Jason Kenney in April 2019
|18th Premier of Alberta|
|Assumed office |
April 30, 2019
|Lieutenant Governor||Lois Mitchell|
|Preceded by||Rachel Notley|
Jason Thomas Kenney
May 30, 1968
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
|Political party||United Conservative|
Liberal (Saskatchewan, before 1997)
Progressive Conservative (2016–2017)
|Residence||Calgary, Alberta, Canada|
|Alma mater||University of San Francisco (Did not graduate)|
Jason Thomas Kenney PC MLA (born May 30, 1968) is a Canadian politician, currently serving as the 18th Premier of Alberta, serving since 2019, and leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta since 2017. He was the last leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, before the party's merger with the Wildrose Party and subsequent dissolution later that year. He was elected the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-Lougheed in a by-election held on December 14, 2017.
He previously represented the riding of Calgary Midnapore in the House of Commons of Canada from 1997 until 2016 (known as Calgary Southeast until 2015). Initially elected as a candidate of the Reform Party of Canada, Kenney was re-elected as a Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000, and then re-elected four times as the candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Following the Conservative victory in the 2006 general election, Kenney was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister of Canada. On January 4, 2007, he was sworn into the Privy Council as the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. Kenney held the post of Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism from October 30, 2008, to July 15, 2013, when he became Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism. On February 9, 2015, he was named Minister of National Defence. Kenney was considered a potential party leader following the defeat of the Conservative government in October 2015 and resignation of Stephen Harper as leader.
On July 6, 2016, he announced his intention to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta in that party's 2017 leadership election. Kenney resigned his seat in Parliament on September 23, 2016, after sitting in the House of Commons for 19 years. He was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives on March 18, 2017, on a platform of merging with the Wildrose Party, a conservative-minded party active only in Alberta. He served as leader until the merger was effected on July 24, 2017, and was elected United Conservative Party leader on October 28, 2017.
On April 16, 2019, Kenney successfully led the United Conservative Party to majority government in the 2019 Alberta general election, defeating the previous government led by Rachel Notley of the New Democratic Party with 63 seats and 54.88% of the popular vote and securing only the fifth change of government in Alberta's political history. The premiership of Jason Kenney began on April 30, 2019 when was sworn in by Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Lois Mitchell forming the 30th Alberta Legislature and becoming the 18th Premier of Alberta.
Early life and career
Kenney was born in Oakville, Ontario, the son of Lynne (née Tunbridge) and Robert Martin Kenney, a fighter pilot and teacher at Appleby College, who was of Irish heritage. He was raised in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He is the grandson of jazz musician and big band leader Mart Kenney.
He went to high school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a private Catholic high school, of which his father was president, in 1986. Kenney also attended St. Michaels University School in Victoria, British Columbia from 1982 to 1984.
He studied philosophy at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university in San Francisco, California, but failed to complete coursework. During his time in San Francisco, he was interviewed by CNN, for a segment exploring "religious values". In the segment, he was credited as "Jason Kenny – Anti-abortion Activist". He argued against Jesuit professors, including Rev. John Clarke, who declared free speech essential to a university. Allowing pro-choice activists on campus, Kenney argued in the CNN interview, was "destroying the mission and the purpose of this university". In the student newspaper, he suggested that if the school gave a platform to pro-choice groups in the name of free speech, it would have no basis to refuse a similar platform to pedophiles or to the Church of Satan.
The archbishop rejected the petition that summer, and Kenney never returned to ﬁnish his undergraduate philosophy degree. He left university without graduating to begin work for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. He was "very involved in the young Liberals" as a young man, and in 1988 served as executive assistant to Ralph Goodale, who at the time was leader of the party. Not long after, in 1989, Kenney was hired as the first executive director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association, which advocated for fiscal responsibility. In 1990, Kenney was named president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Taxpayers, a self described taxpayers advocacy group that scrutinizes governmental expenditure with a conservative bias.
In opposition (1997–2006)
Kenney was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997, at the age of 29 as a member of the Reform Party of Canada. The Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance (2000–2003) and Kenney co-chaired the United Alternative Task Force. He served as the national co-chairman of Stockwell Day's campaign for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance and National Co-Chair of the Canadian Alliance 2000 election campaign. While on the Opposition benches from 1997–2006, Kenney served in a number of prominent roles in the Shadow Cabinet, including Deputy House Leader for the Official Opposition, critic for Canada–United States relations, critic for National Revenue, and critic for Finance.
