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FILDEBRANDT: Kenney’s problem with the base, and the base’s problem with Kenney

“The base has had a growing problem with Jason Kenney for some time. Now Kenney has a problem with the base.”

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It’s been long known, but never said aloud by the man himself: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has a problem with his base.

During a tense caucus meeting Sunday, a UCP MLA questioned if the leader of the party should so publicly and derisively attack the attendees of the ‘End the Lockdown Rodeo’ in Bowden, Alberta, since these people were the party’s core base.

“If they are our base, I want a new base” said Kenney.

Three UCP MLAs confirmed that the premier said this to the Western Standard’s Dave Naylor.

It’s a frank and sobering admission from the man that fired up that party’s base when he led the effort to fuse together the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.

The UCP base is dominantly former Wildrose voters, concentrated in rural Alberta and the suburban neighbourhoods of Calgary. They are largely populist, anti-Ottawa, sometimes sovereigntist, and overwhelmingly anti-lockdown.

Long before Kenney put Alberta back under a third lockdown, this base has been increasingly unhappy with their man.

The man who railed against the Laurentian elites on his way to the Premier’s Office, hired Laurentian elites by the busload to staff said office.

A poll last month showed an incredible 75% of Albertans disapprove of how Kenney has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, down from an 80% approval the year before. Those 75% disagreeing with him are made up of left-leaning voters who want to see ever-harsher lockdowns and restrictions, and even more-so of right-leaning voters who believe that he has been far too harsh.

In fact, a clear majority of UCP voters oppose the UCP’s lockdown policies. Those numbers do not include the roughly 10% of voters who have already decamped the big blue tent for the upstart Wildrose Independence Party.

Kenney has admitted that he has a problem with his base, but the base has increasingly had a problem with him, spurred on by, but preceding COVID-19.

The re-election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October 2019 saw an outburst of support for independence in the province, which Mainstreet Research pegged at 35% in January of 2021. This 35% may not be a majority of Albertans, but it does make up the majority of the UCP voter base.

Kenney’s response to this movement amongst his base was to strike the ‘Fair Deal Panel’. He did talk tough and promise serious consideration of a series of firewall measures to keep Ottawa at bay, while remaining in confederation.

The traveling Fair Deal roadshow did much to work sovereignties up into a lather, but delivered relatively little in its final report.

This comes to the crux of Jason Kenney’s problem with his base.

For Kenney’s nearly 20 years in Ottawa, “the base” has mostly been made up of social conservatives. Canadian social conservatives are the democratic world’s most easy electorate to manage for a conservative party. With a few exceptions, most Canadian social conservatives do not demand action on their policy objectives in exchange for support; only respect and the right to be heard within the larger Conservative tent.

Learning at the feet of Stephen Harper, Kenney learned that by just listening to their frustrations, they would vote, donate, and volunteer in massive numbers, in exchange for relatively little.

This is “the base” that Jason Kenney believed he was coming to lead in Alberta. As he is learning now, it is not.

“The base” in Alberta provincial politics does contain social conservative elements, but overlaps in a Venn diagram with anti-Ottawa/sovereigntist, anti-establishment populists, agriculture and energy interests, libertarians, and landowners.

The former Wildrose Party was less a ‘party’, than a movement of largely independent-minded individuals who shared a common enemy: the Progressive Conservatives. This is why the Wildrose was always so difficult a task for Danielle Smith and Brian Jean to lead. It is not the low-maintenance monolith that Jason Kenney believed it to be.

Kenney is now appalled that “the base” in Alberta demands more than the lip service that normally did the trick in federal politics. They are not content with mere respect.

Now, even that respect appears to be gone. As the rogue rodeo in Bowden went forward despite his government’s best efforts, he blasted the attendees. The event itself was “disturbing”. The people there were “selfish”. The people there don’t care for the vulnerable.

Kenney’s declaration that he wants a “new base” – while not intended to ever be heard by the base – is an admission that he can no longer dance with the lady that brung’ em’. It is increasingly hostile to his policies and leadership.

