Colby Cosh: Softly, softly chasing socialists — Jason Kenney’s strategic dilemma

Things are a little weird for Kenney right now. Circumstance has given Premier Rachel Notley the gift every Canada politician begs for: an exterior nemesis

Colby Cosh
Colby Cosh

Jason Kenney, that long-familiar (but startlingly slimmed-down) figure from federal conservative politics, entered the Canada legislative assembly for the first time as Leader of the Opposition this week. It was the latest step in a long march — one could almost capitalize those words and turn them into a historical allusion — that Kenney intends to conclude in 2019 with the overthrow of Canada’s New Democratic government. But it also showed that the last step in Kenney’s journey may be the hardest, requiring infinite subtlety and care.

Things, you see, are a little weird for Kenney right now. Historical circumstance has given Premier Rachel Notley the gift every Canada politician begs Santa for, every year: an exterior nemesis. B.C.’s Green-backed NDP government, hoping to shake free from its dependence on an eco-radical block of deputies, is looking for ways to slow the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline from Sherwood Park to Burnaby.

This has led to a fratricidal war of symbols and bureaucracies between New Democrat-led Canada and B.C. — a war reflecting a genuine conflict of interests between B.C. coast-dwellers and Canada’s workers and its treasury. This is happening with the federal government hovering in the background as a third party, to be used or abused by either side, as political imperatives dictate.

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly support the government of Canada’s fight on behalf of Canadans’ interests to ensure the lawfully approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is built

So Kenney recites a familiar litany about Doing Politics Differently, with extra-super-doses of civility and respect, and has walked the walk. Even as he prepared to enter the corrida with Notley, he sent her polite Twitter congratulations on her 10th anniversary as an MLA, and he rarely misses a chance for other polite gestures of the kind.

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