In January 2005, during a government trade mission in China, Kenney visited the family of recently deceased Zhao Ziyang, the deposed reformist critical of Maoist policies and supportive of free market reforms in China. Zhao, the former Premier of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party, was purged for sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters before they were crushed by the military at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (2006–2007)
In August 2006, Kenney compared Hezbollah with the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany when two opposition MPs suggested taking it off Canada's list of terrorist organizations. He rebuked Prime Minister of Lebanon Fuad Saniora for having criticized Canada, reminding him of the $25 million in reconstructive assistance aid given by Canada to Lebanon.
Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity (2007–2008)
On January 4, 2007, he was sworn in as the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, and as a Privy Councillor. In this capacity, Kenney was the Harper government's representative to ethnic communities in Canada. In this role, Kenney made frequent appearances at ethnic community events across the country, hosted by groups as diverse as Koreans, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Chinese, Jews, Assyrians, South Asians, and Poles. The Toronto Star has noted some of the more frequently visited groups in the GTA, which also include the Caribbean community, Persians, Filipinos, and Vietnamese.
In early 2008, Kenney posted an announcement on his web site announcing that the Government of Canada recognizes the flag of the Republic of Vietnam as the symbol of the Vietnamese-Canadian community. He said "Our government recognises the flag as an important symbol of the Vietnamese-Canadian community's independence, strength, and belief in national unity, and attempts to disparage it are a deeply troubling attack on one of Canada's ethnic communities and on the principles of multiculturalism." In May 2008, he made a speech at one of their rallies lending strong support to their program.
In May 2008, Kenney launched the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP) which established 13.5 million dollars in funding over five years for commemorative projects for use by ethno-cultural communities such as the Italian, Jewish, Indian, and Chinese communities that had been the targets of discriminatory Canadian immigration and wartime policies. By the project's conclusion in 2013, all the money had been spent except for half a million dollars earmarked for education about the Chinese head tax was left unspent when one Chinese community group failed to file the required paperwork while others underspent; that money was clawed back into government revenue. Because more than thirty other projects involving the Chinese-Canadian community had been funded through the CHRP, Kenney considered the project a success and declined to release the funding, citing the conclusion of the program. In 2013, Kenney said in his remarks on the end of the CHRP program that the government was "committed to recognizing and educating Canadians about the experiences of those pioneers who overcame such heavy burdens. Their experiences mark an unfortunate period in our nation's history. We must ensure that they are never forgotten."
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (2008–2013)
In 2008, Jason Kenney became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet shuffle of October 30, retaining responsibility for multiculturalism, which he had been given in 2007.
- There were 32 Liberal MPs from the GTA, and of the hundreds of ethnocultural events I attended in the past five years going from Scarborough to Mississauga, typically there were no Liberals there ... They treated the ethnic communities like passive vote banks owed to them through the supposed myth of Pierre Trudeau. They mailed it in.
Kenney, speaking in Jerusalem in December 2009 about Canadian government funding of human rights organizations, said "We have de-funded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS who are taking a leadership role in the boycott [of Israel]. We're receiving a lot of criticism for these decisions ... but we believe we have done these things for the right reasons, and we stand by these decisions." He later added in a letter to the Toronto Star that "While I disagree with the nature of KAIROS's militant stance toward the Jewish homeland, that is not the reason their request for taxpayer funding was denied."
In 2010, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blocked any reference to gay rights in a new study guide for immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship. Internal documents show an early draft of the guide contained sections noting that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969. But Kenney, who fought same-sex marriage when it was debated in Parliament, ordered those key sections removed when his office sent its comments to the department.
On June 26, 2010, Kenney announced changes to the Skilled Worker Immigration Program. For their applications to be processed, skilled worker applicants are now required to either have an offer of arranged employment, or be qualified in one of 29 eligible occupations (out of 520 occupations described in the National Occupational Classification (NOC), a standardized framework for organizing information about jobs into a coherent system). A cap of 20,000 applications per year for the skilled workers class was also introduced. As of July 1, 2011, a maximum of 10,000 Federal Skilled Worker applications will be considered for processing in the subsequent 12 months. Within the 10,000 cap, a maximum of 500 federal skilled worker applications per eligible occupation will be considered for processing each year.