Try as they might, “the base” is unlikely to succeed in pushing Kenney out of the party’s leadership. He is just too strong a political operative to allow that to happen. A leadership review vote demanded by angry UCP members will – come hell or high water – in all probability fail to dislodge him. And a potential caucus effort to remove him directly from the premiership could be met by his wild threat to them of an early election.

In the end, Kenney isn’t likely going anywhere until he faces voters in 2023.

The base will have to make a decision: hold their noses and support their perceived lesser evil, or leave the party and join a new conservative civil war.

The base has had a growing problem with Jason Kenney for some time. Now Kenney has a problem with the base.

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 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Claudette Leece

    May 7, 2021 at 7:44 am

    Not that we didn’t know Kenney lies but thank you to his secretary for proving to us, what we believed was true. Pick up Kenney traded his truck for a Cadillac and needs to take it and drive back to Ottawa, he’s a fish out of water in Alberta, his MLA better realize if the wait and support him, they will go down with his sinking ship

  2. David

    May 5, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I moved away in 2017 for economic reasons, and I’m homesick every day. Thing is, today’s Alberta is so badly screwed up compared to just a few years ago. Back when Kenney rode in on a wave of revulsion for the NDP fiasco. When “Strong and Free” meant something. These days…

    … gotta be a better way. A Western Way. Coming home again soon, God willing.

  3. Baron Not Baron

    May 4, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    So.. Kenney was thinking that he’ll find champagne socialists in Alberta, like he was used to see in Ontario.. This imbecile must get the hell out of Alberta and ship his own ass back right where he came from and serves. Fast! This deceiver’s got blood on his hands and he’s got the audacity to keep screwing around with arrogance ?
    I have only one problem – he needs to be held accountable and punished for lying to the people who put him in his damn seat and for destroying Alberta, while showing us his ugly and full of fake grin. And only after he served the sentence he can go back east, and we don’t have to care further about this one.
    WILD ROSE INDEPENDENT PARTY is Alberta’s right choice!

  4. Steven Ruthven

    May 4, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    I second that motion. A leadership review in Oct 2021 for Jason Kenney.

  5. Jody Dahrouge

    May 4, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    If Jason wants a new base, then he should be willing to hold a leadership review sooner rather than later. Let’s see what the base has to say.

  6. originalkmiller

    May 4, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    This is excellent news for the Wildrose Independence Party. I hope we see a significant gain in membership over the next few weeks.

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Former general slamms Trudeau ‘stupdity’

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

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There’s truth, duty, and valour — the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada’s motto the honourable live by as they strive to keep promises made.

Then there’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s broken promises to thousands of Afghans stuck in a potential death trap, as hopes of evacuation to safety rapidly fade.

Afghans helped the Canadian military during their 2001-2104 Afghanistan mission, believing Canada’s promise to bring them here to safety if necessary. 

It’s years past necessary. Promises broken. They’re hiding in terror with their children — Lord help the little girls — from Taliban predators. 

“There’s a bunch of people running around with sharp knives looking for them. They wouldn’t be brought before a court. The Taliban would take their heads off,” retired Maj.-Gen. Clive Addy, former Land Force Western Area commander, told the Western Standard.

Faithful translators proved invaluable. 

“They were very good at passing information to soldiers to prevent them from getting bombed out, or things like that. There’s a myriad of human services they provided. It required a heck of a lot of skill, camouflage, truth. It was that kind of courage they showed on our behalf that we must show for them,” said Addy.

“Truth, duty, and valour. The truth is, the Taliban took over. They’re criminals. Now they’ve got the place. The people to whom we made a vow, we have the duty to fulfill it. And valour, we’ve got to have the guts to do it.” 

“I cannot, having served my country, sit here and watch us walk away from such an important commitment. We’re walking away.”

It’s not that Trudeau isn’t shovelling money into Afghanistan. He pledged an initial extra $50 million for humanitarian aid, topping $27.3 million allocated for 2021.

Recently, Trudeau gave $1.7 million to the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team (ASET), a group of Canadians and Afghans overseen by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), helping Afghan interpreters.

