Based on what we’ve learned in the past day, it’s hard to dispute Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s blunt assessment at her nomination meeting in the Edmonton-Strathcona riding on March 17 that Opposition Leader Jason Kenney has been coolly lying about the role of his 2017 leadership campaign in the so-called “Kamikaze Mission” to sink his rival to lead the opposition United Conservative Party.
Accusing Kenney of “a profound absence of integrity,” Premier Notley told more than 1,000 cheering supporters in Old Strathcona’s St. Basil’s Cultural Centre that leaked United Conservative Party documents reported by journalists over the weekend showed Kenney’s “denials were calm, cool, confident lies. Outright lies.”
“Mr. Kenney owes Albertans a full accounting, not just empty denials,” she stated.
Soon after she accepted the nomination by her son Ethan and addressed the packed meeting, Notley told reporters “the evidence that has come out and the memos that have come out make it pretty clear that on Friday, when Mr. Kenney … responded very calmly and coolly and confidently to those questions, that he was lying. He was absolutely lying.”
And so, inevitably, the ballot question for many Albertans in the election Notley will call soon will be, “Can Jason Kenney be trusted?”
Or, perhaps, to spin the same question another way, “What else can he not be trusted about.”
If this is so, it is not the question the UCP’s strategists would have wanted Albertans to be asking themselves.
The documents first reported by the CBC and now in the hands of other news organizations show Kenney’s victorious 2017 UCP leadership campaign and that of Jeff Callaway, the alleged Kamikaze Candidate, were effectively joined at the hip. The CBC reported that the Kenney crew gave the Callaway camp strategic direction, talking points, speech drafts, videos, and advertisements, “all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”
In her spirited remarks — a campaign speech in all but timing — Premier Notley sharply contrasted her NDP Government’s platform with promises made by Kenney.
“This election is about who is going to be premier. It’s about the kind of province that we leave to our kids. And I say to all of you, that the choice could not be more stark.
“Mr. Kenney believes we are in a race to the bottom. The lowest corporate taxes, the worst environmental regulations, underfunded and overstressed public services, low wages, stressed out families desperately trying to make ends meet. Angry and divisive politics. Two Albertas.
“I believe that we are in a race to the top. I believe that good public schools give our kids the best start in life. I believe that good public health care is the foundation of a decent society. I believe that we can do the hard work of diversification to build an economy that works for everyone. And I believe Alberta is stronger when we stick together and take care of each other.
“Alberta is for all of us. One Alberta. Not just for the few, but for all of us. And, friends, I believe that Alberta’s best days are absolutely ahead, and that the politics of love, and hope, and optimism always trump the politics of anger, division and fear.”
On Kenney’s plan to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, she said: “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class gets squeezed.”
On his vow to cut minimum wages for young people: “All work has dignity no matter who does it. There are no second class citizens in Alberta.”
She poked fun at Kenney’s recent suggestion that male candidates “understand tactical politics a little bit better than women.” She has “an unladylike flair for tactical politics,” she observed, to laughter.
And she mocked the UCP’s vociferous recent demands that she call an election as soon as possible. “We’re getting clearer and clearer insight into why it was that the UCP was so hysterically calling for the writ to be dropped,” she told the reporters after her speech.
Either way, she said, the timing of the election will not be based on the strategic needs of the UCP. “If our election timing was driven by the calendar of investigation into Conservative criminal wrongdoing, then we would never have a campaign.”
Notley got some support on March 17 from an unexpected quarter when former Kenney ally Derek Fildebrandt, a man once touted as the conservative most likely to play the role of the Kamikaze Candidate and now leader of the libertarian Freedom Conservative Party, told the CBC, “not everyone that brings forward an allegation is necessarily credible or telling the truth, but these are now backed up by hard evidence.”
“The documents released last night show clearly that it is not the whistle-blowers that have lied, but Jason Kenney,” he stated.
The Notley Government’s Speech from the Throne will be read by Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton this afternoon.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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