Kenney said his reform of the immigration point system fixed problems with the previous immigration system. Also, he made the new system more efficient in accepting migrants who could make the best contributions to the Canadian economy. The Canadian Experience Class Program is aiming to attract more international students who qualify as a graduate in the program; and there are two specific requirements to graduate. Also, this new program has increased the focus on youth, job skills and most importantly fluent in English or French and at the same time, the immigration department has imposed a new language requirement for Federal skilled workers (FSW) program. One of the new plans is to reduce the processing times and it shows a significant reduction in the wait time. There were cases that had waited for almost a decade to process, but the processing time has been shortened approximately a year period. "This guarantees no more backlogs" said by Vancouver immigration lawyer, Richard Kurland. However, Kenney decided to delete the backlog of 280,000 skilled worker applications and a lawsuit was held to go against this movement by those applicants, but the lawsuit failed.
While Immigration Minister, Kenney asserted that the generosity of the immigration system was not to be abused. "I held town hall meetings across the country to hear from victims of marriage fraud. In addition to the heartbreak and pain that came from being lied to and deceived, these people were angry. They felt they had been used as a way to get to Canada. We are taking action because immigration to Canada should not be built upon deceit." said Minister Kenney The Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act has been published to protect and fix Canada's immigration system. While Minister, Kenney focused on major issues such as fraud marriage, human smugglers, unfounded refugees, and the billion-dollar bill of health and social benefits claimed from them. It is estimated that the provinces are to save approximately $1.65 billion from their social assistance and education sector over five years with the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. This would be a few dollars per Canadian per year in tax saved (population of Canada 34 million) Population of Canada by year. Also, a five-year sponsorship bar is published, which means sponsored spouses or partners are to wait five years from the day they received permanent residence status in Canada to sponsor a new spouse or partner. Furthermore, Minister Kenney claimed that these new measures are making an easier law enforcement and stiffer penalties to prosecute human smugglers and a message to human smugglers and they will not be able to abuse Canada's generosity anymore.
There has been significant criticism of the institution of a Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list which attributes countries as being unlikely to persecute. Therefore, refugee claimants coming from these countries (included are Hungary, Mexico, and Israel) will undergo a different refugee claimant process. Furthermore, refugee claimants from countries on the DCO no longer receive emergency healthcare coverage.
In 2011, he imposed a ban on niqab face veils for those taking the oath of citizenship. In his appeal on behalf of Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Citizenship and Immigration v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 194, the three justices ruled in favour of Zunera Ishaq and her right to wear the niqab confirming that the federal requirement was unlawful.
Investigations into citizenship fraud
On July 19, 2011, Kenney announced that the government intends to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people it believes obtained their status through fraudulent means. The decision to revoke Canadian citizenship is rare, and a large-scale proposed crackdown had no precedent. Fewer than 70 citizenships have been revoked since the 1946 Citizenship Act.
An investigation into residence fraud continues to grow and almost 11,000 cases are being reviewed. Recently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has revoked up to 3,100 citizens' citizenship because they have cheated or lied to become a Canadian citizen. "Canadian citizenship is not for sale and we are taking action to strip citizenship and permanent residence status from people who do not play by rules", said by Minister Kenney. Also, CIC works inseparably with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian offices overseas to solve the fraud. "These efforts reinforce our government's commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system," said Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. It is believed that about 5,000 people who have Canadian permanent status are outside of Canada and implicated in residence fraud.
In January 2009, Kenney made public statements critical of U.S. soldiers seeking asylum in Canada who were facing punishment for their refusal to participate in the Iraq war. He said that unlike in the Vietnam era, the current asylum seekers are neither "draft dodgers" nor "resisters", but rather are "people who volunteer to serve in the armed forces of a democratic country and simply change their mind to desert. And that's fine, that's the decision they have made, but they are not refugees." He also said that he considered them to be "bogus refugee claimants". These remarks have been seen by some supporters of the asylum seekers as being a form of interference in the asylum process. He believed that Kimberly Rivera, an American soldier seeking refuge was not a legitimate refugee. "Military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term," said Alexis Pavlich, the minister's press secretary.
As part of Kenney's Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, introduced in June 2012, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism would have the ability to deny entry to Canada based on "public police considerations. He was quoted in The Globe and Mail saying that present immigration laws do not allow someone to be kept out if they are seeking to promote violence. The previous year, both the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and Quebec's National Assembly had asked Kenney to exercise negative discretion but no such ability existed under Canadian law. During debate in the House of Commons, the NDP criticized this component of the bill, arguing it gives too much power to the minister.
