Jason Kenney's Facebook-era McCarthyism - 2019-12-02
Less than a year into his mandate, Kenney appears to be adopting the approach to political opponents practiced by the late Republican Senator Joe McCarthy in his hunt for un-American activities—guilt by association, loyalty tests, party affiliation as a permanent stain, the hyperbolic conflation of any and all criticism of the government with an outrageous offence verging on treason. In Kenney's case, though, there's a style and intent that seems less like the purging of a bureaucracy than the offhanded point-scoring and intellectual rigour found in the partisan corners of social media. Truth is irrelevant; the only thing that really matters is that your team knows who to boo and hiss in the next game. Let's update it for the digital age and call it Facebook McCarthyism.
The University of Calgary's long-lapsed federal NDP candidate was far from the first critic of the Kenney way to endure such partisan smearing. A few days after the federal election, for example, Kenney's justice minister took to Twitter to vilify Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi as "Trudeau's mayor" for having the temerity to offer to meet with the prime minister. On the campaign trail in the spring, Kenney's United Conservative Party targeted the former director of the Pembina Institute, Ed Whittingham, after he was appointed to the board of the Alberta Energy Regulator. In a UCP press release, Whittingham was called out as "a foreign-funded, anti-oilsands, anti-pipeline activist." His crime? Running a moderate environmental organization that many in the oil patch had long considered a fair referee and some even contracted as a consulting partner.
This, of course, is the most common thread uniting the enemies on the Kenney blacklist: alleged disloyalty to Alberta's oil and gas sector. (I'm obliged to note that in 2012 I ran for federal office in Calgary as a Green Party candidate, and so I assume that places me on the list as well.) Among Kenney's first acts in office were the establishment of a $30-million "energy war room" and the commissioning of a $2.5-million inquiry to hunt down the "foreign-funded radicals" who had infiltrated Alberta's body politic and infected it with a virulent strain of dissent from the UCP party line on pipelines and new oil and gas development.