Canada: Kenney's Campaign Bombshell

How Should The Tories React?

I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t see it coming.

Yesterday around 2, I threw a call out for any Canada questions people had on Twitter before I got to my plans for the afternoon slate of Champions League soccer. One of the questions was about Jason Kenney and vaccine passports, and my brain dismissed it. “Doubt he will in the next 5 days, and that it would change many or any votes even if he did” was what I wrote, and then I moved on. And then, later that night, Kenney announced the proof of vaccination requirements, and I started getting texts from Tories talking about how Kenney had cost them the election.

I’m starting with what changed because I think it’s instructive here, but it also illustrates how bad Alberta has it. Ontario and Quebec both did vaccine passports, but they did pre-emptive announcements - after X day, you’ll be unable to do these prescribed activities, so make sure you get vaccinated and you’ll be fine, an approach which is both sensible and fair. You can’t argue there will be any impositions on liberty, you were given enough time to get the vaccine and to do whatever it is you needed to do. If you choose not to at this point, that’s your right, but you cannot complain that Doug Ford didn’t give you enough time or warning. With Kenney, however, the limits exist today, now, and basically if you’re unvaxxed, you’re locked down, and that’s what I missed. Ford and Legault adopted this policy with relatively low COVID spread, and did so in a way that gave stragglers and those on the fence time to get right. Alberta, on the other hand? They’re fucked, and I didn’t realize that at the time I said nothing much would change.

I didn’t watch the press conference at the time, because I find Kenney to be smarmy on a good day, but watching it now, the anger that so many Albertans I follow on Twitter is welling up in me. My God, this incompetent chucklefuck declared the pandemic over, and now they’re the most locked down jurisdiction in Canada. The words Fucked Around, Found Out seem fitting here, but I’m honestly too mad to be particularly funny. This is a public health calamity, and I will invest whatever ability I have to ensure this ass wipe loses in 2023, so be warned - I am unable and unwilling to pretend he is in any way a reasonable option to lead. But while this is a public health catastrophe, it is also a political one for the Tories, and if you thought they had any real shot at winning (which they don’t, and never did), it’s gone.

We can start with the Alberta political reaction, which I expect will be fervent. It’s unclear how much leakage the Tories will see on their moderate flank to the NDP and the Liberals, but I think this pretty much guarantees the Tories will lose Edmontons Mill Woods and Centre and Calgary Skyview, all three of which elected Liberal MPs in 2015. I’d expect this boosts the Liberals in Calgary Centre and the NDP in Edmonton Griesbach, but whether it’s enough to flip either or both of those is unclear as I write this. What’s even more unclear is whether the PPC support, already high in Alberta, will be concentrated enough for them to win one or more seats in otherwise dark blue Tory terrain. I will be honest, I fucking suck at trying to guess insurgent parties like this, so it is highly unlikely my seat projection system will be able to find a PPC seat in Alberta, even if subjectively I think the PPC are likely to break through somewhere. If the PPC surge and win something, that would be both reprehensible in terms of the politics I believe in, but also probably democratic, since they’re a legitimate force who are probably going to get like 15% in Alberta on Monday. That being deprived representation would be a fucking nightmare.

On the outside of Alberta politics of this, I have to say, the Tories are completely fucked. This story will be the only thing O’Toole is asked about today, and tomorrow probably, and whatever message he wants to sell about Toryism and Justin Trudeau will be lost in a fight about Kenney, vaccines, passports, and why O’Toole praised Kenney so much. “Premier Kenney has navigated this COVID-19 pandemic far better than the federal government” is a real line O’Toole has said before, and it’s on tape.

Yeah, this isn’t going to go well for him.

Imagine trying to defend this position in Ontario and BC, as residents in those two provinces move around with most of our freedoms, and certainly all of the soft-Liberals and NDPers that O’Toole’s attempts at moderation are designed to win over will be vaccinated. Imagine trying to convince a populace that thinks Trudeau did a good job, that is vaccinated and happy with that status, and is eager for the return of normalcy because, well, we’re all fucking exhausted, that Jason Kenney knew what he was doing, when Alberta is under a state of public health emergency and people like my Ontarian mother finally feel comfortable seeing her friends again, and is looking forward to that continuing. Many on the right have said for months and months now, both in Canada and abroad, that lockdown is unsustainable, that isolation is doing as much, if not more, harm to people than COVID does or ever could, and they’re right to mention the toll of lockdown and restrictions. I have friends I haven’t seen in 18 months or more, because I’ve never been sure what’s allowed and what isn’t and what we can do and what we can’t. It’s hell, and I miss the past, when getting a drink with a friend boiled down to “what night?” and not a 15 minute conversation about risk assessments. But this, ICUs overrun, hospital beds running out, your voters dying and many others not being able to get their medical treatments performed, all because a bunch of lazy, selfish assholes didn’t do their jobs for their community and get vaxxed? No one will accept that, nor should they.

I wrote about On The Beach earlier this week, in a piece about the PPC and what it’s like to lose control of how the world works, so it’s unsurprising that the album is still playing in my house these days. “I’m deep inside myself but I’ll get out somehow” is one of my favourite lines, a rallying cry that a solution to my many issues can be found, but listening to Motion Pictures (For Carrie) now, it takes on a different meaning. Erin O’Toole’s campaign has always faced this very real threat of being squeezed at both ends, and the answer everyone has always given about how he can survive has been some hand wringing about how he’ll find a way to win over the 905 and keep his right flank happy, despite the fact it makes no sense. His entire campaign, his entire leadership you could say, can be summed up in that line - I have no idea how I’ll do it, but I’ll figure it out somehow. It’s been a reassuring pablum, but the time’s up. 

I maintain O’Toole had no chance of victory before this, but Kenney’s announcement just destroyed the Tory leader’s final week, and in doing so confirmed the continued Prime Ministership of a man he despises. What a clusterfuck.