Earlier, in March 2009, the Canada Border Services Agency prevented British politician George Galloway from entering Canada, where he had planned to give a series of speeches against the war in Afghanistan. The Immigration Minister's Office stated that the Canada Border Services Agency deemed Galloway as inadmissible to Canada due to national security concerns. Galloway had openly given what he called "financial support" to Hamas, classified as a terrorist group in Canada.
Galloway pursued the matter in the Canadian court system, where it was revealed that Kenney's office had emailed the CBSA on the matter. The Federal Court found that Kenney's office had used "a flawed and overreaching interpretation of the standards under Canadian law for labeling someone as engaging in terrorism or being a member of a terrorist organization." The presiding judge also determined that the Canada Border Services Agency had produced its assessment of Galloway on scant evidence after receiving instructions from Kenney's staff, who attempted to bar Galloway because "they disagreed with his political views".
The Globe and Mail later pointed out that while Kenney was quick to refuse Galloway entry into Canada, his department gave entry to controversial politician Geert Wilders, who has compared Islam to Fascism and campaigned to ban the Quran from the Netherlands. Wilders spoke in Toronto and Ottawa, generating further controversy.
Citizenship policy changes
A new law amending the Citizenship Act came into effect on April 17, 2009. One of the changes instituted by the Government of Canada is the "first generation limitation", considered a punitive measure by some against naturalized citizens who reside abroad for lengthy periods of time. Minister Kenney said the following in the House of Commons of Canada on June 10, 2010: "That's why we must protect the values of Canadian citizenship and must take steps against those who would cheapen it ... We will strengthen the new limitation on the ability to acquire citizenship for the second generation born abroad." The new rules would not confer a Canadian citizenship on children born outside of Canada to parents who were also born outside of Canada. Thus for children to obtain Canadian citizenship if born abroad, they would have to have one parent who was born in Canada. Another effect of this law was to abolish automatic Citizenship by birth for the children of parents in Canada in the service of a foreign government. Children born to foreign diplomats in Canada would only become Canadian if at least one parent was either a Canadian citizen or a Permanent Resident.
In 2010, Kenney introduced Discover Canada, a new citizenship guide for prospective citizens. The Canadian Press reported that Kenney blocked information about same-sex marriage from the Citizenship and Immigration study guide for immigrants applying for citizenship, although a sentence was included in a 2011 revision. The revised edition also added information about arts and culture, the War of 1812, and an admonition against importing "violent, extreme or hateful prejudices" to Canada.
Kenney has taken steps to restore full citizenship status to the "Lost Canadians", Canadian nationals who had "fallen through the cracks". Bill C-37 corrected the citizenship issues for 95% of "Lost Canadians" and special grants were to have been made to resolve the remaining 5%. Kenney says the Lost Canadians group should not be politicizing their plight but they should be making a "solid application and a strong case". Kenney's predecessor, Diane Finley, had authorized a special grant of citizenship to Guy Valliere, although he died prior to receiving citizenship.
On March 29, 2010, Kenney announced an overhaul of the Canadian refugee system. The reform package also committed to allowing the resettlement of 2,500 more refugees living in UN refugee camps and urban slums. The plan also included expansion of the Government-Assisted Refugees Program to 500 places while a further 2,000 resettlement places were added to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. In total, the new plan would lead to the resettlement of 14,500 UN-selected refugees from refugee camps and urban slums to Canada.
"Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act", or Bill C-31, "An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other acts", was introduced on February 16, 2012, and received Royal Assent on June 28, 2012. It has been broadly criticized as it "gives Ministers broad, unfettered and unprecedented powers" among other new powers. It was sponsored by Kenney.
There has been significant controversy around changes to the social assistance program for refugee claimants (Interim Federal Health). Physicians and allied health professionals have opposed these cuts through national protests in all major cities in Canada. Physicians opposing the cuts to refugee health care include Vincent Lam who stated that Canada is a country known for its tolerance and diversity, but we [healthcare professionals] are "dismayed and ashamed at the cuts for healthcare for refugees" 
Afghan interpreters who served alongside Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan and who applied for Canadian visas on the basis of facing threats from insurgents were denied visas. Kenney backed this decision.
Kenney promised that Canada would resettle more refugees from 2011–2012 than in previous years. Instead, there was a 26% drop in refugee resettlement in Canada during that period, hitting a 30-year low. Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, criticized Kenny for not following through on his promise.
