Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan, who was at the May 24, 2022 funding announcement to create 880 new seats at post-secondary institutions in central Alberta, says he has not chosen a candidate to support in the upcoming UCP leadership race. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

STEPHAN: Time for Kenney to put his straw men away

Kenney wanted a new base. The base wanted a new leader. Despite Kenney’s political games seeking to manipulate his own democratic check and balance, he lost, and popular sovereignty won.

Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of government is created and sustained by the consent of its people. Benjamin Franklin expressed this principle as follows “in free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns”.

Alberta needs more popular sovereignty, more checks and balances on the use and abuse of power.

Kenney gave a “grassroots guarantee”. The grassroots said stand up to Ottawa. Kenney said “yes” and did “no”.

Kenney is a career politician. Soon he will be able to start receiving his Ottawa gold-plated pension at 55, much more than a hundred thousand each year, for the rest of his life. Kenney has a vested interest in the status quo.

What about Salma Lakhani, Alberta’s lieutenant governor? Prior to her appointment by Trudeau in 2020, she donated over $25,000 to the Trudeau Liberal party. Was she appointed because she was one of the largest, and only donors in Alberta, to Trudeau’s party? Is her obvious support for Trudeau, the worst prime minister in Canadian history, representative of Albertans? Like Kenney, she also chose to cast aspersions on a Sovereignty Act for Alberta, but she is a figurehead enjoying privilege of a political elite, also having a vested interest in the status quo.

Great leaders lead in love and inspire the best in those they serve. They remember the principles of popular sovereignty, that their position is only “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

In his leadership review, Kenney called the people of Alberta who disagreed with him “kooks”, “lunatics” and “bugs”. How did that work out for him?

Kenney is now calling the Sovereignty Act “nuts”, “cockamamie” and “catastrophically stupid”. Is that going to produce unity? No.

Kenney says he is “not endorsing or opposing a particular candidate”. We all know that is not true. Kenney not only engages in patterns of name-calling, but also patterns of saying one thing and doing something else. Many no longer trust Kenney.

Is Kenney thinking that if he cannot win, or his intended Kenney 2.0, then he will sabotage to try to make sure no one can?

Kenney is calling the Free Alberta Strategy, the organization who formulated the original version of an Alberta Sovereignty Act, a “far right extremist group”. I participated in some of their town halls. So did Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen. So did some of my MLA colleagues seeking to protect Alberta businesses and families from Ottawa. Kenney sounds like Trudeau. Are we now part of a “fringe minority” with “unacceptable views”?

Kenney knows it is inappropriate to intermeddle in the leadership race to replace him, so Kenney is trying to be sneaky, doing indirectly what he knows he should not do directly.

Isn’t Kenney acting like Trudeau? Doesn’t Ottawa seek to do indirectly, what constitutionally it is not allowed to do directly, such as with Alberta’s constitutional authority over its oil and gas resources? Didn’t Alberta’s Court of Appeal describe Trudeau’s carbon tax as a sneaky “constitutional trojan horse”?

Isn’t Trudeau proposing a new carbon tax or cap and trade that singles out and disproportionately punishes Alberta? Wouldn’t that inflict more economic “chaos”, chasing out additional billions in investment and Alberta jobs with it? What is Kenney doing about it? Drafting a sternly worded letter? Isn’t the purpose of the Sovereignty Act, to assert and defend constitutional parameters that Ottawa habitually ignores and attacks?

I know and respect each of the UCP leadership candidates. But Albertans do not want Kenney or a Kenney 2.0 and some of them need to take care to not act like Kenney, put the straw men away, and stop misrepresenting the Sovereignty Act and then attacking the worst version of it manufactured out of their misrepresentations, only existing in their minds. If Sovereignty Act is so bad, instead of fear mongering with straw men, let’s hear your ideas and solutions.

If candidates want to walk the talk on unity, stop looking the other way, and ask Kenney to do what he said he would do and be quiet. That will produce more unity and that is what Albertans want.

Jason Stephan is the MLA for Red Deer South.

Alberta Politics

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