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FILDEBRANDT: Kenney culls Rehn from the herd, but none of it adds up

“If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb, it raises even bigger question about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.”

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The Great Snowbird Scandal has finally claimed its first real political victim. On Thursday morning, Jason Kenney fired Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn from the UCP Caucus. But none of it adds up.

Rehn – for all his political sin of travelling to Mexico during his own government’s lockdown – was just one of seven snowbird MLAs.

Former Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was forced to resign from cabinet –a demotion to be sure – but she still remains comfortably in the UCP benches. Jeremy Nixon, Jason Stephan, Tanya Fir, and Tany Yao all still enjoy full membership in the UCP Caucus.

Why is Pat Rehn the only one to be exiled to northwest corner of the legislature – otherwise known as ‘Siberia’?

Publicly at least, Kenney’s statement on the unilateral firing did not mention the Snowbird Scandal at all.

“The most important job of an MLA is to represent his or her constituents,” Kenney wrote in his statement. “It has become clear that Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has failed to do so. He has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents.”

“I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency. He has ignored calls from me, UCP Caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so.”

So the Snowbird Scandal had nothing to do with it, on paper at least. He was fired because he was an absentee MLA not working very hard, according to Kenney. It’s a curious reasoning that requires some scratching below the surface.

The Slave Lake Town Council issued a scathing letter on January 5 with a laundry list of sins committed by Rehn, including their claim that he doesn’t live in Slave Lake. In fact, they allege that he mostly lives in Texas, something Rehn denies.

While Texas would be a bit far aboard, I have a spoiler for readers: many, many MLAs and MPs do not reside full-time in their constituencies.

Even Jason Kenney himself does not live in his Calgary-Lougheed constituency. In fact, there is pretty strong evidence that he didn’t quite live in Alberta for much of the time that he was a Calgary MP.

It doesn’t really matter, so long as an MP or MLA works hard for their constituents, and earns their support come election day. At the end of the day, constituency boundaries are largely arbitrary lines on a map, drawn up by political appointees.

But for Pat Rehn alone, it appears to have mattered to Kenney.

Kenney official reason given – that he wasn’t working hard or around the constituency – holds no water.

Most backbench MLAs – especially those on the government side of the house – have remarkably little of importance to do. They read cue cards with pre-scripted puffball questions and pablum speeches written by staffers when the legislature is in session. When the legislation is not in session, their biggest job is to show up and be seen kissing babies at their local legion.

Most complaints about Rehn from his constituency is that he wasn’t kissing enough babies. Is that alone really cause to fire an MLA from the caucus?

For those not born yesterday, something clearly doesn’t add up.

So why was Pat Rehn really fired by Kenney?

Western Standard reporters have obtained some interesting documents that appear to cast a new shadow over Rehn. Our reporters will do their due diligence with these documents before we discuss them publicly, but if they are what they appear to be, then this is the real reason that Kenney sacked Rehn.

We can only hope that Kenney did his due diligence with these documents first.

But even if these documents prove the worst possible scenario, Rehn deserves a chance to explain himself fairly.

If the UCP had kept its promise to pass recall legislation, then his constituents could judge for themselves. But, they could also decide to pass judgement on the other six snowbirds.

Was Rehn just a sacrificial lamb for the other six Snowbird MLAs? A Mainstreet Research poll conducted for the Western Standard found 68 per cent of Albertans want Kenney to fire all seven (known) Snowbirds. Alarmingly, 41 per cent even wanted Kenney himself to resign over the matter, including 21 per cent of those who voted UCP last time.

If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb for this scandal, it raises even bigger questions about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.

Perhaps Rehn was a rogue and this was a convenient opportunity to cull him from the herd.

One way or another, we don’t know the whole story. I’d be surprised if we know half of it yet.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative Parties. From 2009-2012 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. LoveUnity

    January 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    I think the probable MAJOR reason is Kenney did not think anyone should be penalized for taking a holiday when they SAFELY DID SO. Probably expected them to do so. Hence other reasons had to exist for the one more total turfing.