Responding to feedback in townhalls and public consultations, Kenney took steps in 2012 to fight against marriage fraud. Many cases had arisen in which Canadians had been taken advantage of by would-be spouses simply to facilitate their entry into Canada. These Canadian victims' trust in their supposed husband or wife was violated for fraudulent immigration purposes. Once status was acquired in Canada the prospective spouse would leave the Canadian spouse who had sponsored him in, revealing their marriage to have been a lie. Kenney instituted a five-year bar or prohibition on spousal sponsorship for those who had already been sponsored by a spouse into Canada.
Kenney also implemented a conditional permanent residency status to ensure that a spouse or partner had to live as husband and wife for a minimum of two years with their Canadian sponsor-spouse, or else they would have their status revoked. The anti-fraud measures were designed to protect Canadian victims as well as crack down on those who collaborated with fraudulent sponsored spouses for monetary gain.
Sun News citizenship ceremony
During the fall of 2011, Jason Kenney's office had Department of Immigration officials organize a citizenship ceremony for Sun News Network. Later it became known that some of the participants were ministerial staff reaffirming citizenship, rather than new Canadian citizens. Jason Kenney's office and Sun News Media initially claimed to have no knowledge of this incident and blamed well-meaning civil servants. Internal correspondence revealed through access to information laws later revealed that both Sun News and Jason Kenney's staff in fact made the decision to proceed with ministerial staff in the ceremony.
Office of Religious Freedom
Following up on a Conservative campaign promise from the 2011 Canadian federal election, Kenney initiated the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom, an agency of Foreign Affairs Canada, to monitor religious oppression domestically and promote religious freedom internationally. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed the office in a visit to Canada in 2013, saying, "I think it shows leadership from Canada. And Canada, by the way, in many ways is a perfect place from which to promote this ideal because of the complexion of the country." The Liberal government which formed after the 2015 Canadian federal election closed the office in 2016.
Minister of Employment and Social Development (2013–2015)
As part of the July 2013 cabinet shuffle, Kenney was named Minister of Employment and Social Development. While Minister of Employment, Kenney focused on expediting the review process for Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security disability appeals, which had become backlogged under the previous tribunal process.
Kenney reached an agreement with provincial and territorial counterparts—except Quebec—to implement the Canada Job Grant, which aims to train unemployed workers who do not qualify for employment insurance, over the next four years in January 2014. The final agreement provided more flexibility for the provinces and territories than in the initial proposal in 2013, which had been rejected by all Kenney's counterparts for its "take it or leave it" nature – potentially forcing the provincial and territories to forgo $300 million of the $500 million in federal funding provided to them by Labour Market Agreements if they did not accept the plan. Two and a half million dollars were spent on ads for the program during expensive Stanley Cup playoffs television spots in 2013 and 2014, even before the details of the federal-provincial agreements were finalized or approved, which prompted Advertising Standards Canada to label them as "misleading".
Minister of Defence (2015)
In February 2015, Kenney was promoted to Minister of Defence after a cabinet shuffle in which Foreign Minister John Baird left federal politics, and former Defence Minister Rob Nicholson became Foreign Minister. While Minister of Defense, Kenney took a hard-line approach to security, saying it was necessary for Canada to fight against Islamic State militants to prevent them from becoming a threat to Canada.
In mid-March 2015, Kenney claimed that Russian warships had confronted ships of the Royal Canadian Navy and that Russian fighters had buzzed HMCS Fredericton at low altitude while it participated in a NATO maritime task force off the coast of Ukraine as part of a mission against Russian intervention in the country. NATO officials later stated that Russian ships could be seen on the horizon, but never approached the NATO fleet and that all flyovers of the fleet by Russian planes had been at high altitudes.
In late March 2015, Kenney defended the Canadian airstrike campaign against ISIS being extended into Syria by claiming that it was necessary because among the coalition air forces, only the Canadians and Americans had planes capable of using precision guided munitions, when in fact, Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had won praise from General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff for their use of precision guided munitions. General Tom Lawson, then Chief of Canada's Defence Staff, issued a statement defending Kenney's statement, but later retracted it and apologized, saying that its contents were incorrect. Sources within the Department of Defence say that Lawson had been pressured into releasing the inaccurate statement by Kenney's office.
Also in March 2015, Kenney faced criticism for tweeting photos purporting to be of ISIS enslaving girls. One of the images was taken years before ISIS came into existence and appeared to be from an Ashura procession; another turned out to be a picture staged in London, England, by actors.
