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JASON KENNEY’S DANGEROUS GAME

I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double cross that bridge when he comes to it.”– Oscar Levant

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.– Nikita Khrushchev

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What does it take to be a politician? Evidently not much these days. It probably helps if you are confident, glib, articulate, convincing, and ruthless. Honesty, integrity, decency, the ability to experience shame, judging from those who hold office, are clearly not required nor, it seems, is a particularly intelligent electorate.

Those seeking political office must have a thick skin to accompany the essentials of running because, should those essentials trip them up, they must be nimble enough and convincing enough to defend themselves without appearing to do so; to act otherwise undermines credibility. The essentials of any successful political life require the willingness and ability to lie with ease and without qualm. Of course, with lying, one must also be able to wear several faces, all of them hypocritical and not be too wedded to such foolish high-minded notions that voters alwaysknow best, are wise and good. They don’t and aren’t. A good politician reminds himself of this fact many times and sometimes even allows himself to go further but neverpublicly: he’ll tell himself voters are largely stupid and can be easily manipulated provided he, the politician, sound as if he believes every word he is saying. He doesn’t have to but it helps. Essential as well is the ability and willingness to exploit and manipulate others; this requires a certain ruthlessness and mean-spiritedness which must be used sparingly but, when necessary, without hesitation. No good politician should be wedded to promises, party platforms or to such lofty airy-fairy things as morality or integrity both of which, while occasionally an asset, more often than not prove hindrances to the truly important goal: getting elected and keep on getting elected. It’s best for the politician to be adroit thereby allowing him or her to easily switch sides loving what your opposition hated and hating what your opposition loved (that’s where the several faces can be particularly useful). It certainly helps to come across as a sympathetic, sincere and interested individual even as the voter bores the politico with his latest health issue, worries about crime in the neighbourhood and high number of illegal dark-skinned foreigners sneaking into the country; tell them what they want to hear, works every time! A politician must never be afraid to admit to being wrong or say he is sorry. Trudeau must be the sorriest Prime Minister of any nation and, while it was endearing at first, it has become wearisome and smacks of insincerity. Regardless of the occasion, the politician must be able to look the voterin the eye and speak with the utmost genuineness without sounding earnest whether lying or not; if he can’t work up the charisma factor all that easily, it also helps to come across as the slightly nerdy shy “aw shucks” head-down-shoe-scuffing-the-ground type of guy or gal who everyone thinks is cute as hell and someone they would want to marry their son or daughter and even consider voting for.

There is, of course, another type for whom some fall: The Snake Oil huckster. He is the smooth, grinning, brash, fast-talking, looks-you-in-the-eye type who can convince you that Sunday is for dancing and sin, Friday nights for praying for world peace, and that children never lie before he takes his leave of you – once you’ve paid for the snake oil and then find your wallet picked after he’s out the door.

Jason Kenney is that type of politico, a huckster who will do and has done anything to win including joining forces with kamikaze party leadership aspirants (those candidates who withdraw midway a campaign and throws support to another), one of whom paid a hefty fine for taking the part while Kenney, unsurprisingly, denies knowing anything about it though some involved in the matter say otherwise. Just one day after the Alberta election commissioner announced that he was still under investigation for several other questionable practices during the 2017 leadership campaign to head the United Conservative Party, Kenney, clearly unhappy, has none to subtly suggested that no department including the commissioner’s was immune from budgetary cuts. The message could not be any more clear nor our sense of his character.

Anyone who has followed his career over the years knows that he is a sincerely ambitious politico with the gift for gab, bafflegab and gas in equal measure who lies with absolute shameless ease, has rather fluid ethical standards and absolutely no loyalty to anything but that which furthers his personal agenda.

