Jason Kenney

Got questions for the elusive Jason Kenney?

Look no further than the province next door to the west, where the newly elected Alberta Progressive Conservative leader has a busy schedule urging reluctant Conservatives to vote for B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s “Liberals” and raising funds for the federal Conservative party.

Kenney has been keeping his head down in Alberta, presumably trying to avoid having to answer difficult questions about his controversial views in favour of outing students who join gay-straight alliances at school, supporting the right of religious schools to teach an anti-abortion curriculum, disputing human-caused climate change, and restricting access to reproductive rights and information.

But he’s now been spotted safe and well fed in British Columbia, dining out on steak and curry, and sticking his oar into the ongoing B.C. provincial election campaign now entering its most intense period before the May 9 vote.

Thursday night, Kenney was spotted at a $500-a-plate Tory bunfest in an upscale Vancouver steakhouse. Proceeds from the Conservative clambake went to the Conservative Party of Canada riding association in Vancouver Centre, journalist Bob Mackin reported.

“The former multiculturalism and defence minister, who hopes to beat Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2019, supped with Clark Wilson lawyer Lyall Knott, Trigate Properties boss Alex G. Tsakumis, Kiewit business development director Glen Arthur, outgoing Vancouver Langara Liberal MLA Moira Stilwell, Kenney’s mentor and former cabinet mate Stockwell Day, and Felicity Webb, the mother of late Stephen Harper aide Shaun Webb,” Mackin wrote in an online publication he runs called The Breaker.

“Curious ears heard Kenney reveal that Alberta may officially unite the right as soon as this weekend,” Makin added intriguingly. (Emphasis added.)

“Acknowledging the prospect of a B.C. NDP win on May 9, Kenney urged all to get behind the B.C. Liberal Party, despite many in the room being no fans of dyed-in-the-wool federal Liberal Christy Clark,” the long-time Vancouver-area sports reporter wrote in the gossipy piece.

One caveat here: The foregoing is Mackin’s analysis, not mine. From the perspective of Alberta, Clark sounds more like just another Tory, at the head of a slightly exotically named conservative party.

Regardless, it must come as a mild relief for B.C. Conservatives and Liberals alike to hear Kenney is campaigning for Premier Clark. One imagines, though, that he seeks divine intervention for the B.C. NDP when he is on his knees in private prayer. After all, the election of anti-pipeline Dippers in B.C. is more problematic than the re-election of now-cooperative Liberals would be for the pro-pipeline Alberta New Democrats led by Premier Rachel Notley.

Frankly, in my weak moments I’d been wondering if the missing PC leader might be wearing a Groucho Marxist fake moustache and campaigning in Kamloops or Creston for the New Democrats.

Alert readers will recall the shrieks of outrage on the Wildrose and PC right and in mainstream media when NDP cabinet minister Lori Sigurdson spent a day in the summer of 2015 campaigning in B.C. for a federal New Democrat candidate who once organized an anti-pipeline rally.

It will be interesting to see how the same commentators react to Kenney’s interference in the B.C. election. I anticipate the restful sound of crickets chirping.

Given the differences of opinion on pipeline development between the two New Democratic parties, Premier Notley has instructed her caucus and the government’s political employees not to go near the B.C. campaign.

As for Kenney, according to Mackin’s report, he “suggested that a B.C. Liberal re-election, coupled with a PC comeback in Alberta, could form a ‘firewall’ in Western Canada with Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party.”

Well, no one ever suggested Kenney wasn’t a good student of former national Conservative Maximo Lider Stephen Harper, whom he long served as a loyal cabinet lieutenant in Ottawa. Readers will recall the famous Alberta independentiste Firewall Manifesto that Harper signed back in 2001 with five other prominent right-wing cranks.

The Alberta premier at the time, Ralph Klein, filed the missive where it belonged, in the recycling bin. Perhaps this accounts for some the well-known animosity between Kenney and the late PC premier, which lingered for many years but has dissipated with Klein’s death and elevation to Tory sainthood.

After dinner, according to Mackin, Kenney was off to another dinner, this time featuring Indian cuisine. He was driven by a campaign volunteer for federal Conservative leadership candidate Andrew Scheer, a Saskatchewan MP known, like Kenney, for his opposition to women’s reproductive rights.

In a tweet yesterday, Kenney himself briefly surfaced, saying he was in Vancouver “for a conference.”

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David Climenhaga

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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...