In April 2015, Kenney announced that troops from the Canadian Armed Forces would be sent to Ukraine as trainers for Ukrainian forces as part of Operation UNIFIER. The soldiers, who arrived in September 2015, were from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG) and were stationed in at the Ukrainian Armed Forces International Peacekeeping and Security Centre near the Polish-Ukrainian border at Yavoriv.
In May 2015, after a report was published on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, Kenney promised that an independent centre at arm's length from the military would be formed to hear complaints of sexual misconduct in the military and provide support and resources for victims.
Role in the Conservative Party
Kenney was widely recognized for his central role in the Conservative Party's successful 2011 election campaign, reaching out to ethnic minority voters, and the Conservative parliamentary majority that resulted. He has acknowledged publicly that his ongoing strategy of promoting conservative values and policies in government so as to capture the support of ethnic communities has been in the works since years prior to Stephen Harper first winning government in 2006. Kenney has also suggested that Stephen Harper was one of the first people he consulted with on the ethnic outreach strategy when the latter was still an opposition Canadian Alliance MP.
Kenney's ethnic outreach strategy was also evident when in early 2011, a letter using government stationery was sent to Conservative riding associations seeking assistance in raising $200,000 funding for an ad campaign aimed at bolstering support among ethnic communities in ridings that the Conservatives are targeting in the next election. News of this broke when a copy was believed to have been mistakenly sent to the office of opposition MP Linda Duncan instead of that of fellow Conservative MP John Duncan (no relation). This led to criticism over the letter's labelling of certain groups and ridings as "ethnic" or "very ethnic". Kenney publicly apologized for the mailing error, citing a staffer's inexperience as the explanation.
As Immigration Minister, Kenney has been largely credited with building bridges attracting ethnic communities to the Conservative Party, which was long dominated by the Liberal Party. In addition, he also handled the apology and financial compensation for the Chinese head tax and the official recognition of the Armenian and Ukrainian genocides. According to an observer, "He acts as a conductor to correct historical wrongs, It might not seem important to the majority of the population, but for the concerned communities, it's huge." According to The Globe and Mail, the Chinese-Canadian community nicknamed Kenney the "Smiling Buddha" in reference to his efforts to garner ethnic votes on the basis of what some perceive as commonly held conservative values. The Toronto Star characterized him as having a "Bieber-like" following in many communities. Kenney justified his efforts to gain ethnic support by stating:
- You observe how these new Canadians live their lives. They are the personification of Margaret Thatcher's aspirational class. They're all about a massive work ethic.
Return to opposition and provincial leadership candidacy
The Conservatives were defeated at the 2015 Canadian federal election, though Kenney was reelected in Calgary Midnapore, essentially a reconfigured version of his old riding. Kenney was named to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. Kenney was long considered a likely candidate to succeed Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and had been mentioned as a prospective candidate and presumed frontrunner in the next leadership election to be held in 2017, His name has also been mentioned as a prospective leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta who could potentially unite the rival Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties. On July 6, 2016, Kenney announced that he would be seeking the leadership of the Alberta PC Party, citing his desire to unite Alberta's two major centre-right parties. On July 7, 2016, Kenney announced that he would resign his seat in the House of Commons within three months once the leadership campaign period officially opened, which was severely criticized by his former employer the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for misusing taxpayer dollars. He officially resigned September 23.
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta
Kenney was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta on March 18, 2017, with more than 75% of the delegate votes on the first ballot. He pledged to unite the party with the rival Wildrose Party in a provincial analogue of the federal Unite the Right movement. The PC and Wildrose party announced a merger deal which was completed on July 24, 2017.
Leader of the United Conservative Party
On October 28, 2017, Kenney was elected as the first full-time leader of the new United Conservative Party of Alberta. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta representing the riding of Calgary-Lougheed in a by-election held on December 14, 2017, after MLA Dave Rodney resigned his seat in order to create a vacancy for Kenney. Normal practice in the Westminster system calls for an MP holding a safe seat to resign in order to give a newly elected leader a chance to enter the legislature.
