History may not repeat itself, but it has a way of rhyming. And as Alberta’s health care system continues to sag under the weight of human misery created by Jason Kenney’s “best summer ever”, it is increasingly clear that his political career will end as it began: with a indifference to the lives and suffering of others.
Kenney began his political career as a student at the University of San Francisco, and was at the forefront of efforts to repeal spousal support laws that allowed gay men to visit their dying partners in hospital during the height of the HIV epidemic. AIDS.
That episode didn’t cost him his career and, if anything, it could have helped. Advance within the Canadian Anti-LGBTQ Alliance of the late 1990s and early 2000s. As he boasted to his supporters in 2000, “I became president of the pro-life group on my campus and helped lead a petition ultimately successful initiative, which led to a referendum, which repealed the first law on gay spouses in North America. “
His penchant for muffled bragging hasn’t gone away, given that he was talking about Alberta’s per capita death rate and comparing it favorably to other provinces amid a fourth wave that started. But it is unlikely that he will get away with his most recent act of cruel indifference, one that has already resulted in the postponement of at least 8,500 surgeries (including 805 pediatric procedures) in Alberta.
According to a recent survey From ThinkHQ Public Affairs, Kenney’s net approval rating stands at a staggering -55, with just 22% support in a province that almost reflexively supports conservative politicians. As ThinkHQ Chairman Marc Henry noted, “We haven’t seen a sitting prime minister with such low numbers in nearly a decade; Alison Redford resigned on the day it was revealed that her approval at the time had dropped to 18 (percent). That’s a ‘margin of error’ difference from Kenney’s results today. “
Even more remarkable than the headline figure is the degree to which Kenney’s unpopularity is consistent across demographic and geographic divisions.
Yes, it is politically radioactive in relatively progressive Edmonton, and Calgary has caught up on that. But even in more rural areas of the province, where a ham sandwich could be chosen if it is featured with the Conservative Party label, it is polling below 30 percent. Men are now just as unhappy with him as women, and even among those 55 and older, he’s almost three-to-one underwater. You wonder if you could even cross the 50 percent support threshold if you surveyed your own MLA and political staff.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for Kenney, who returned to Alberta a conquering hero and clearly still had his eyes on the top federal job.
Now, instead of evaluating his chances of defeating Justin Trudeau in the next election if the Conservative Party of Canada decides to replace Erin O’Toole, political analysts will try to find out where he ranks among the worst prime ministers in Canadian history. And while he has yet to scale the same heights of shameless corruption that Grant Devine of Saskatchewan and Bill Vander Zalm of BC reached, his combination of clumsy incompetence and ideological stridency may eventually place him at the top of the list.
Regardless of your ranking, the death toll from a self-inflicted fourth wave, along with the thousands of postponed surgeries and medical procedures, will be your last political legacy in Alberta. Even as the increase in cases subsides, the healthcare system and the thousands of people who work in it will spend years recovering from the damage it has caused. And there is no way to recover from the unnecessary loss of life that thousands of families have endured, and others will suffer in the coming weeks.
Kenney’s political demise will not bring any of those people back. But it can serve as a lesson for conservative politicians in Canada, including those here in Alberta who might be looking at your work.
Opinion: It is becoming increasingly clear that Jason Kenney’s political career will end as it began: with a disregard for the life and suffering of others, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #abpoli #COVID
At a time that demanded intellectual agility and ideological flexibility, Kenney redoubled his pre-existing beliefs. And when presented with the choice between protecting the public and promoting his own political survival, he gleefully chose the latter option.
But a virus cannot be spun or fired, and it does not respond to tender missives from right-wing columnists and well-paid issue managers. Conservatives would do well to remember that the next time they are faced with something equally intractable: Voters do not take kindly to politicians who risk lives to toss pancakes in the Stampede.