    Those reasons can be the ones given. The others DID NOTHING WRONG, and therefor should not even have suffered the less severe penalties assigned. But the clamor was there, and nothing came from the press to make it seem easily enough defensible to ignore.
    Douglas Hendrickson

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Not so quick with allegations of hate crimes

It wasn’t a fair fight, but a police investigation determined it was also not a hate crime.

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On the surface, a gang of white boys piling on one black boy sure looked like it could be a hate crime.

As it turns out, there was more to the story regarding the April 16 attack in an Edmonton schoolyard.

It wasn’t a fair fight, but a police investigation determined it was also not a hate crime.

A video of the incident, during which the 14-year-old was swarmed and beaten is painful to watch.  It made local news and the “racist” incident was featured on the CBC The National.

That seven boys, all aged 14 but for one 12-year-old, attacked one boy is profoundly disturbing. Whoever stood back to video this is just as guilty as his bully buddies who kicked, punched and put the victim in a chokehold. 

Predictably, some swiftly concluded this attack was purely driven by racial hatred. The facts be damned.

They didn’t talk to the boys involved. 

But police did.

The hate crimes unit concluded this incident didn’t meet the Criminal Code criteria for a hate crime.

“There is still not sufficient evidence that this event was motivated by hate bias or prejudice toward the complainant’s race,” said Edmonton Police Service chief Dale McFee. “As such, it does not currently meet the Criminal Code threshold for a hate-motivated crime.”

During the melee one of the boys yelled out the nasty N-word. McFee rightfully acknowledged this as “highly inappropriate” but not sufficient to meet hate crime standards.

Police discovered the boys had a troubled history but didn’t elaborate.

“Our investigation currently shows this began as a consensual schoolyard fight and was part of an ongoing dispute between a group of male youths, that reportedly started last year,” said McFee.

Admittedly, McFee’s choice of the word consensual is cringeworthy considering that the victim was grossly outnumbered. McFee opened himself up to criticism and is obliged to explain why police arrived at this conclusion.

Police everywhere are working under a microscope, constantly being accused of discriminating against minorities. With budgets being slashed and calls to defund them, they can’t afford to be careless or callous. 

After hearing the results of the investigation, one anti-racism activist with A Fight For Equality insisted it was a hate crime and said charges should be laid against the boys. Essentially, this is a demand for police to ignore the Criminal Code. 

Canada cannot ever go down that slippery slope.

Other activists accused police of not getting the zero-tolerance for hate crimes message across.

What are they doing as activists to bring people with all skin colours together and repair relations in communities? How are they helping to teach their children tolerance and that beating up anyone is unacceptable? 

Knee-jerk reactions fuel division, create unwarranted fear and anger, and are grossly unfair to victims and perpetrators. To wrongly insist this was hate crime doesn’t help these boys who should be the priority. It ignores the root of why this happened and interferes with determining appropriate punishment. A problem, not honestly addressed, doesn’t get fixed.

The reaction to this incident is symptomatic of a growing Canada-wide problem.

McFee dared to say race wasn’t a factor. This is something Canadians are increasingly afraid to say out loud, even when true.

These days, people who denounce or even question accusations of race-based hate are – sometimes viciously – targeted as racist. That’s a bad thing to be. False accusations can destroy reputations. 

Race baiters, seeking to support agendas or personal biases, skillfully use this fear tactic to silence anyone who challenges potentially unfounded claims. 

We must cautiously discern between those who earnestly want unity and seek to protect victims of hate and those seeking to serve their own interests.

Yes, there are racists in Canada. 

No, Canada’s not a systematically racist country.

When Canadians learn someone has been the victim of a hate crime it tears at their hearts. They generously support activist groups who fundraise off of every incident. Ironic isn’t it? 