"Kamikaze campaign" scandal
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Alberta Election Commissioner are investigating allegations that Jason Kenney and his team were involved in orchestrating Jeff Callaway's campaign for the leadership of the United Conservative Party in an attempt to harm Kenney's biggest rival, Brian Jean. Documents obtained by The Star confirm that Kenney's campaign controlled major aspects of Callaway's campaign, including the providing of strategic plans, attack ads, speeches, and talking points intended to discredit Jean. These documents have since been handed over the election commissioner, according to Callaway's former campaign manager, Cameron Davies. Davies also said that Kenney had attended a meeting at Callaway's house in July 2017 where the "kamikaze campaign" was discussed and that Kenney had first-hand knowledge of this strategy.
A leaked document alleged that Jason Kenney's team first approached Derek Fildebrandt in July 2017 about running a "dark-horse" campaign but ultimately decided against working with him. Fildebrandt confirmed this account but stated that it was he who rejected the idea.
An emergency injunction was sought to halt the probe into the financing of Callaway's UCP leadership campaign for the duration of the 2019 Alberta general election, but was denied by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Anne Kirker who ruled it was in the public interest for the investigation to continue.
Fraudulent e-mails used in leadership race
CBC News and CTV News have received documents indicating that fraudulent e-mail addresses attached to party memberships were used to cast ballots in the party's leadership race in 2017, which Jason Kenney won. CBC News picked a sample of e-mail addresses based on suspicious domains, and determined that 60% of those were used to cast ballots in the leadership election.
Former UCP MLA Prab Gill sent a letter to the RCMP outlining allegations that the Kenney leadership campaign used fraudulent e-mail addresses to intercept PINs needed to vote in the leadership race, and that they were subsequently used by the Kenney campaign to vote for Kenney.
Many of the suspicious domains were traced to a network with ever-changing domains and it is unclear who registered these domains. The majority of the fraudulent e-mail addresses were registered in the weeks preceding the leadership vote. CBC noted that it is not clear how widespread the voting fraud is outside of their selected sample of suspicious domains - it is also possible that common e-mail providers such as Gmail or Hotmail were used with fraudulent addresses. A dozen individuals were contacted by CBC News to confirm whether or not they voted in the race - they all confirmed that they did not vote in the race and the e-mails on the voter's list were not their true e-mails.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police went to question at least one family to speak with them regarding the allegations of voter fraud.
Kenney has been a social conservative in his political career, voting in favor of abortion restrictions and against same-sex marriage.
Kenney is an anti-abortion politician, voting in favour of abortion restrictions and receiving an endorsement from the socially conservative lobbyist group Campaign Life Coalition. In 2018, a bill to create "no-protest zones" around abortion clinics was introduced to the Alberta legislature following similar legislation in place in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. As leader of the United Conservative Party, Kenney refused to debate on the bill and led his caucus to walkout of the house 14 times over the course of two months when the bill was at issue.
He voted against same-sex marriage as an MP, saying "A majority of Canadians support the provision of benefits on grounds such as domestic partnership relationships, which are grounded on unions of economic dependency rather than relationships of a mere conjugal nature, and yet still two-thirds of Canadians, from every culture that exists in this country, from every corner of the globe who have come to this country to build a future for themselves and their families, recognize that marriage is, as the Supreme Court said the last time it spoke to this issue in the Egan case in 1995, "by nature a heterosexual institution"."
In 2016, Kenney supported the removal of "traditional definition of marriage" from the conservative party policy book.
Kenney was criticized by the provincial NDP, some LGBTQ activists, and some journalists for saying in a Postmedia interview that parents generally have a right to know if their child has joined a Gay-Straight Alliance; unless it would be contrary to the best interests of the child in the circumstances.
In November 2018, Kenney faced pressure to expel an outspoken member of the United Conservative Party who compared the gay pride flag to the flag of Nazi Germany. Although Kenney had previously directed the party to cancel the membership of another member, he said that the decision to expel members rested with the party's board.
A two-decade-old audio recording surfaced in December 2018 of Kenney boasting about overturning a gay marriage law in 1989 in San Francisco. Kenney was referring to his role in organizing a petition to repeal the city ordinance that extended recognition rights of heterosexual couples to same-sex couples. This ordinance, originating during the 1980s AIDS epidemic, extended rights that were previously exclusive to heterosexual couples, such as hospital visitation, to same-sex couples. Kenney addressed the audio clip by stating that he regrets the comments he made and that since then, his record shows he supports domestic partner arrangements and benefits for couples regardless of sexual orientation. The comments led to backlash from outside and within the United Conservative Party; leading a board member and campaign manager for the party to resign his positions and membership with the party, citing the audio recording of Kenney as his reason for departure. However, Kenney has stated that he supports those issues.[who?]