No one should have been surprised when he rolled back the NDP minimum wage from $15 to $14. You see, he’s had practice in undermining Canadian workers while in the role of employment and social development minister in the Harper government. While both proclaimed their primary concern was the creation and protection of Canadian jobs, Kenney, as the minister in charge of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), you know, the program that encouraged, actually encouraged, Canadian companies to hire foreign workers at 15% below what Canadian workers were paid. We all recall the RBC episode where Canadian workers trained foreign workers who then returned to their countries of origin taking with them the very jobs Canadian workers, now unemployed, had trained them to do. Good for business. Good for foreign workers. Not so good for Canadian workers. This is the kind of man Jason Kenney is. He cannot be trusted to be on your side unless you are Big Business or unless you can be used as a wedge to his advantage. It was the Harper regime, of which Kenney was a member, that campaigned on a racial and religious agenda targeting the so-called Barbaric Cultural Practices of Muslims. So, it is not surprising that members of his United Conservative Party campaign team included those with homophobic, anti-Muslim, views. Two of them, Caylan Ford, who had been recruited by Kenney, and Eva Kiryakos, resigned while incumbent Mark Smith with a rather peculiar take on homosexuality stayed on and won which says a lot about those who support the Kenney’s UCP.

But there he is today in a video suggesting that if Trudeau were reelected, he’d be willing to lead the charge to the road of separation. That he would raise separation as a tool in an attempt to blackmail Canadians into voting for Andrew Scheer and the federal Conservatives says all you need know about Kenney and his professed love of country: anything goes. He is an extremely adept campaigner and now, as premier of Alberta, has set himself the goal of working towards Trudeau’s ouster by any means though I suspect not all Albertans would support the threat to pull out of the confederation. Such a move could well provide him with a victory that was pyrrhic. For those who find Doug Ford and Donald Trump appealing, Kenney is a shoe-in and talk of separation is the stunt of one who thinks too highly of himself; if he were a twin, he would go at it 24/7.

This is a man who, while campaigning in 2016, photoshopped an image in which he appeared. He removed the background and replaced it with an image of an adoring crowd behind him. He loves working with images almost as much as he loves his gas. He’s the same man who, in 2015, during International Women’s Day, tweeted support for the war against ISIS with the inclusion of two photos, one purportedly of a bound, weeping child bride and her adult husband and another of black clad women in chains. Of course, as with many things with Kenney, they were bogus and he knew it. The first picture had been widely discredited as fake and the other was a reenactment of an event dating back many centuries. For Kenney, it’s the impact of the message; truth is immaterial if it doesn’t help his cause.

To give him his due, he is ever resourceful. In the past, he had used his ministerial letterhead to fundraise for Harper’s Conservative party, a no-no, and once, in a fundraising letter, he sought to suggest Justin Trudeau held a sympathetic soft-spot for terrorist when visiting the Montreal Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque identified by American intelligence as a recruitment centre for Al-Quadi terrorists. While it was true that the U.S. Military considered the mosque a threat and that Trudeau had visited it, Kenney wilfully omitted two important items. When Trudeau had visited the mosque, it had not, at the time, been considered a threat by American intelligence and Kenney himself had taken some heat for visiting an Ontario Islamic centre facing the same accusations of terrorist recruitment. Jason Kenney knew exactly what he was doing and what to ignore. It was malign and typical of him. While I have no affection for Trudeau, I have even less for conservatives and for malicious liars and Kenney is that.

His efforts to reawaken the East-West divide with separatist talk is shameless and unconscionable. It’s a dangerous ploy and serves no one’s interest other than Jason Kenney’s and appeals to none but the simpletons in the conservative base who do form a significant number. No one, especially a leader of a party and of a province, can honestly claim to love his country yet hint at walking away unless Trudeau loses the election this fall. Liars can. Dishonest people can. Manipulators can. Jason Kenney can.

Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Donald Trump have won the support of voters largely by preying on their fears, their superstitions, their ignorance and their stupidity by enforcing and legitimizing their belief of victimhood with assurances that their fears are real and that they are, indeed, under siege by dark skinned peoples with strange clothes, strange customs and unholy religions with sinister plans.

This is vile stuff and dangerous. This is Kenney. And this is the conservative worldview.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. —  Benjamin Franklin

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