Jason Kenney: Few Regrets and a Call for Reason
Alberta's outgoing premier advises the United Conservative Party not to go to the margins of political movements.
Premier Jason Kenney, who is ending his term today at the helm of Alberta, seems to have less weight on his shoulders.
The stormy term of the Alberta Conservative premier is ending after two years of internal heartbreak over health measures. Before bowing out, Jason Kenney expressed some regrets, but above all offered his advice to the country's conservative leaders during an interview with Radio-Canada, the only one granted in French before his departure.
It's a rather serene Jason Kenney that we meet in his office in downtown Calgary. The pain and surprise of last May's vote of confidence has passed. The 54-year-old looks like he has less weight on his shoulders.
I have a spirit of gratitude, after 25 years in politics with remarkable responsibilities as [federal] Minister of Immigration, Defence, Premier of Alberta, the best job in Canada according to me! Jason Kenney responds when asked how he feels on the eve of his departure.
The veteran politician says he has few regrets when he looks back on all his years in the public sphere. With hindsight, however, Jason Kenney admits that the management of his caucus could have been firmer during the pandemic, when it was from within the United Conservative Party that the most virulent criticism of health measures came.
Maybe I should have been more like Stephen Harper, or Doug Ford or the other prime ministers. Because in a crisis you have to give the public a clear, coherent and unified sense of direction and that did not exist in our caucus and that, I regret, he admits.
The more libertarian streak of Albertan conservatism, however, has made it more difficult for him than other Conservative premiers, adds Jason Kenney, however.
The race for his succession which is ending must, in principle, end the internal divisions of the right in Alberta. Except that the fight was acrimonious and nothing indicates that the day after the coronation of the new leader the right will remain unified. Founder of the Alberta Right Union in 2017, Jason Kenney acknowledges that the marriage between Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Party alumni is more fragile than ever.
“We can't take the unity of the movement for granted, it's a diverse coalition, it's a coalition that didn't exist a few years ago. COVID has been a crisis for this coalition.
—Jason Kenney, outgoing Premier of Alberta
On the eve of his departure, the Alberta premier does not want to get too involved in the race for his succession. But it is impossible for him to remain silent on the future of conservatism in Canada.
If they want to form government, the Conservatives have every interest in focusing on the issues that concern the majority of the population, rather than trying to please the more right-wing activists.
My advice for the future of my party is not to go to the margins of political movements, but to stay at the mainstream where the majority of voters are.
While he recognizes that a minority on the right of the political spectrum has become radicalized during the pandemic, Jason Kenney nevertheless believes that the phenomenon is not unique to the conservative movement.
Outgoing Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney in interview with Radio-Canada journalist Mathieu Gohier.
He there is a polarization on both sides, there is the extreme left, the wokism, the political correctness. (…) We can see it for example in France, it's not only [Marine] Le Pen, it's [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon too, supports the outgoing Prime Minister.
< p class="e-p">He notes that the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre seems to have refocused his message since his election.
I have known Pierre all his life, he is a very intelligent man , very capable and very politically wise. (…) Since he won the leadership, he has sent all the right signals. Pierre understands how to gain essential support in the suburbs of Toronto (…) with a message on the cost of living.
With his projects for a provincial pension fund or a new Alberta police force to replace the RCMP, Jason Kenney had made Alberta autonomy one of the pillars of his mandate. An idea that also dominated the race for his succession. Rarely in Alberta's conservative discourse has the example of Quebec come up so often.
How does Jason Kenney explain his fascination with La Belle Province?
Quebec has earned the respect of Ottawa, the respect of the rest of the country. Because Quebecers have defended their identity, their language and their constitutional rights. As I said in French in my victory speech in 2019, we are historic allies in the defense of the constitution, in the defense of strong provinces in the federation. We have to be partners. I think a lot of Albertans aren't Quebec-bashers, they're Quebec admirers.
If Jason Kenney says he has a lot of respect for Quebec autonomy, he remains an ardent federalist. It is this fervor that makes him say that the Sovereignty Bill proposed by Danielle Smith, his favorite candidate for succession, is a threat to Canada and Alberta.
“If there are separatists who want to destroy the Canadian federation, I suggest they join a separatist party and not try to take over a federalist party. When I created the United Conservative Party, it was with an explicit goal of creating a federalist party.
He was a Member of Parliament and Federal Cabinet Minister and then Premier of Alberta. Jason Kenney has been a tenor of the Canadian conservative movement for 25 years.
But for him, politics is over.
In an interview , he says he needs sleep and rest, especially after such a difficult last few months. And after regaining strength?
I would like to write or participate in think tanks [think tanks, Ed], he says without giving more details.
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Jason Kenney is closing the door on any return to politics. He would like to write or participate in think tanks, he says.
Jason Kenney says he is still turned on by issues of the economy, Aboriginal reconciliation or immigration and that we will continue to hear him in the public square on these issues.
The man has devoted his entire existence to public life, he intends to continue to contribute to it. one way or another.