Premier Jason Kenney hosts his new radio program.
Premier Jason Kenney hosts his new radio program. Credit: Jason Kenney Facebook Live / Jason Kenney Facebook Live Credit: Jason Kenney Facebook Live / Jason Kenney Facebook Live

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took to the airwaves Saturday with the first episode of his weekly Corus Entertainment call-in radio program, Your Province, Your Premier.

If you have a hankering to hear Alberta’s increasingly unpopular premier doing his irritating Perfesser Kenney schtick live on the airwaves, though, my advice is to try to catch the show as soon as you can. 

Seriously, I’m pretty sure that one way or another this effort won’t last. 

Never mind the perilous straits in which Kenney finds his political career, Your Province, Your Premier is plain bad: Kenney is annoying, he uses an awful lot of words to say almost nothing, the show is filled with irritating commercial ads, and the format is designed to make it hard for callers to press their point and create a little on-air drama. 

To be blunt, it’s a bore. 

Political commentator Dave Cournoyer noted that “as expected this is a format that Kenney is comfortable with. It’s an audio version of the hours-long Facebook Lives that he’s been doing.” That sounds about right.

Legacy media—which nowadays includes radio—simply can’t afford to run with a formula this dull, even if Corus wants to somehow help Kenney survive his political travails, which are scheduled to come to a climax on Apr. 9 when he faces a leadership review by members of his United Conservative Party in Red Deer. 

Face it, radio may have been the coming propaganda tool in 1927 when Bible Bill Aberhart started broadcasting from the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, quite possibly kick-starting a political career that would put him in the premier’s office by 1935, but it’s just background noise now. 

What’s more, since most of the people who called in, whether they were on the right or the left, didn’t seem to be all that keen on Kenney—it doesn’t seem likely the premier find this a rewarding way to spend his time. 

The Progress Report’s Duncan Kinney kindly live-tweeted it, saving most politically engaged Albertans the need to suffer through an underwhelming performance.

Kinney counted six phone questions and five text questions permitted by host Wayne Nelson, who made sure listeners understood he was the decider about who got to talk to Kenney. Nelson also asked three soft-ball questions of his own. 

Things heated up momentarily when caller Angela Grace asked a critical question about the controversial UCP rewrite of the K-12 curriculum.

The psychologist and educator wondered: “Why have you budgeted $191 million taxpayer dollars on implementing a draft curriculum that over 40,000 parents, 95 per cent of teachers, the deans of education and educational experts, school trustees and school boards, First Nations, Metis and Inuit oppose and say is racist, whitewashed, regressive, and will cause children significant harm?” 

She also asked, presumably rhetorically, if the premier would be attending a province-wide protest on April 2 demanding the government ditch the draft curriculum 

In response, Kenney predictably accused the NDP of trying to introduce a “highly politicized curriculum”—a process actually started by a previous Progressive Conservative government—and rambled on at length about how the UCP wanted “a solid, balanced, revised curriculum that would provide for especially better outcomes on areas like literacy and numeracy …”

“I don’t accept a lot of the premises in your question there,” the premier wrapped up, a phrase he uses so frequently in news conferences it’s become something of an Alberta joke. Humiliatingly, Grace could be heard chuckling at his response. 

Later, another questioner tried to take the premier to task for his government’s takeover of the Alberta teachers’ pension plan. 

Kenney responded with a baseless claim the “money was being wasted.” In fact, the teachers’ pension got better results than other public sector pensions managed by the Alberta Investment Management Corp., better known as AIMCo, the historically underperforming Crown corporation the government wants to manage all public pensions.

“It is very rich for this premier, who lost $1.3 billion taxpayer dollars betting on Donald Trump … to talk about money being wasted,” NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips observed later in a news release. 

Alas, those were was about it for interesting moments in the premier’s radio debut. 

So even if Kenney manages to hang onto his job on Apr. 9 and Corus can avoid a fight over whether this amounts to a political contribution to Kenney, it seems likely Your Province, Your Premier will be radio history soon

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...