Moving forward, we must tread carefully on this issue of alleged systematic racism some insist permeates Canada.

Meanwhile, the definition of hate-crime victims sometimes gets confusing.

If seven black boys had attacked one white boy would anyone call it a hate crime? Or would it have been recognized for what it was? 

In today’s climate that’s an uncomfortable, but fair, question. 

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Political Columnist for the Western Standard.

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Opinion

HARDING: Maverick is poised to make gains as Conservatives turn their back on the West

“Until recently, the party said it will run candidates solely in ridings where a “split” of the vote wouldn’t elect a Liberal or New Democrat. Since O’Toole’s carbon tax flip-flop, interim party leader Jay Hill has hinted he may drop this policy and run in tighter races, seeing little difference between the Tories and Liberals on western issues.”

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In the coming federal election, whenever it may be, the Conservative Party is positioning itself to lose a significant portion of its western and rural base to the upstart Maverick Party. It’s not hard to see why. 

The policies and person of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fanned the flames of western discontent, and even independence in some quarters. Outdoing all his predecessors since Brian Mulroney, federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has taken the west for granted. In a bid to win more votes in Toronto and Quebec, he has embraced a huge carbon tax with enthusiasm. It could just prove to be the most hated policy on the prairies.

Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax Petro Points plan turned some party faithful into real doubters, or downright hostile ones. Even the phrase “carbon Petro Points plan,” plainly demonstrates the mixture of a bad idea made worse by a gimmicky joke. Even Trudeau’s tax-and-give-it-back-to-you premise – however punishing – is still better than the Tory proposal. O’Toole wants to tax you, but deny he’s taxing you and leave you no recourse to recover your seized money except to make “green” government-approved expenditures. The anti-oil movement meets the nanny state, with a vengeance.

And O’Toole will actually campaign on the idea. The only previous time a major federal opposition leader openly campaigned on a carbon tax was the Stephane Dion Liberals of 2008. They had the most dismal showing in Liberal history to that date, thanks in part to Conservative attack ads that said, “Stephane Dion is not a leader,” and Harper’s comments that his carbon tax was “a tax on everything” that will “screw everybody.” The same could be said of Erin O’Toole and his carbon tax. Obviously, he must have some savvy, having won the Conservative leadership, but his about-face on the carbon tax has turned his reception from “meh” to “blech.”

A recent encounter brought home the seriousness of O’ Toole’s miscalculation for me. At the Chris Sky rally in Regina, I met a man from the Assiniboia Sask. area who told me, “A lot of people are saying they’re not voting Conservative anymore. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

If you don’t know Assiniboia, it’s got about 2,400 people and the closest place with more people, Moose Jaw, is an hour’s drive away. It’s farming and ranching all the way, though the coal-fired power plant in nearby Coronach is a big employer. 

In rural Saskatchewan, the two things heard most often in the 2019 election were: “The election is over as soon as it hits the Manitoba border” and “If Trudeau gets in again, I’m all for Western independence.”

The Maverick Party is best positioned to capitalize on that sentiment. Until recently, the party said it will run candidates solely in ridings where a “split” of the vote wouldn’t elect a Liberal or New Democrat. Since O’Toole’s carbon tax flip-flop, interim party leader Jay Hill has hinted he may drop this policy and run in tighter races, seeing little difference between the Tories and Liberals on western issues.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier gets it on many of the big western issues, but the loss of his own Quebec seat in the last election left a vacuum in the west for discontented conservatives. With no major party capable of electing MPs to champion western issues, Maverick is poised to fill that vacuum.

The late Joseph Garcea, a University of Saskatchewan political science professor who died in November, shared an important insight on the last provincial election. He said the Saskatchewan NDP had many little policy ideas, but no big idea to rally support. Similarly, the PPC has many little ideas. It’s hard to convince people to vote for change with little ideas. The Maverick Party has a big – and some would say radical idea: an independent west – whether within confederation or apart from it.