Of the 10,000 Afghan translators and their families they’ve identified, 1,760 are hiding in safe houses used since the U.S. withdrawal in August. 

The $3 million spent to date, at $20,000 a day, was donated by private citizens and corporations. 

Funds run out November 5. 

Shockingly, Trudeau stipulated the $1.7 million couldn’t be used for safe houses, only logistics.  

ASET is overseen by three retired Canadian major generals — Dean Milner, David Fraser, and Denis Thompson — all RMC graduates.

Bureaucrats, obediently wagging their tails for Trudeau, tell these military greats, all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan, where to spend money.

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

Trudeau’s foolishly hoping the devious Taliban — seeking cash and recognition as a legitimate government — will be good little terrorists keeping a promise to behave.

“I’m just shaking my head. I don’t know how they come up with this stupidity. The Taliban asked for support, and we’ve got immigration going through the UN prepared to give them money. But they’re not prepared to give money to people under threat,” said Addy.

“The Taliban have the gall to say ‘Our people are hungry, send money to the UN.’ We’re supporting that. I’m sure there’s some hungry Taliban that Canada might help. The rest of the people are starving.”

On the campaign trail, Trudeau said Canada would welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, a former Navy commander, doubled it to 40,000 at the UN General Assembly in September.

At an October G20 meeting, Trudeau proclaimed humanitarian assistance must continue, but urged the Taliban to respect rights of women and children. Urge away, it’ll never happen.

Trudeau also urged other countries to take in more refugees.

So far, Canada says it welcomed 3,700 Afghans. That disputed number’s likely 3,000. Many had already left Afghanistan and were ‘evacuated’ from safe countries. Less than 20% were interpreters and families.

Addy recently penned a letter to ministers and MPs to be signed by RMC alumni, outlining a blueprint of what Trudeau must do.

It stated the need to expedite funds to ASET; remove barriers restricting funds from being used for safe houses; remove documentation obstacles eliminating the need for passports by issuing single use travel documents to valid resettlement applicants allowing them to obtain Pakistan e-visas; issue facilitation letters to support the travel documents; and fund air charters for evacuation.

Addy, Milner, Fraser and Thompson aren’t the only retired commanders criticizing the government.

In August, retired general and former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier told CBC the evacuation operation is “cluttered” by bureaucratic clumsiness, inefficiency, and paperwork. Former lieutenant-general and Liberal MP Andrew Leslie echoed concerns.

Trudeau said the Taliban seized power so quickly, Canada couldn’t evacuate more people. Nonsense.  Military personnel and NGOs have fought for years to get interpreters out.

“I spent three years trying to bring in one of my good Afghans and family members. His file was in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada longer. No movement. Zero, with me picking on them daily, getting lawyers to help,” said VTN’s Milner.

“He was almost killed. The Taliban had his phone. He was a fighter. The Taliban wanted him big-time. We were able to sneak him and his seven lovely children out…They’re in Canada.”

The government, rightfully, says Afghans must be vetted. Hence, the delay. 

The VTN already vetted thousands, people they know well.

Who better to vet? A bureaucrat perusing applications? Or Canadians these Afghans fought beside?

The clock’s ticking Trudeau. 

It’s about truth, duty and valour, right Garneau? Being a RMC graduate, did you forget that part? 

Get them out.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Canada dithers while girls get beheaded for playing volleyball

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

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Mahjabin Hakimi was beheaded by the Taliban who then posted gruesome photos of her severed head on social media as a menacing warning to others. 

Why? The girl played volleyball.

Hakimi, a star player on the girls’ national team, was slaughtered in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

Time is running out for 1,760 Afghan translators and their families who’ve been kept safe only because of an effort led by retired Canadian top military commanders and carried out by non-governmental agencies and others.

For courageously risking their lives, Afghans were promised refuge in Canada if needed. They remain indefinitely trapped, betrayed by the Trudeau government. 

Despite endless political platitudes and promises, it isn’t the government doggedly working to get them out. 

About 10,000 Afghans who helped Canadians, identified by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), are targets of vengeful marauding medieval assassins hunting for them.

