Nobody flies to Ottawa at this time of year expecting to get anything done with the government of Canada.
This is axiomatic.
Remember that if you’re wondering about that planeload of Alberta Conservative cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and assorted spear-carriers led by Jason Kenney jetting off to the nation’s capital, supposedly to bring the premier’s long list of non-negotiable demands for a “fair deal” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
They’ll probably squeeze a belligerent press release or two out of any visits they manage to set up with Liberal ministers inclined to spend a few minutes with them for appearances’ sake. But don’t expect anything serious to get done, least of all Kenney’s demand for $2.4 billion in fiscal stabilization payments.
That’s not what they’re there for anyway.
If it had been, there would have been some serious proposal letters whizzing back and forth first, and the demand for a meeting wouldn’t have been sent, as for all practical purposes it was, via social media. Nor would all this have happened days before Christmas, even if December 25 wasn’t Trudeau’s birthday.
No, this isn’t about a “fair deal.” It is, if I may be so bold, much more likely to be about a fare deal.
Because there is serious business to be done in Ottawa this holiday season by Conservatives, but it’s not the sort that’s done hat in hand in Liberal cabinet ministers’ offices.
On the contrary, it’s the kind of business done in dark corners of Conservative Party Christmas parties. That is especially so in the run up to Christmas 2019, when the party has just lost a federal election it expected to win and the knives are out for its beleaguered leader, Andrew Scheer.
Never forget that Kenney is still a major player in the Conservative Party of Canada.
With talk of a coup to topple Scheer in the holiday air, Kenney needs to be there and he needs to have his loyal retainers with him. Now may not be the time to make a deal with the government of Canada, but you can count that some important deals are going to be cut on the Conservative Christmas party circuit.
Kenney is also a man known to have slept in his mother’s basement and found a way to send a bill to the taxpayers of Canada. So the idea of having a good excuse to charge the airfares for his substantial retinue of eight ministers, nine deputy and associate ministers, the UCP caucus chair, and sundry bag carriers to the good people of Alberta and still be able to score some points with the party base back home must have seemed appealing. Of course, I am willing to stand corrected in the unlikely event it turns out the party or individuals are ponying up for the flights.
Whether Kenney still harbours prime ministerial ambitions of his own — in which case it might make more sense for him to want the hapless Scheer to hang on for another unsuccessful term — is hard to say.
But whether he wants Scheer to stay or go, he obviously needs to be there at this crucial moment when the federal leader’s fate hangs in the balance. Even if Scheer must walk the plank and Kenney has forsworn all federal ambitions, he will want a federal Conservative leader who doesn’t have too independent a mind of his or her own.
And it can said with a reasonable degree of confidence, dear readers, that is what this trip is really about.
As for the Liberal ministers, doubtless anxious to get back to their ridings in time for some important holiday events of their own, they will give him a polite if noncommittal reception to avoid the appearance of conflict.
Certainly no one will call Alberta’s premier naughty names in emails and accidentally/on purpose leak their thoughts to everyone on the reply-all list.
That kind of thing has happened in Ottawa, but not on the Liberals’ watch as far as I know.
Alert readers will recall that back in 2012 one federal Conservative minister, angry at the request for a meeting with federal cabinet and caucus members by a fellow Conservative from Alberta, did just that.
In his widely distributed email response, the federal minister labelled his Alberta counterpart — cover your ears, children, for there is just no way to sugarcoat this — “a complete and utter asshole.”
Certainly no Liberal minister would ever have said anything that crude to a cabinet minister from Alberta, even an insistent Conservative with an annoying and unreasonable wish list in hand.
The victim of the disgusting slur in the email reply was a fellow named Thomas Lukaszuk, who happened to be Alberta premier Alison Redford’s deputy premier at the time.
And the perpetrator? Why, none other than … Jason Kenney!
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 David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: Premier of Alberta/Flickr