Christmas comes early for Premier Kenney

Holiday celebrations are more or less canceled for most of us now, but it looks like Christmas has come early for Jason Kenney.

The federal Liberals have handed him two great gifts. First--a COVID-19 vaccine, which is being distributed to medical workers this week. Second--they’ve announced that the carbon tax will begin to increase, gradually reaching $170 per tonne by 2030.

They’re two things the Premier can talk about that aren’t his disastrous bungling of the pandemic response, and he’s wasted no time getting them in the message box.

Kenney was quick to do a photo-op with the arriving vaccine doses on Monday. He didn’t thank the federal government for sending it, or the rest of Canada for helping to pay for it, but he did thank UPS for delivering the boxes.

It’s a bit dissonant with the narrative over on the conservative side; Kenney’s allies and former colleagues in the federal Conservative Party have been alleging that Canada was ‘at the back of the line’ for vaccines and that PM Trudeau had failed to secure them. I hope you are not surprised to hear that Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre and Erin O’Toole have been lying.

Where there will be no dissonance is the conservative response to the carbon tax announcement. All of the same bad-faith arguments we endured back in 2015 are back: “it doesn’t work,” (there’s a mountain of evidence to show that carbon pricing does work,) “it’s regressive,” (the rebates make it not regressive,) “there’s no point if you just rebate it,” (the rebates are static, so you end up with more money if you reduce your emissions,) etc.

Opposition to the carbon tax was the flagship issue for the UCP during our last election and their position, despite being wrong on both technical and moral grounds, was deeply popular. You can imagine Jason Kenney being very excited at the opportunity to go back to the carbon tax well one more time.

But I wonder if that will play out as well as Mr. Kenney and his strategists might be hoping. Alberta has lived with a carbon tax for five years now, and despite conservative predictions of disaster, the sky hasn’t fallen. Folks are used to it. It’s mostly die-hard right-wingers--whose support Kenney still enjoys--that are still upset about it. What Albertans are upset about today is watching friends and family in their communities suffer under this pandemic. And I don’t think people are going to be very impressed as Jason Kenney tries to distract them by shouting about the evils of wind turbines and solar panels while the seniors lodge down the street keeps getting swarmed by ambulances.

It’s a question I’m very interested to see answered over the next few weeks: by announcing the new carbon prices, was Justin Trudeau throwing Jason Kenney a lifeline? Or did he just hand him more rope with which to hang himself?


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