“I have absolutely no regrets,” says the man.
Really? That can’t possibly be true, can it?
In what universe did Premier Jason Kenney ever want to be where he is now?
The man once touted to be a possible prime minister of this country and a well-known conservative heavy hitter doesn’t finish even one term in office.
That’s quite the tumble.
Yes, what a difference a year makes.
Last year, it was Premier Jason Kenney and the promise of the Best Summer Ever.
This year, it is the rude reality of his Last Summer Ever as premier.
The man’s fall from grace is soon to hit the ground like a flipped flapjack not finding its way onto the grill.
Last year, at Calgary Stampede time, the premier’s political comeback was ready to hit the road primed to recapture the magic of Kenney’s 2019 landslide election victory.
COVID in the rear-view mirror. Happy Albertans with the province open for summer and open for good. The premier riding the wave of better times all the way out of the doghouse and back into the good books.
Kenney was banking on the big summer rebound. It was his Hail Mary but his political prayer went unanswered.
You don’t need me to tell you the rest of the story.
We went from the bravado of Best Summer Ever to the ugliness of Worst ICU Numbers Ever and, back then, your scribbler pleaded to an absent premier: “Jason Kenney, come out, come out wherever you are.”
No response. Yet another mistake.
Since then, much has happened, including a vote where Kenney could only manage to get the backing of just barely over half his party, a result the premier admitted surprised him.
It more like shocked him and his supporters.
He believed things were better than they were. He wasn’t paying attention. He was smarter than anybody.
Anyone paying attention wasn’t surprised.
Those surveying the scene (hi, mom!) rang out more wake-up calls than you’d get in an alarm-clock factory.
The premier and his people hit the snooze button. What did any of us know?
They were out of touch. They couldn’t read the room. Their choice. They have to wear it.
Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling the story.
So we’re at the premier’s final Stampede breakfast.
Kenney is in his usual speechifying form.
He’s not trying to win votes. After all, this breakfast isn’t only serving pancakes.
It’s serving lame duck. The premier’s Long Goodbye marches on.
Kenney tells us he feels the buzz of optimism.
He shouts out how Alberta is back in a big way.
Later this week, Kenney says he will be announcing an exciting new major factory.
He’s hanging out with the premiers pushing for more health-care dough from Ottawa and slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “so-called emissions reduction plan.”
He says Sept. 1 will now be Alberta Day, to celebrate the province as “an amazing exceptional society.”
Don’t get too worked up. It’s not a stat holiday.
He talks about how he united conservatives. That lasted long enough to win in 2019.
He talks about the most ambitious platform of promises of any government and how 90% of the pledges are partly or completely done.
“The focus was on the economy. The economy is rocking. We’ve done what we said we would do. I did what I said I would do,” says Kenney.
You have to wonder.
If things are so damn good and the government is so damn spectacular why is the premier on the way out?
Listening to him you have to believe he really does think it was just a bunch of crazies who drove him from the premier’s office.
Speaking of wanting to drive people out of office, Trudeau showed up at Stampede for selfie opportunities, a few sweet nothing quotes and no time for tough questions.
Like we couldn’t see that coming.
And Pierre Poilievre, the federal Conservative MP and frontrunner in his party’s leadership race, scores huge applause at a weekend barbecue in Calgary, a city where he grew up and was a paperboy for the Calgary Sun.
The crowd was sure revved up.
As the crowd clapped and cheered, a man in the back row turned around, wanting to make sure he told me the way he figured it, Poilievre is the real deal.
“Pierre is a man with a big hat and cattle.”