People make decisions emotionally, then justify them rationally. The Maverick Party will harness both the anger and grievance in western alienation and the hope found in western independence. The Maverick platform adds substance to the sentiment.

As a fresh party with rookie campaign teams, I’d be surprised if Maverick won any seats. However, they stand a good shot of landing plenty of second place finishes. That might be enough to make O’ Toole remember the West. If the Mavericks can do that, it will be accomplishment enough.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

MORGAN: I was a part of Kenney base. No longer

“I know who Kenney’s base was. The base hasn’t changed. Jason Kenney has.”

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I was a part of Jason Kenney’s base.

Like most Albertans after 2015, I was mortified that we had managed to give the NDP a majority government due to our incessant political infighting and corruption in conservative ranks. I was eager and searching for a way to free ourselves from a provincial government that was farther to the left than Ottawa’s Liberals. I was ready to embrace pragmatism and compromise on the partisan front to ensure that Rachel Notley was a single-term premier, or as Jason Kenney put it, “one and done.”

Jason Kenney entered the Alberta political scene and offered us a plan. He showed us a path to conservative unity and he offered to lead us there. I was thrilled.

I have always respected and admired Jason Kenney. As a fiscal watchdog with the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, Kenney mercilessly held Ralph Klein’s feet to the fire in the 1990s on issues of spending and corporate welfare. As a Reform Party MP, Kenney took the Chretien Liberals to task on spending and corruption. Kenney deserves some of the credit for the balanced budgets that both Klein and Chretien eventually presented. It takes steady, reasonable pressure in order to get government leaders to take on tough tasks and Kenney was masterful at putting that pressure on.

As a cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper government, Jason Kenney was no less impressive. Immigration has always been a difficult file for conservative governments and as the Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Kenney made great inroads into relations with immigrant communities and was respected across the country. Kenney was no slouch in other ministerial portfolios as well and it has been long established that his parliamentary work ethic is second to none.

Because of that impressive political resume, I was confident that Kenney was the man who would bring Alberta back into being a province known for good, no-nonsense conservative governance.

I supported Kenney’s efforts to unite the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Parties. I encouraged people to buy memberships in both parties and to vote to merge. I supported Kenney in his multiple leadership races and I supported the UCP in the 2019 Alberta election.

I know who Kenney’s base was. The base hasn’t changed. Jason Kenney has.

The Western Standard reported in an exclusive story, Premier Kenney said, in reference to Albertans who attended a rodeo south of Bowden last week, “If they are our base, I want a new base.”

I didn’t expect Premier Kenney to endorse or support the rodeo. Indeed, it was intentionally modelled to be in defiance of provincial regulations. Kenney clearly realized that the attendees of the rodeo did represent a large part of his base, and while that doesn’t obligate him to support them, it does obligate him to respect them. Kenney instead chose to insult them in public, and show contempt for them in private.

We were your base Premier Kenney, but we aren’t any longer. As for your new base, I am not sure where you expect them to come from. Rest assured, you will not be winning any love from NDP supporters no matter how much you spend or suppress individual rights.

Jason Kenney has turned into a terrible disappointment as Alberta’s premier and it is well reflected in his current support numbers. Kenney’s support among his base was slipping well before the pandemic struck. In this year of crisis however, Kenney’s support has truly evaporated. Kenney has tried to be everything to everybody, and ended up being nothing to anybody. It is a fate that befell Jim Prentice before him.

The conservative base hasn’t left Alberta. They have simply left Jason Kenney and it appears that he is just fine with that.

The base will not go back to Jason Kenney after having been abandoned and taken for granted by him though and he can’t win the next election without them.

The base will find a new home. It may be through replacing Jason Kenney within the UCP, or through a new partisan vehicle. That base may dominate in the next provincial election or we may end up with another NDP government. Time will tell.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and the Host of the Cory Morgan Show



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