Premiership of Jason Kenney
Under the leadership of Kenney, the United Conservative Party won a majority government in the 2019 Alberta general election which was held on April 16, 2019. They won 63 seats and 54.88% of the popular vote. The premiership of Jason Kenney began on April 30, 2019 when was sworn in by Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Lois Mitchell forming the 30th Alberta Legislature—becoming the 18th Premier of Alberta.
During the 1st Session of the 30th Alberta Legislature the Kenney government passed about dozens of pieces of legislation, including the Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax, the Alberta Corporate Tax Amendment, and the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act, Premier Kenney established a one-year $2.5 million Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns and a Calgary-based $30 million 'war room' to "fight misinformation related to oil and gas". They announced their first provincial budget on October 24, 2019 which fulfilled their "promise of slight austerity" with "cuts to spending programs and the elimination of hundreds of bureaucracy jobs", according to The National Post. The Post said that these and the corporate tax cuts "were the key planks of a four-year plan to bring the budget into balance." The goal is to reduce government spending by $4-billion over four years.
Awards and recognition
In 2004, Kenney was named one of Canada's "100 Leaders of the Future" by Maclean's magazine; "one of Canada's leading conservative activists" by The Globe and Mail; and "one of 21 Canadians to watch in the 21st century" by the Financial Post magazine.
Maclean's magazine named Kenney the "hardest working" MP of 2011, citing overwhelming support from all political parties who recognized Kenney's constant "20-hour work days" and "permanent 5 o'clock shadow".
In 2014, Kenney received the UN Watch Moral Courage Award for speaking out for those who had been victimized by international tyranny. At the ceremony in Geneva, representatives of the 14th Dalai Lama presented Kenney with a traditional Tibetan scarf. Also in 2014, Kenney was awarded the inaugural Benjamin Disraeli Prize by Policy Exchange, a centre-right UK think tank, in recognition of the successful outreach to Canada's ethnic and cultural communities. The award was presented by British Conservative cabinet minister Michael Gove.
|Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal||
|Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal||
|Order of Merit (Ukraine)||
|Alberta provincial by-election, December 14, 2017: Calgary-Lougheed|
Resignation of Dave Rodney
|United Conservative||Jason Kenney||7,760||71.51||+8.35[a]|
|New Democratic||Phillip van der Merwe||1,822||16.79||−15.24|
|Total valid votes||10,852||98.84|
|Rejected, spoiled and declined||127||1.16||−0.30|
|Eligible voters / turnout||31,067||35.34||−16.01|
|United Conservative notional hold||Swing||+11.80|
- Swing is calculated from the sum of Progressive Conservative and Wildrose vote shares.
|2015 Canadian federal election: Calgary Midnapore|
|New Democratic||Laura Weston||4,915||7.73||−2.82||$18,349.56|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||63,562||100.00||$226,378.18|
|Total rejected ballots||179||0.28||–|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|2011 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|New Democratic||Kirk Oates||6,482||10.26||+3.07||$0.05|
|Western Block||Paul Fromm||193||0.31||*||$5,393|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||63,172||100.00||–||$104,090|
|Total rejected ballots||129||0.20||–|
|2008 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|New Democratic||Chris Willott||4,024||7.19||−0.48||$5,082|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||55,970||100.00||$96,650|
|Total rejected ballots||–||–|
|2006 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|New Democratic||Eric Leavitt||4,584||7.67||+1.09||$2,949|
|Total valid votes||59,840||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||120||0.20|
|2004 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|New Democratic||Brian Pincott||3,419||6.58||+4.55||$2,401|
|Canadian Action||Trevor Grover||274||0.53||–|
|Total valid votes||51,892||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||119||0.23|
|2000 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|Progressive Conservative||Ray Clark||11,353||20.81||−2.82||$9,884|
|New Democratic||Giorgio Cattabeni||1,111||2.03||−0.60||$490|
|Green||James Stephen Kohut||931||1.70||–|
|Total valid votes||54,533||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||116||0.21|
|1997 Canadian federal election: Calgary Southeast|
|Progressive Conservative||Carol Kraychy||10,567||23.63||+3.51||$60,861|
|New Democratic||Jason Ness||1,176||2.63||−0.74||$524|
|Natural Law||Neeraj Varma||235||0.52||−0.27|
|Total valid votes||44,711||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||79||0.18|
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