Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s election-campaign-style news conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s election-campaign-style news conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr). Credit: Alberta Newsroom / Flickr

The adults definitely don’t seem to be in charge any more over in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office.

It didn’t take very long after the slap heard ’round the world during Sunday night’s televised Academy Awards presentation before a sophomoric meme about the dramatic moment appeared on Premier Kenney’s social media accounts.

The image—a screen shot of the slapper and slappee an instant after the blow landed— labels the victim of the assault, Oscars emcee Chris Rock as “GREEN ENERGY POLICIES,” and actor Will Smith as “REALITY.”

The meme, with no additional commentary, appeared on Mr. Kenney’s Facebook account on Monday at 8:32 a.m. It was posted on Twitter at 9:05 a.m. By any standard, though, this was pretty lame. 

The reaction—instant, passionate, and almost universally negative—took issue both with the trivialization of violence in the meme and the premier’s continuing denial of any need for green energy policies. 

Many commenters also accurately observed how childish this made the premier’s staff and the man himself look.

One would think that running a province with a determinedly resource-focused economy during a pandemic and a period of wildly fluctuating energy prices ought to be a serious business. Much of the time, Mr. Kenney tries to persuade us of just that.

On Sunday night, though, it looks as if it was a topic for adolescent jokes by Kenney and his political advisors, who after an exodus of smart operators over the past couple of years, now seem to be mostly adolescents with smart mouths and smartphones to match. 

Naturally, a couple of reporters revisited the topic at an election-campaign-style news conference Monday at which the premier, Finance Minister Travis Toews, and government House Leader Jason Nixon attacked the federal carbon tax and tried to make the risible case Alberta is suffering at the hands of a Trudeau-Singh-Notley-Putin Axis of Inflation.

The theoretical purpose of the newser, which took place in the produce aisle of a grocery store, was to demand that Ottawa drop its scheduled Apr. 1 increase to the federal carbon tax.

There was no planned mention of the increase the same day of Ottawa’s carbon tax rebates, although there was a comical moment when Mr. Kenney got a question he was not prepared to answer on that detail. 

Also not mentioned was the fact that while complaining about a marginal increase in the federal carbon tax, Alberta is raising its own carbon tax on industrial emissions by 20 per cent. 

Well, I guess we can see from this where the next Alberta provincial election campaign—which sure feels as if it’ll be sooner than later—is going to go. The phrase “the Green Left” passed Kenney’s lips frequently. 

Judging from the expressions that flashed across his face, the premier was none too pleased by many of the questions reporters asked him.

Characteristically, not being one to concede he might be wrong, let alone apologize, Kenney let loose with a verbose defence of the tasteless meme. 

“That image and different memes based on it are basically the entire Internet today,” he huffed.

“A meme is defined, I see, as ‘a humourous piece of video, piece of text, etc. that is copied often with slight variations and spread rapidly by Internet users,’” Kenney rolled on pedantically. 

“That’s what that is. It’s a relevant way of making a point, in this case the point that reality is intruding on the failed policies of the Green Left that have sought to make life more expensive for everybody, drive up inflation, food costs, fuel costs, and also reduce development of energy from democracies like Canada, which has led to geopolitical instability from Syria to Venezuela and obviously today to Ukraine.”

Of course, blaming this long list of ills on the federal carbon tax requires some effort, but as usual, Mr. Kenney seemed up to the challenge. 

There was one startling moment that generated some headlines of its own when Kenney revealed in response to another reporter’s question that he has been interviewed by the RCMP about accusations of identity fraud during the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race. 

“Yes, I did an interview at the request,” the premier responded. “Once.”

This is hardly a surprise, but it’s the first time it’s been confirmed, as the four-year police investigation continues into the machinations that contributed to Kenney’s victory over former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean to lead the UCP.

Facing a review of his leadership in the UCP mail-in vote from Apr. 9 to May 11, and with many rumours of an early election call soon thereafter, Mr. Kenney’s activities are starting to take on the appearance of a full-blown campaign.

The government issued five news releases yesterday in an obvious effort to look busy. 

One dealt with what passes for green energy planning in Alberta nowadays: small nuclear reactors, euphemistically referred to by governments and the nuclear industry as small modular reactors, or SMRs. 

The undated report seems to have been cobbled together just before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year end, possibly to meet a submission date, and says that the current plan “is to be completed in the spring of 2021”—which would be a year ago. 

“Nothing here but happy talk,” observed Susan O’Donnell of the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick. “This document is a ‘tick off the box’ report produced by the four provincial governments participating in the SMR program—New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“The document seems designed to convince the federal government to start opening the funding floodgates for SMR development,” Dr. O’Donnell concluded.

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...