When there’s nothing more to lose then you might as well go all-in.
No doubt that’s Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s reasoning in deciding to go ahead and openly campaign for federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer in vote-rich Ontario over the past weekend.
Normally that would be an extremely high-risk strategy for any provincial premier. For, no matter how much you might dislike the policies and personality of a particular federal party leader, there’s a huge risk that person will become prime minister, one bearing more than a few grudges.
But that boat sailed long ago for Kenney. Famously, he penned an opinion piece about Justin Trudeau almost 18 months ago when he was then Alberta opposition leader in which he described the Grit prime minister as “an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl.” Ouch.
Well, after composing that little missive it’s hard to imagine what else Kenney could do or say that would make matters worse between the pair of them so – in for a penny, in for a pound – off he trotted to Ontario to help spread the message that Canadians should not re-elect Trudeau when we go to the polls in a couple of weeks.
Unlike embattled Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was told he’d be as welcome on the federal Tory campaign trail as a guest appearance by Gerald Butts, Kenney has seriously good form in appealing to many of the voters in those vital ridings that surround Toronto.
It was his hard work that was credited with his buddy Stephen Harper making the crucial breakthrough in those same ridings that finally gave the Tory boss his longed-for majority government back in May 2011.
Kenney, the so-called ‘curry-in-a-hurry’ minister, successfully persuaded many immigrant voters to abandon their usual Grit electoral support and vote Conservative for the first time.
But that seems a long time ago and whether an Alberta premier, no matter what federal history he might have, can make that much of a difference in Ontario is questionable at best.
Still Kenney obviously thinks he might as well double down on his opposition to Trudeau, because given the way Alberta has suffered during the past four years there’s no downside left.
Before leaving for Ontario Kenney made it crystal clear why the risk of further alienating the Liberals is worth the gamble.
“It’s clearly in Alberta’s interest that we have a change in the federal government to a government that respects this province and helps us grow again,” he said.
And when asked what a repeat of Trudeau’s victory four years ago could bring here in Wild Rose land he didn’t mince words.
“The frustration will go off the charts. That’s what I hear everywhere I go,” added Kenney.
Yes, he’s got the right. We’re used to living in next year country in Alberta, where the natural resource roller coaster ride is built into our DNA.
But these days there’s an uneasy feeling the good times might be gone for good, that we are prey to more than the simple vagaries of resource pricing and that the rest of Canada doesn’t much care.
To the majority of Canadians this election appears more a case of choosing between one set of promised, debt-funded goodies over another. Not so in Alberta. Here the stakes are high, along with that frustration.
"Let me just put it this way – I don't think we should allow Justin Trudeau to push us out of our country," is how the Alberta premier summed it up.
Whether folks in Ontario see it that way is another matter altogether.
Chris Nelson is a long-time journalist. His columns on Alberta politics run monthly in the St. Albert Gazette.