The VTN oversees the provision of emergency funds for shelter and support of the 1,760 during an agonizing wait for evacuation through the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team comprised of Canadians and Afghans.

The $20,000 a day cost since the Taliban seized power in August when the U.S. pulled out, has been manageable due to private and corporate donations.

Funds are running out. The lifeline’s gone in two weeks. 

Aman Lara, a Canadian non-governmental organization, works closely with the VTN. 

Retired Canadian lieutenant-colonel Eleanor Taylor, who is chief of staff, notified the Afghans Friday: “Due to the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, Aman Lara regretfully has to scale back accommodation support to Afghans in need of evacuation by November 5.

“We had expected that applications would be processed in a timely manner and evacuations would be swifter. Unfortunately, our ability to finance the accommodations has diminished and time has run out.”

Three retired major-generals — Dean Milner, Denis Thompson and David Fraser — have been working feverishly since July to evacuate these Afghans. They’re all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau assured Fraser the government is working on air charter evacuation flights to Pakistan and elsewhere and will investigate the problematic documentation process. 

He intends to pass along the VTN’s concerns to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino.

However, not much can be done until the October 26 cabinet shuffle, said Garneau. Then the new cabinet must settle in and Parliament won’t resume until November 22.

So, the federal government — and its cumbersome bureaucratic process that creates obstacles — continues along its useless path going nowhere.

Despite grand promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers evacuation efforts are sluggish.

“They all keep saying they’re going to support us. When?” asked Milner.

Months ago, Trudeau pledged to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees.

“Where are they coming from? Tell me. The Afghans that need to be supported are those in Afghanistan.”

The government claims it has evacuated 3,700 Afghans. 

“I think it’s over 3,000. Anything they said, I take it with exaggeration. No more than 20% were interpreters and their families,” said Milner.

That leaves embassy staff and Afghans already safe in other countries. 

“We don’t want the low-hanging fruit of other countries. The ones that did the work for us, that worked closely alongside us, are still stuck in miserable Afghanistan,” said Milner.

“We have over 10,000 Afghans in our group who still need to be evacuated. We’ve managed to bring a little over 300 through the border into Pakistan. We have a lot more to do,” said Milner.

That would include finding money to keep Afghans in safe houses. VTN asked the government for funding.

“We’ve been asking constantly. We’re getting support from many people. But the government still hasn’t bitten. They gave $1.7 million two weeks ago to keep us quiet. We couldn’t use that for safe houses. That was actually part of the policy.”

That money must be used to cover other expenses.

“That’s a drop in the bucket when you’re taking care of this many people. We’re paying to transport people across the country to Pakistan. We’re paying for buses. We’re paying for Afghans that are supporting us. We’re supporting a team trying to operationalize this and make it work. It doesn’t take much to eat up money.”

“Volunteers like me, I don’t need money,” said Milner.

Individual Canadians and “outstanding” companies like McCain Foods and Sobeys, donated nearly $3 million racked up in expenses so far.

“It has cost $20,000 a day since August for the safe houses. That’s not counting other life support and transportation costs.”

VTN is exploring ways to evacuate Afghans by land and on charter flights from Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, in Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city.

“We’d like to get going with charter air flights. The Taliban are now allowing flights into Afghanistan.”

But the $750,000 cost of one charter would “eat up” the safe house money left.

Why isn’t the government running charter flights?

No one’s flying out yet and the Taliban’s on the prowl. 

“There’s still an absolute danger. The Taliban are unpredictable. You can’t trust them. That’s why we fought them. Here they are now in power. They don’t like fun, they don’t like women, they don’t like school, they don’t like sporting activities.” 

“We get absolutely awful stories. We’re not going to stop until we get these Afghans out. We see it as a moral obligation. They supported us over there. They’re great people.”

TOMORROW: Truth Duty Valour vs. Trudeau’s broken promises.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

WAGNER: The left ignores growing support for Alberta independence at its peril

Angus Reid released its poll showing that over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

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A recent poll conducted by Mainstreet Research for the Western Standard showed new heights of support for Alberta independence. This demonstrates the movement is alive and not running out of steam. Just because the issue is out of the headlines for the moment does not mean it’s far from the thoughts of a great many Albertans.

