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Jason Kenney's Alberta reign focus of new book

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A group of political scientists have collected details about the three years Jason Kenney led Alberta and compiled them into a new book.

Blue Storm: The Rise and Fall of Jason Kenney is edited by Mount Royal University's Duane Bratt, Richard Sutherland and the late David Taras.

Taras passed away on June 9, 2022, in hospice care following a battle with cancer.

Bratt says Blue Storm looks at Kenney's entrance into Alberta's political arena after a long period of time serving in Ottawa and what he did to merge the Progressive Conservatives and the Wild Rose Party.

"It was a party in his image – he controlled the caucus," Bratt said, adding when Kenney won the 2019 general election, he emerged as a powerful leader.

However, about three years later, Bratt says he was already being pushed out by his own members.

"It's a remarkable story. I can tell you when we started work on this project, we never imagined Jason Kenney wouldn't be there at the end of it."

KENNEY'S OBSTACLES

Jason Kenney faced a number of challenges during his time in office, Bratt says, but none of them were larger than the opposition Albertans had toward COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Some of that pushback even came from members of his own party.

"That made it very difficult for Kenney – to bridge that gap between a group that wanted as few restrictions as possible versus a much wider swath of Albertans that believed Kenney acted too little, too late," Bratt said.

One of those missteps came when Kenney announced his "Open for Summer" plan, where he decided that the pandemic was over and restrictions would be a thing of the past.

"That was a disaster for Kenney – he announces COVID is over, they're dropping all restrictions, we're going to the Stampede, we're going to have barbecues, you're going to see your family again, COVID's never coming back."

However, just a couple months later, deaths and hospitalizations due to the virus surged and Kenney was forced to bring back public health restrictions.

"This meant he was betraying a lot of his people," Bratt said. "While he created this United Conservative Party, there were tensions within it."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at his last Premier's annual Stampede breakfast as premier in Calgary, Alta., Monday, July 11, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

BORROWED NDP POLICIES

One of Bratt's contributions to Blue Storm includes a look at Kenney's policies, including an understanding of how he took on a number of strategies originally thought up by Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley.

He says while Kenney initially scrapped much of the former premier's climate leadership plan, he repurposed segments of it for his own government.

"Yes, he repealed the carbon tax, but he instituted an even stronger, industry-wide carbon tax," Bratt said. "He maintained the coal phase-out, in fact, instead of it being by 2030, we're going to be out of coal generation by this year."

Kenney also worked with industry and with the Trudeau government on a number of initiatives including carbon capture, hydrogen power and small modular reactors, he says.

"While the public Kenney was fighting Trudeau and fighting on behalf of the energy sector and seeming to deny the reality of climate change, the reality was behind the scenes, a lot of work was being done."

TARAS REMEMBERED

Bratt says this new book, like a previous publication the Notley years, was Taras' "inspiration."

"David was part of the process of the Blue Storm as well and I still remember the phone call he gave me a day before our author's workshop in June of 2021 saying he would be unable to attend the workshop.

"He had been diagnosed with cancer (and) passed away last spring."

Bratt says he remembers Taras instructing him to remove his name from the Kenney book, but denied him, saying he was "an integral part" of the publication.

"He was a great colleague and a dear friend and will be missed."

Blue Storm: The Rise and Fall of Jason Kenney is available now in bookstores as well as online.

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