayune complaints about Confederation in 2020 -- which largely boil down to dissatisfaction with Canadians elsewhere for voting Liberal.

The message's peroration quotes Thomas D'Arcy McGee, "martyr of Confederation," trowling it on about his vision of Canada, "one great nationality bound, like the shield of Achilles … together by free institutions, free intercourse, and free commerce." (Editor's Note: That's enough! Stop it!)

One could pen that kind of florid prose without blushing in 1860, as D'Arcy McGee did eight years before a disgruntled Fenian who saw him as a traitor to that revolutionary Catholic cause shot him down on the steps of his Ottawa boarding house. But you couldn't have been paying attention for the past 160 years to put those words on paper now, even with quotations marks around them.

So what happened between 9:03 and 1:05 that precipitated the swap? It'll take a better Kremlinologist than your humble scribe to puzzle that out.

Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, speculated unkindly on Twitter that the second version read as if Kenney "got very mad at the #cancelcanadaday hashtag and did a complete rewrite of the message and inserted as many racist, colonial dogwhistles as he could."

Maclean's magazine's Western Canada correspondent Jason Markusoff thought the second message "looks much more like an essay for the If I Was Conservative Prime Minister Contest."

I wondered if the premier got a castigating call on someone's private cellphone line complaining that message no. 1 needed a sharper tone and a Dominion Day reference.

Remember that a young Stephen Harper once sponsored a private member's bill to change the name of the national holiday back again, telling Parliament on December 13, 1996, "it has been a mistake for this country to try and preserve its future by destroying its past and the name Dominion Day should be restored."

Or perhaps it was just that Kenney, the secretly regretful college dropout with his own well-thumbed thesaurus, got up grumpy, opened Alberta.ca, and decided he could do better.

It's a genuine Canada Day mystery!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Jason Kenney/Twitter

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