Being Jason Kenney is the worst job in politics today – fr

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Being Jason Kenney is the worst job in politics today – fr


OTTAWA – As former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said, the secret to being a successful politician is figuring out which way the parade is going and jumping in front of it.

So spare a little pity for current Prime Minister Jason Kenney as he tries to ride two bands of public opinion, who are on a bad collision course over his handling of the pandemic.

In short, Kenney fails dramatically in every direction he has turned – and the result has been the fastest growing infection outbreak in North America, coupled with Canada’s strongest public revolt against the overdue restrictions aimed at curbing the epidemic.

It is a particularly delicate undertaking bordering on the impossible mission of governing Alberta even in the good times, when voters are happiest with the least government in their lives.

As one rural MP noted many years ago, “my parents think painting a yellow stripe in the middle of the highway is too much government interference.”

But mix an oil industry collapse with lockdowns that kill businesses and hospitals near breaking point and you create the perfect storm of angry opposition.

The closure of businesses, schools and rodeos has sparked outrage and challenge in rural areas, where COVID-19 is not spreading as quickly.

But listening to cries from the rural grassroots of the United Conservative Party to go slowly on the restrictions, the Kenney government has infuriated cities where soaring third wave infection rates are overwhelming intensive care units.

Kenney’s challenge has been complicated by an internal revolt by his own MPs, some still battered by the absorption of the Wild Rose Party to create the United Conservatives of Progress, who have taken a very public stance against restrictions they deem excessive .

During a lengthy press conference on Wednesday, a tired-eyed Kenney ignored internal dissent as a welcome exercise in Democratic debate.

Sorry, but attacking public health measures designed to save lives is not on the agenda and Kenney really needs to send a clear signal, it is not tolerated with one or two expulsions of mutineers.

I digress.

The point is, in the past few weeks alone, Premier Kenney has simultaneously infuriated the entire province, divided his own party, and created the continent’s worst health crisis. This is a rather dubious achievement.

And the situation will worsen when the three weeks of tighter restrictions end just when Kenney predicts the hospital system will buckle if the number of cases continues to skyrocket. In other words, the lockdown will be extended.

All of this, unsurprisingly, cratered his party and his personal popularity in the polls.

The latest follow-up from THQ pollster Marc Henry got Kenney’s approval ratings plummeting to levels rarely seen in truly blue Alberta amid clear signs of an NDP government on the return.

“While the current accelerated decline in support for Kenney and his government continues on this trajectory through the summer and into the fall, his position as leader of a party that is approaching an election in 2023 could be untenable, ”Henry told me on Wednesday.

There is personal blame for this mess to be borne by Kenney.

Whispers from knowledgeable sources say he mostly listens to himself or a small group of senior executives about the pandemic and other policies to the exclusion of experts and his own MPs.

And by flipping the locks switch on and off, being slow to act when there should have been forceful action, and tolerating backstabbing from his own side of the legislature, Kenney often gives the appearance of a hesitant gopher trapped on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Now, to be fair, congratulate Alberta for taking the right direction on several pandemic fronts.

The new restrictions correspond to most of the other hard-hit provinces and should, if the public respects them, reverse the increase.

The vaccination surge in places like meat packing plants is perfect, if not late.

And being the first province to open up vaccination to anyone over the age of 12 starting Monday is a bold step to return to a new normal.

For most prime ministers, the pandemic has proven to be a soul-destroying exercise, which was unimaginable when they applied for the job. There is no precedent. There is no playbook. And every sign of hope for a way out is swept away by the next wave.

But for the generally cautious Jason Kenney, trying to juggle a rural support base with an urban outbreak of infection has been particularly toxic.

The only parade he appears to be leading is straight into the jaws of electoral defeat.

This is the essential.

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