Joseph R. Biden -- when it comes to Alberta's demands, the new U.S. president can afford to laugh a little. Image credit: The White House

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants the United States government to pay off his gambling debts!

I kid you not. In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent yesterday and published this morning on social media, Kenney demanded the Canadian government press the new U.S. administration of President Joseph R. Biden to pay the $1.5 billion the premier lost on his gamble Donald Trump would win the November 3 presidential election and the Keystone XL pipeline would be completed.

He also said the U.S. should pay reparations to Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. for the money it wasted rushing ahead with the project in the hopes that if Trump wasn’t elected, Biden could be bullied into allowing the work to continue on the grounds it had already been started.

Well, no one ever said you have to be connected to reality to be premier of Alberta. Kenney also lectured the prime minister about how the United States needs to be reminded that Canada is its “longest-standing ally.”

Actually, as Trudeau certainly knows even if our premier missed it, that would be France. The French were sending war supplies to George Washington’s Continental Army in 1775 when we Canadians, dare I say it, were still loyal subjects of the British Crown and therefore mortal enemies of the American rebels.

Well, you don’t have to agree with Kenney about anything to admire the man’s chutzpah — defined by Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

I am not accusing Kenney of doing that, of course. It cannot be denied, though, that he recently called the co-chair of Biden’s campaign “brain dead,” and still tolerates in his cabinet a young man most famous for appearing in a MAGA cap toasting Trump’s victory in 2016 at a Republican clam bake in New York City.

Kenney has also appeared in a widely distributed photo with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Alberta’s worst export, ever, to the United States, and one of the men who along with the former president himself fomented the January 6 attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Had that coup been successful, it would have prevented President Biden from coming to power and possibly much worse.

As rare a thing as this may be when it comes to U.S. presidents’ knowledge of Canadian premiers, I imagine President Biden knows exactly who Kenney is. This is unlikely to enhance Kenney’s chance of success on this file.

I do admit, it would be nice if President Biden would fork over the dough. After all, it wasn’t Kenney’s money, it was ours, the people of Alberta’s that is, that was lost on this bet.

But you have to know — as Kenney surely does — that this wish is about as likely to come to pass as Trump’s promise the government of Mexico would pay for that wall along the United States’ southern border.

Losing $1.5 billion is the price we will have to pay for electing Kenney’s United Conservative Party government.

We’re lucky, in truth, that Kenney’s gamble didn’t cost us more. He was ready, after all, to blow another $6 billion of our money on this project, which TC Energy, the former TransCanada PipeLines, was unprepared to invest itself because of the undeniable realities of the market.

We should have known things were likely to end badly when back in 2017 we heard Kenney complain that “when politicians are risking your money instead of their own, you might as well send them to the casino. I mean, they have no incentive to get it right.”

Who would have guessed a guy like that liked the clack of the dice so much?

It is also highly ironic that Kenney, a sworn enemy of the trade union movement, is now using the loss of “good union jobs” as a result of Biden’s completely predictable decision to keep a promise he made throughout his campaign as a key talking point in the effort to keep KXL on life support.

“Union labour is critical to Keystone XL,” the premier pleaded. Remember, this is the same man whose government is bringing in unconstitutional legislation to hamstring unions, end overtime as we know it, and who, in the 2017 speech quoted above, promised to bring to Alberta “low taxes, a low regulatory regime” and “lower labour costs.”

But then, Premier Kenney’s not a man for irony. He’s also using the same federal carbon-tax policy that Alberta’s lawyers are going to court to challenge to argue Canada’s climate goals and Biden’s are sweetly in accord, so we should get our pipeline.

And even though he knows Alberta’s largest export market is the United States, he wants the PM to declare a trade war on the same country that would presumably drive them to buy more of what’s known around here in Alberta as “dictator oil.” This seems, in a word, stupid.

Of course, as has been said in this space before, none of this has much to do with any realistic hope on Kenney’s part that the new American president will actually give him his lost money back.   

It’s all grandstanding to somehow get Prime Minister Trudeau to wear the blame for Kenney’s foolish decision.

Truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

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.

Image credit: The White House

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...