Alberta Premier Jason Kenney trowelled it on a bit, perhaps as befits expectations in a provincial capital, but he generally managed a reasonably dignified performance as he said farewell to Queen Elizabeth on the steps of the Alberta Legislature yesterday.
At only 600 words almost on the button, if my transcription of his remarks is accurate, it was remarkably concise by Kenney’s usual rambling standards of public speaking. He also managed to keep his typical bombast in check.
Perhaps the premier was tired after spending 36 hours sitting on airplanes and standing in lineups to make a very public pilgrimage to London for the Queen’s lying in state.
Most likely the speech was put together by a professional speechwriter. Still, given some of its flourishes, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to learn that this was a eulogy Kenney composed in his head at 14 when he imagined he would be going to London for the Queen’s funeral instead of having to be back in Edmonton before a damp crowd of a couple of hundred souls on the steps of a provincial Legislature.
Accepting that the Queen acted with “goodness and dignity” is a sentiment most of us can sign on with under the circumstances, even if many of the rest of Kenney’s remarks seem on close examination to be a little over the top.
Thankfully, the premier managed to remember that memorial orations are best kept short, and he stuck to the script – although he didn’t quite manage to come in under Abraham Lincoln’s famously economical 239 words at Gettysburg.
If the crowds at yesterday’s ceremony in Edmonton didn’t compare with those in London, the monarchy isn’t a big part of most Canadians’ lives any more, except perhaps as a source of salacious gossip. Anyway, Kenney’s government made sure this wasn’t a day off in Alberta and urged employers instead to allow their employees merely a moment of respectful silence at their workstations.
The Royal Artillery fired off its guns 96 times to mark each year of the Queen’s life.
And the Royal Artillery Band, based in Edmonton, played such funereal favourites as Abide With Me and even a snippet of Vera Lynn’s 1939 hit We’ll Meet Again (don’t know where, don’t know when), which will be familiar to anyone who’s watched the apocalyptic final moments of Dr. Strangelove. Ms. Lynn died in 2020 at 103.
Given the circumstances, we can forgive Kenney for calling the Queen’s 70-year reign “the Elizabethan Era,” even though that one’s already taken.
There was a time some might have disapproved of a quote by the Pope being used to describe the Defender of the Faith, but this is a moment in history both secular and ecumenical. So why not?
It certainly wasn’t as shocking to Canadian Conservative sensibilities and paleoconservative media commentators as, say, a prime minister being caught on camera singing Queen hits on the eve of the Queen’s funeral!
And Kenney did not, to his credit and notwithstanding his religious convictions, call for the Queen to be proclaimed a saint – as someone actually did in the pages of the Globe and Mail yesterday!
As for his use of the phrase “Our Sovereign Lady the Queen,” one instinctively feels it should be followed by the words, “and the accused at bar.”
But Kenney was quite right to note that in Alberta the Queen will long be remembered in schools, in roadways, in mountains, and “in the newly renamed Queen Elizabeth the Second Building behind us” – as was predicted by the political blogger Dave Cournoyer two days before the government’s announcement that the provincially owned Federal Building would be at last be given a less confusing name.
Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani, Speaker Nathan Cooper, and NDP MLA Nicole Goehring, the previous government’s military liaison, also delivered short remarks.