Having been spotted out for shawarma in Calgary Tuesday night, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney cautiously emerged back into the artificial light of political life yesterday.
Rather than making an actual public appearance and risking having to answer rude questions by the province’s media, uncharacteristically uncooperative after Kenney’s two-week vacation ran to 23 days during which the province drifted leaderless through the fourth wave of the pandemic, Kenney settled for an hour-long Facebook Live audience with Alberta’s digitized commoners.
Beamed from his Calgary office, the premier shrugged, grimaced and gesticulated, offering rambling, often uninformative and occasionally incoherent responses to questions typed into their devices by supposedly random Albertans.
Clearly this is a man in love with the sound of his own voice, and untroubled by the lack of anyone else’s.
The effect of the premier’s surreality TV production was mildly disconcerting, and sometimes comedic in a Monty Python-esque manner, as when he favourably compared how his United Conservative Party government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic to the way the Alberta NDP didn’t deal with it when it wasn’t in power.
But if it had been, Kenney explained earnestly, it would have been “just massively devastating…Misery, and depression, mental-health crisis, addictions crisis, bankruptcies, financial collapse, would be incalculable.” Plus obesity, childhood obesity, he added moments later.
Well, nothing like that happened on his watch, did it?
Having dispensed with what the NDP didn’t do, Kenney moved along to a variety of other topics, imparting little news.
As for criticism he’d been unaccounted for as the province’s hospitals filled with new COVID patients, the premier intoned: “It’s important that a person in my position doesn’t burn out.”
Departing Conservative MP develops independent streak
It looks as if David Yurgdiga, the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake MP who recently announced he would not be seeking re-election after running afoul of Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole’s effort to give the federal Conservatives a new moderate look, is not going quietly into that good night.
Some of the social conservative ideas expressed by the former reeve of Athabasca County were apparently too much for O’Toole, who has spied an opportunity to get his name in the history books, and Yurdiga was accordingly given a gentle shove toward the door.
The last straw seems to have been the tarpatch MP’s too-public complaint about civil servants being required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they wanted to keep their jobs. “It is our job to stand up against this tyrannical idea that forces discrimination based on what Canadians choose to do with their bodies,” he proclaimed in an Aug. 13 new release.
That embarrassed the Conservative leader, who obviously knows it won’t take much to blow his recent stronger polling off course.
Now that he’s not seeking re-election, though, Yurdiga seems to be developing a more independent streak.
On Sunday, he published a Facebook post about a recent visit from his old pal Shawn McDonald. “I consider Shawn an amazing friend and businessman that always puts community first,” Yurdiga enthused. “Best wishes to Shawn McDonald in his quest to become the Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake.”
But isn’t loyal former United Conservative Party MLA Laila Goodridge the anointed one to replace Yurdiga on the Conservative benches of the House of Commons?
Well, yes, she is. No sooner had a Conservative spokesperson announced Yurdiga’s departure, supposedly for medical reasons, than Goodridge resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac la Biche to run for his job.
It turns out, though, that the riding association was not pleased. Indeed, local Conservative supporters were “appalled,” according to the news release the association published on Aug. 20. “Conservatives support grass roots democracy,” their statement huffed. “We have an elected Board and a paid membership that demands the right to choose their representative and expects our conservative policies and principles be upheld at all times.”
The association complained it was “completely blindsided” by Goodridge’s appointment.
“There was no discussion or consultation from the party with our board on any level,” the release said. “The federal party has failed to not only consult its conservative membership and the board, but has also grossly failed its conservative values and principles.”
As for McDonald, he is the candidate for the People’s Party of Canada.
Former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita acclaimed Alberta Party leader
Meanwhile, it looks like former Fort Mac area MP Brian Jean, later leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party, must not have been successful in his rumoured effort to get the nod to seek the leadership of the Alberta Party despite having been a member for an insufficient period of time.
At any rate, former Brooks mayor Barry Morishita was acclaimed Alberta Party leader Tuesday when, the party said, no one else put their name forward.
Morishita is also former president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
“The Alberta Party is committed to solutions and changes that are practical, affordable and rooted in local communities,” the new leader said in a soporific news release.
Morishita will be the Alberta Party’s fifth leader in its current iteration as a centrist party supposedly committed new ways of doing politics, and its 13th if you count its pre-history as a right-wing fringe party before the name ended up in slightly more progressive hands.
Despite its promising name, a success getting an MP elected under its own banner (Greg Clark), and a high-profile leader (former Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel) it has never really managed to get on the radar with Alberta voters.
Well, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…
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.