Making hay about Aug. 16-25, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Nov. 19, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.

My newsletter is a little delayed this week. I was waiting for Jason Kenney to come back from vacation. And waiting. And waiting. Finally, I decided just to go ahead since the premier is still on vacation and left no one in charge.

Who knows when Erin O’Toole will let him come back into public view. With O’Toole doing better than expected so far, unleashing Kenney could help the Liberals out a lot. I’m looking forward to watching this play out in the coming weeks.

Let’s recap: Kenney hasn’t made a public statement since August 10, has no designated Deputy Premier, no one is stepping up to provide a statement on the rising COVID hospitalizations, and reporters are getting no response from his press secretary as to when he’ll be back.

This is unusual, to say the least. Neither the Chief Medical Officer of Health nor the Health Minister are answering questions either.

With the government forced into a major reversal of their COVID plans this month, the situation escalating at an alarming rate, and schools opening very soon, it seems like an odd time for the Premier to take an extended vacation, but here we are.

It’s not like he hasn’t done this before. The Beaverton hilariously reported there was an Amber Alert issued for Kenney in November of 2020 when case numbers in Alberta had also reached alarming levels. Kenney is predictable, if anything.

Speaking of predictable…Kenney released a strange rambling video for Ukraine Independence Day, gushing about “tough men in sheepskin coats,” who came to Alberta with their “large families and an endless work ethic.” No mention of the women, of course.

The premier has memorized his incomplete historical facts and there’s no room for thoughts that maybe both men and women were tough. Throughout his political career, Kenney repeats the same ideas. The importance of a “work ethic,” keeps popping up in his speeches, often quoting Margaret Thatcher, one of the most polarizing leaders ever. Clearly Kenney is an admirer.

Nor is he entertaining any thoughts of the land that was stolen from Indigenous people and given to Ukrainian settlers. That would be “woke” which is the UCP’s latest favourity word, code for openly deriding anti-racism conversations. They included it as part of their latest fundraising letter.

In the letter, they accuse parents and teachers offering feedback on the draft curriculum of being “special interest friends” of the NDP wanting to “put parents in the backseat and return to a woke NDP curriculum.” What a bunch of malarkey, even for a fundraising pitch, already known for hyperbole.

Kenney, who loves military history and no doubt, traditional values of hierarchy and heroics, then awkwardly begins to reminisce in the video about his own former role as Minister of Defence in the Harper government. One does wonder if he was dipping into the Jameson’s whiskey before filming this little vignette for release during his vacation absence. He seemed overly excited about this topic.

Just a reminder, when Kenney was Defence Minister, he claimed the Russians had gotten too close to the Canadian Navy off the coast of Ukraine, but NATO officials later contradicted his account of what happened. He also got into some trouble with some misleading statements on airstrikes in Syria which he had to withdraw and had to apologize for tweeting out fake photos of ISIS.

What? Kenney misleading people? No!

On the subject of misleading people, the Alberta government issued the mother of all misleading headlines on one of its releases this past week. On Aug. 19, under the banner of “Enhancing parent engagement in Alberta Schools,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced a $500 grant to each school council across the province to “strengthen engagement with parents.”

After I stopped laughing, the sheer audacity of this claim hit me. The president of the Alberta School Councils Association said this amount of cash would help “take pressure off parents” and others. The expectation is they use the cash to better communicate with parents.

Rather than helpful though, the entire statement was a barely disguised warning to school councils of their “legislated responsibilities” words that were repeated multiple times in the short statement.

Keep in mind that school councils are comprised of volunteers, mostly parents, but also teachers and principals who are expected to support the council. It’s a thankless job and $500 is somehow going to make it possible for better engagement is local school decisions? Unlikely.

School boards barely have a say in running their school division. School administrators have even less and school councils? There is not much room for discussion when budgets are tight and the province keeps strict control over everything of importance.

The reality is that listening to parents is not a priority for the UCP government. At the Alberta School Councils Association (ASCA) meeting this past April, Minister LaGrange found herself on the defensive about the draft curriculum and spoke for an hour without leaving time for questions. She then took only one question in the parent engagement opportunity that had been promised.

“Parents are not necessarily feeling heard, in some of the choices being made (to education).”

ASCA President Brandi Rai told CTV News at the time

It must have been awkwaard for Rai accepting the grant money, knowing how little it was going to help but having to put on a brave face for the news release. After all, parents were rudely ignored at the ASCA conference only three months ago.

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To add insult to injury during his vacation, there was this tweet from Kenney’s account:

This from the guy who wants to throw out equalization altogether – the main mechanism by which we help each other out as Canadians.

So, I’m a little cranky after the shenanigans of this week and since Kenney is still not back from vacation, I’m going to cut this newsletter short. When he gets back, I have a feeling something is going to hit the fan on the COVID front.

And there will be the usual attempts to distract from the real problems by rage-baiting, compounded by elections happening at two levels of government – it’ll be a free-for-all in the coming weeks. I’ll save some of my comments for what happens next.

But I would like to leave you with these words of inspiration:

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