A photo of the United Conservative Party Caucus in happier times – for them, anyway – in July 2019, celebrating their vote to allow schools to inform parents when their children joined gay-straight alliance groups, part of the Summer of Repeal, such as it was.
Some honourable … oh, never mind. The United Conservative Party Caucus in happier times – for them, anyway – in July 2019, celebrating their vote to allow schools to inform parents when their children joined gay-straight alliance groups, part of the Summer of Repeal, such as it was. Credit: Ric McIver / Twitter Credit: Ric McIver / Twitter

Do you remember that time Jason Kenney promised a Summer of Repeal

Back in 2017, the night he won the leadership of the United Conservative Party (UCP), Kenney famously vowed: “We’re going to shut down the air conditioners in the Legislature to focus people’s attention, and reduce our carbon footprint, and we are going to work hard to repeal each element of the disastrous NDP legislative and regulatory record.”

Who can deny that those were the days of unbridled Conservative ambition, even if that NDP record is starting to look pretty good nowadays?

A summer of repeal was not exactly the way things played out after the UCP won the provincial election in April 2019, although over time the party’s MLAs did manage to repeal quite a bit of NDP legislation, but give them props for ambition.

After that, in 2021, came the Best Summer Ever, in which Kenney was supposed to slay the COVID-19 dragon that had showed up in time for the edgy summer of 2020 and Albertans would get to live happily ever after in the best little semi-autonomous jurisdiction on earth. 

That didn’t work out exactly as promised either, although the results were certainly more dramatic as Kenney eventually managed to infuriate almost everyone, from hard-nosed science believers to hard-line anti-vaxxers. 

Who knew? It turns out politics isn’t like journalism, where it’s often thought that if you’re pissing everyone off, you must be doing something right. 

Now it’s 2022, the days are getting longer and warmer, and we’re looking forward to the summer of … what exactly? Resignation? 

The Summer of Resignation. That sounds about right. 

For one thing, Kenney has promised to resign and the entire province waits quietly, hoping and praying he’ll keep his promise. 

As for the rest of his MLAs, they seem to be resigned to the idea that about the best they can do is hang onto power by their fingernails, individually or collectively.

Ambition? Well, they’d still like to privatize heath care, but they’re trying to sneak that past us as a way to make public health care better – a proposition that can apparently fool some of the people around here some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time.

Most of their big plans, though, are going to have to fly under the radar for a spell. 

As a measure of legislative ambition, let’s chart the first piece of legislation in each legislative session of the UCP’s tenure to see its shrinking expectations in action.

Bill 1, 2019: An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax – boy, that’ll show those Dippers and Libs!

Bill 1, 2020: The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act – making protest illegal to stop those railway blockaders in their tracks! 

Bill 1, 2022: The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Recognition ActUmmmm … Anyone notice a trend? 

Who would have thought in 2019 that by 2022, Jason Kenney would be bragging to Senators – the ones in Washington D.C., not the Bytown hockey team – that “Alberta was the first place in North America to implement carbon pricing!”

Or that the very next day his own party’s members would try to fire him … with fistfights soon threatening to break out in caucus between Kenney loyalists and would-be anti-Kenney coupsters!

Who would have thought in 2021 that by 2022 the UCP would be afraid to use its vaunted Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to stop a border blockade by armed lunatics at Coutts because, basically, it turned out they were the UCP base? Not to mention, in some cases, members of the UCP Caucus.

In retrospect, it probably should have been obvious that gunned up white guys in big trucks weren’t who the UCP had in mind when they passed the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act

And who would have thought that by 2022 – which has surely been a royal annus horribilis for the Kenney Government – that the UCP would be promoting a bill to defy Canadian Parliamentary tradition by allowing former provincial cabinet ministers to go through life calling themselves “the Honourable” Mr. or Ms. So-and-So?

I mean, seriously?

Shrinking ambition

To date, most Alberta media that have bothered to cover this nominal frippery have treated it as a joke.

I’m not so sure it’s all that funny, though. 

It seems like a worthwhile yardstick, however, of the UCP’s shriveling ambitions. 

The Old Progressive Conservatives could be justly accused of being a political party with no purpose except to stay in power. 

The UCP can’t even guarantee a sinecure to its leader’s most loyal retainers beyond wasting the Legislature’s time passing a bill that will allow them to fade into obscurity calling each other the honourable this or that!

Alas, they won’t be real Privy Counsellors, like retired federal cabinet ministers – like Kenney for that matter – and they’ll always know it. Talk about a second-rate honorific! 

And surely even a dyed-in-the-wool republican would agree that Queen Elizabeth II – who became the sovereign on Feb. 6, 1952, and has by most measures of monarchial accomplishment had a pretty successful reign – deserves a better thank-you-and-so-long than a tacky honorific for a few dozen surviving Alberta cabinet ministers and 7,000 inexpensive (not platinum) Platinum Jubilee medals for their pals.

Talk about diminished expectations!

At the very least the UCP could also name its legislation allowing dogs on patios (if they promise not to walk through the kitchen on the way to the off-leash area) after one of Her Majesty’s many corgis, cocker spaniels and “dorgis.”

That would be a true royal tribute worthy of Alberta, and proof to boot the UCP still has some novel legislative ambitions!

And there are plenty of options, among them: Monty, Emma, Linnet, Willow, Holly, Bisto, Oxo, Flash, Cider, Berry, Vulcan, Candy, Spick and Span. 

Personally, I favour Bisto’s Bill. But take your pick.

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...