The poll found 40% support for Alberta independence with 45% preferring to remain in Canada, and another 15% undecided. If the undecideds are removed, support for independence rises to 47% versus 53% for the status quo.  

Previous Mainstreet Research polls commissioned by the Western Standard showed growing — but demonstrably weaker — support for independence. A July 6, 2020 story entitled “Alberta leads the West in wanting independence” found only 20% of Albertans favouring independence. Another story from Jan. 13, 2021, “Third of Albertans & majority of UCP voters back Western independence, shyer about going it alone,” found 25% favouring Alberta independence if the province struck out on its own, but 36% support for an independent country comprising other Western provinces.

The polling results seem to indicate a growing trend of support for independence. That’s obviously good news for those favouring that option.

It seems, however, that Alberta’s progressives have a blind spot when it comes to acknowledging popular support for independence. This has been evident in recent years, even as Justin Trudeau has driven many Albertans into the sovereigntist camp.

With Trudeau aggressively preventing pipeline construction and resource development, support for independence gained considerable strength towards the end of 2018. Indeed, early in 2019, the Angus Reid Institute released its own poll indicating independence sentiment was quite strong in Alberta. The article reporting the results stated: “More than half Albertans (52%) say they believe the west would be better off if it left Canada.”

Yet, just a few weeks earlier, prominent leftist blogger Dave Cournoyer wrote, “Reading the pages of the Postmedia newspapers or the #ableg hashtag on Twitter you might believe that Albertans from roughneck Fort McMurray to trendy Kensington are calling for Independence and rising up in arms against their political overlords in Ottawa. Nope.”

He went on to state that “… it is difficult to believe there is any real appetite for Albertans to leave Canada, and the consequences that would follow.” And he assured his readers that “support for separation remains consistently low.” The occasional demand for Alberta independence, Cournoyer wrote, “is the political equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum.”

Shortly after Cournoyer’s piece appeared, another prominent leftist blogger, David Climenhaga, also downplayed the independence movement. Climenhaga’s unique contribution to the discussion is his claim the Alberta independence movement is a smoke-and-mirrors trick perpetrated by Toronto-based Postmedia.

Writing of the surge in support for independence towards the end of 2018, Climenhaga claimed that, “The whole thing was almost entirely ginned up in a couple of weeks by a parade of political commentators at Postmedia’s newspapers, basically providing background music for the campaign of United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney.” That is, Postmedia was trying to create a political climate to aid Jason Kenney in his dispute with Justin Trudeau.

Climenhaga went on to assure his readers that by the beginning of 2019, “the Alberta independence ‘threat’ will be fading into history, again, worth a chuckle or two, like Ur-Western-separatist Gordon Kesler, and taken seriously by almost nobody – or perhaps I should say, nobodies.” Apparently, in his view, only “nobodies” take Alberta independence seriously. That would probably mean a lot of Western Standard readers would be “nobodies” by Climenhaga’s standard – like Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.”

His main point, though, was public controversy over Alberta independence was just a big show that had come to an end: “But the squall is over, folks. Watch for Postmedia to start backing away as soon as they start to realize how little traction this partisan claptrap has.”

Yet, just a few weeks after he wrote that, Angus Reid released its poll showing over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

Albertans had grievances with the federal government for generations. These grievances are accumulating and generating increasing discontent with the province’s place in Canada. The support for independence revealed by the new Western Standard poll reflects the unhappiness of many Albertans. They are beginning to realize the status quo is not going to change and the only positive alternative is for Alberta to leave Canada.

Nevertheless, progressives appear to be blind to the legitimate concerns of these Albertans and dismiss them as “nobodies” who are throwing a “temper tantrum.” If support for Alberta independence continues to grow, progressives may have to do more than simply demean its proponents.

The causes underlying growth in sovereignist sentiment are not going away and as a result, the movement is here to stay.

Michael Wagner is a Western Standard columnist

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