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COLUMN: Fire and brimstone, Alberta-style

Nelson Chris web

With almost half our planet virtually under house arrest during these strange, uneasy days, it's hardly surprising things are getting a little tense.

Even so, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s emotional broadside last week, aimed squarely at U.S. President Donald Trump, came as quite the surprise. Actually it was a shock.

Now I’ve always thought of Kenney as yet another in an exceedingly long line of typically calculating politicians, one deeply steeped in the weary way of the Ottawa establishment. Well, so much for that daft analysis. 

Because any semblance of the usual tact towards the U.S. that Alberta politicians are forced to employ, given how much we export south of the border, was cast aside when our premier heard Trump was telling 3M not to supply surgical masks to Canada during this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, any lingering doubts Kenney wouldn’t do whatever he believed right on behalf of our province were obliterated within seconds of facing those accumulated microphones.

"It reminds me of what happened in 1939 and 1940 when Canada was a part of the fight against global fascism. The United States sat out the first two or three years and actually initially refused to even provide supplies to Canada and the United Kingdom, which was leading the fight at the time," he said.

Wow. Pass the popcorn. Looks like our premier’s got some fire and brimstone – plus a good grasp of history – in his belly after all.

Seriously: good for him. Frankly it’s about time someone stood up for this country and reminded our southern neighbours that, when it comes to courage and honour, they’ve nothing to teach Canada and might have a few things to learn. 

Oh, but he wasn’t done. Kenney then reminded Trump how Canada stood with the U.S. after the horror of 9/11 and the subsequent quagmire the ill-fated war in Afghanistan turned into.

"As a Canadian I am insulted by the decision to block the export of critically needed medical equipment we need to fight the pandemic in this country. But it also underscores why we must produce our own critical equipment here at home, because apparently we can't even count on our closest friend and ally to be a supplier."

Well, at least he didn’t mention Trump’s infamous bone spurs in his heel – the spurious reason he avoided military service in Vietnam 50 years ago. (Seems his hair isn’t the only thing that’s yellow.) That might have sunk hopes for the completion of the southbound Keystone XL pipeline for a generation. 

Yes, these are strange days indeed.

So I admire someone reminding the U.S. that when it came to declaring war on Nazi Germany, one country did and the other didn’t (nope, not even after Pearl Harbor: four days later it was Hitler who threw down that particular gauntlet.) 

But, from an American viewpoint, it makes sense denying export of such supplies in this rapidly stripped-down world. 

If Albertans were dying by the many hundreds each day, as in New York, and we discovered a Canadian company exporting surgical masks to another nation, then the hammer would come down. If it didn’t, that premier or prime minister in charge would be run out of office quicker than we now calculate six feet between our passing neighbours.

It’s a scary new world and the speed at which the gloss of globalization is being peeled away is quite astonishing. 

But it will probably pass. Then we’ll again play the supplicant from across the border. But remember, when the chips were down, Jason Kenney stood up for Albertans. Oh, and Canada too. I’d buy him a beer. But the pubs are closed.