A photo of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney just before he arrived at the Queen’s casket on Friday.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney just before he arrived at the Queen’s casket on Friday. Credit: Twitter Credit: Twitter

“In queue for Queen, Premier Kenney signs order banning remote work option for civil servants.”

In fact, there was nothing for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to sign. Alberta’s civil servants were ordered back to their offices months ago, on April 4

But that little social media quip Friday by University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley was so on brand for Alberta’s premier – who at the time was ostentatiously tweeting away while waiting in line to pay his respects to Queen Elizabeth as she lay in state at the Palace of Westminster in London – that plenty of folks swallowed it hook, line and sinker. 

This was probably the tweet from Kenney that inspired Wesley’s sly sense of humour: “N.B.” (the premier meant nota bene, folks, not New Brunswick) “I’m doing briefings & work calls from the queue, and will be back in Edmonton on Monday for Alberta’s memorial service for our late Queen… .”

Well, presumably that raises the question of who’s paying for Kenney’s cellular calls, if not for the trip, which the premier stated in an adjacent tweet was “entirely at personal expense.” 

Apparently having seen the same tweet, former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk sarcastically warned Kenney, “Watch that cell phone bill”!

Alert readers will recall that Lukaszuk was excoriated by his political enemies in 2014 for running up a $20,000 cellular telephone bill after being asked by the office of premier Alison Redford to deal with a distraught cabinet member while the deputy premier was on vacation in Poland (also entirely at personal expense).

A summary of the “tawdry” circumstances that led to the leak of Lukaszuk’s phone bill by someone in Redford’s office was provided by Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid back in 2016. Presumably since then someone in the Premier’s Office has thought to purchase a roaming plan for for roaming officials’ phones.

Now look, I’m not going to criticize the premier if he’d always promised himself he’d be on hand for Her Majesty’s death.

“I don’t apologize for having been an avid monarchist my whole life and admirer of the Queen,” Kenney told the Calgary Herald. “I thought it was especially important in my role to represent Alberta, at pure personal expense, and it’s just a very quick 36-hour trip, but for me, it was just necessary. I mean, this is a woman who gave her life in service, in part to Canada. And the least I can do is stand in a queue for 15 hours to say thank you.”

The Herald’s reporter went on to explain: “He said when he was 14, he woke up in the early hours of the morning during a trip to Victoria to make sure he had a spot to see the Queen and Prince Philip. After that, he had promised himself he would be in attendance for the Queen’s funeral.” (Emphasis added.)

Verily, dear readers, I cut and pasted that right out of the Calgary Herald. I didn’t make up a word! 

I have to tell you, though, that from my perspective, and apparently that of many others, this seems more than a little weird. 

But then, given his many obsessions and hobbyhorses, Alberta’s soon-to-depart premier can be fairly described as a weirdo almost on a par with William Lyon Mackenzie King.

And, anyway, the guy’s about to be put out to pasture by his own party, so why the heck wouldn’t he just take a couple of days off? 

Indeed, if it’d been me in his shoes – which I hope for Kenney’s sake were more comfortable than that suit he was wearing looked – I’d have taken a couple of extra days to sample the bright spots of the former imperial capital and maybe buy a cheerful necktie or two on Carnaby Street, if indeed that place is still a going concern.

Had Kenney taken such a side trip, perhaps he could also have purchased some colourful socks to counter his reputation as a pedantic bore. You know, like the blue and black stripey ones Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore to his tête-à-tête with the new king.

It must have royally griped Kenney to learn that while he had to wait in line for 14 or 15 hours without a government of Alberta flunky to hold his bag and carry his water, the prime minister got to slip into the line through the foreign-dignitaries side-door and meet King Charles.

But that’s what happens when you’re a lame duck premier, without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

It’s not explained how Kenney sustained or relieved himself during those interminable hours as he inched along the chilly Thames Embankment, nor do I think we Albertans really require that information unless there was some cost to the taxpayer. 

Speaking personally, I would like to know if the mystery man with the shoulder bag and pony tail recorded by the BBC in the lineup immediately behind the premier was just a random mourner or someone working with the premier in some capacity. 

At the very least, though, now that such revelations are an established practice, surely we are entitled to the grand total of Kenney’s phone bill and any other incidental expenses of state whilst he sojourned in London.

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...