As the folk wisdom goes, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
Jason Kenney got his wish yesterday when Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet told him, in effect, to bring it on.
“Let’s open the constitution,” Blanchet said with a gallic shrug and a sly momentary smile at a news conference in Montreal. “Gonna have a party.”
“We have some proposals about that also,” he added, obviously aware he was about to get up the Alberta premier’s nose.
“We proposed green equalization, according to which we outlay the average emissions of a jurisdiction in Canada. Those who are above this calculation — let’s say, Alberta — pays. And those who are under this average level, receive the money, because they perform well in terms of fighting climate change.”
Likely more mockery than a serious proposal, this sounded like a reasonably polite way of telling Premier Kenney to smarten up and start acting like a grownup.
“I would like to have discussions about that also,” Blanchet went on, more seriously. “But I still say that the best solution to all of that is for all of us, independentistes or not, investing a significant amount of money in Alberta and Western Canada in order to help them get out of this toxic economic model.”
Not a bad thought if you consider a just transition from a carbon economy to be a worthwhile idea, or even just that transition is inevitable — in other words, nothing Kenney’s United Conservative Party would react to with anything but denial and furious hostility.
Speaking of which, asked about Blanchet’s riposte to the UCP’s constitutionally meaningless and intentionally divisive equalization referendum, which was tied to a low-turnout municipal election and disenfranchised many First Nations voters throughout Alberta, Kenney’s response was predictable.
Journalist Audrey Neveu of CBC’s French-language service could barely keep herself from giggling at Kenney’s self-inflicted predicament when she asked him during a news conference yesterday afternoon in Edmonton, ostensibly about COVID-19 measures, “do you feel like you’ve kind of opened a can of worms here?”
Rising to the bait, Kenney responded petulantly: “I think this is a typical provocation by Blanchet who, you know, loves Alberta bashing.
“It would be nice if for once he stood up as the leader of his fringe party and expressed some modicum of gratitude … to Albertans for having generated tens of billions of dollars of wealth that’s been transferred to benefit Quebeckers over the past recent decades.”
“I’m disappointed that some leaders like him seek constantly to divide,” Kenney rambled on. “You know, the reality is like this, for people like Mr. Blanchet who want further to attack Alberta’s energy industry, they are effectively advocating, whether they understand it or not, for the OPEC dictatorships and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“Because if this energy is not produced by Canada at the highest human rights, environmental, and labour rights in the world, then the energy will be produced and sold by Putin’s Russia, by the theocracy in Iran, by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and by the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela,” he huffed.
This is pretty rich coming from a guy whose entire recent provincial political career has been based on divisiveness, Quebec bashing, climate change denial, and undermining labour rights.
Well, Kenney may have missed it, but no one ever said that you could expect to sit down for constitutional negotiations without someone on the other side of the table coming up with some proposals of their own.
One imagines high-fives all ’round at BQ Headquarters last night.
Meanwhile, the rest of Kenney’s presser didn’t go particularly well either. You’d almost think the days are over when Alberta media could be counted on to act as doormats for a Conservative premier.
Inevitably, the topic of that former UCP political staffer now suing the Premier’s Office for wrongful dismissal arose in the form of a question about what Kenney proposed to do about Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen’s alleged excessive office drinking.
Every time there was a question about Dreeshen’s alleged drinking, though, Kenney changed the subject by answering another question he hadn’t been asked.
Since the questions were pretty direct — “given these allegations of inappropriate behaviour, which he has not denied, why is Mr. Dreeshen still in your cabinet?” — there’s no way Kenney misunderstood.
So the key takeaway, presumably, is that office drinking at the legislature is OK with the premier, as long as the drinker is one of the bros.
For his part, on Monday night Dreeshen published a photo of himself in his legislature office with what looked like a booze bottle peeking out from a cupboard drawer. One imagines he wouldn’t have done that if he’d feared running afoul of the premier.
Likewise, Kenney refused to recognize the premise of a reporter’s question about the way he appeared to throw Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw under the bus in the legislature Monday.
“Well, I think that’s a completely ridiculous misconstrual of what I said,” Kenney sniffed. “This is not about blame. I was simply being transparent about when we received information or advice.”
Hinshaw gamely backed him up, saying the premier’s remark in the legislature “accurately reflected what I brought forward,” and vowing, regardless of how much the premier publicly discusses what she says to cabinet, never to violate cabinet confidentiality.
Meanwhile, in another development unlikely to please Kenney, former Wildrose Party leader and long-time Kenney rival Brian Jean announced on social media last night he intends to seek the UCP nomination for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, where a by-election must be held soon.
This puts the premier in a difficult position. Either he must sign the nomination papers for a bitter rival who has said he needs to go, or he can refuse to sign and see the independently wealthy Fort Mac resident run as an independent and quite possibly win.
Jean plans to portray himself as the only alternative to Kenney who can “save” Alberta from Rachel Notley and the NDP.