[Point de vue de Rodolphe Husny] Jason Kenney, Alberta’s Most Francophile Premier

The author is a former conservative strategist. He was a political adviser in the Harper government as well as in the opposition.

Tomorrow evening, we will know the results of the vote of the members of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and we will know who will replace Jason Kenney as Premier of Alberta. Mr. Kenney announced his departure on May 18, after obtaining only 51.4% of the votes in a vote of confidence in his leadership.

In conservative circles, to denounce state interference and interventionism, some use the image of the yellow line in the middle of the road delimiting the traffic lanes. It is somewhat this reality that Prime Minister Kenney had to face during the health crisis with part of his caucus.

On the one hand, he was accused of having intervened more often than necessary by imposing too many restrictions; on the other, it was judged that he had not done enough and that he had signaled the end of deconfinement too soon. ” [You’re] damned if you do and damned if you don’t”, wants the English expression. This phrase must have been floating around in Mr. Kenney’s head for many months. Whatever he did, he always found someone to tell him he was wrong.

The change of direction at the head of Alberta will have an impact on Quebec. Jason Kenney will have been the most Francophile premier that Alberta has ever had, with a real sensitivity for Quebec. His first visit as Premier of Alberta had been to La Belle Province.

With his departure, François Legault loses an ally at the Council of the Federation in his standoff to increase the share of federal funding in health care. The reality of Canadian federalism is that when Alberta and Quebec are aligned, it is very difficult for Ottawa to ignore provincial demands. It is an essential alliance in the dynamics of federal-provincial relations.

A skilful and indefatigable politician

I began my activism in the Conservative Party of Canada (PCC) alongside Jason Kenney, as an accompanist during his visits to Quebec, from 2009 to 2011. It was not easy.

Appointed Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism in October 2008, he had a series of meetings at a frantic pace. He could participate in more than 20 events in one day. Spending a weekend with Minister Kenney took me days to recover from. And while I caught my breath, he continued to travel across the country seven days a week. Some had given him the nickname “Curry in a hurry” to illustrate the fact that he was everywhere, but never took only one bite at a time, without ever sitting down, because the list of places he wanted to cover was very long, even endless.

He must be credited with playing an important role in the victory of the majority Conservative government in 2011. It is indeed thanks to his hard work that the CPC succeeded in rebuilding ties with the cultural communities that the Liberals had taken for granted for too long in country.

Very skilful, Jason Kenney can address representatives of all origins with a precise knowledge of their specific sensitivities and the issues that affect their communities. His learning of religions is legendary and he can converse with any religious leader with equal ease.

Jason Kenney also knows how to criticize the Communist regime in Beijing without being accused of being anti-Chinese, which the CCP failed to do in 2019 and 2021, resulting in the loss of seats in the Vancouver and Toronto areas. There was influence from the Chinese communist regime in the last election, but the CCP didn’t have Jason Kenney to try to balance it out. Mr. Kenney was absent from the trenches, and the party had to do without the personal ties he had cultivated across the country, with the result that we know.

When the Conservative government fell in 2015, Jason Kenney did not stay on the opposition benches idly for long. He could have waited for the opportune moment, the wear and tear of Justin Trudeau’s power, to present himself as a natural successor to Stephen Harper. But it would have been wrong to know him. Jason Kenney thrives on the challenge. And he faced quite the challenge when he made the jump to provincial politics in Alberta in 2016.

A good preservative

He achieved the feat of being elected provincial deputy and winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party (PPC) of Alberta with more than 75% of the vote. He merged the PPC with the right-wing Wildrose party and won the leadership of the new PCU, which he had just created, with 61% of the vote. He won the general election and became Premier of Alberta, with a majority government, on April 16, 2019. All this in a record time of less than three years. He was then compared to Ralph Klein, who led Alberta for 14 years. According to all analysts, the fate of Jason Kenney and that of Alberta were linked for a good decade.

Mr. Kenney has served Canada well. He made mistakes, like any prime minister, but he is known for his loyalty, and no one can doubt his dedication to public service. He demonstrated this during 19 years as a Member of Parliament, including seven as a minister and three and a half as Premier of Alberta. At just 54 years old, he is one of the most talented politicians of his generation.

Some have accused Jason Kenney of not being conservative enough. Last April, during a virtual meeting on Facebook, a participant asked him about conspiracy theories linked to the firm Deloitte. Mr. Kenney had advised him “to favor decaffeinated coffee, to spend less time on the Internet and to get some fresh air”. He had concluded the exchange by saying that there was no black helicopter in the way, in reference to conspiracy theories anticipating a military takeover. Jason Kenney has a sense of repartee.

Jason Kenney trained a generation of politicians and political advisors. He was a mentor to many. We don’t know what the future will hold for him. Politics is thankless. We often say that we have to wait for our departure, voluntary or not, so that people can say good things about us and recognize our contribution. Today, the young militant that I was, who started in politics at 26 and learned the workings at your side, thank you from the bottom of my heart, Prime Minister.

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