“I DON’T NEED this job,” says Jason Kenney. These most telling words uttered by Alberta’s Premier are an admission of defeat. I know, because it’s what I told myself just before deciding to exit the PC leadership race against him in 2017.
Faced with the reality that Mr. Kenney and his supersonic election machine were going to win, critical friends took me aside and encouraged me to let go of my attachment to the leadership role and step aside. They didn’t tell me to give up, they told me to give way. These friends couched their advice in this very language, “Donna, you don’t need this job.” It was prudent advice, and I took it. I didn’t give up on the possibility of influencing change in Alberta, but I gave way to the Kenney machine.
Where are the critical friends whispering in Jason Kenney’s ear right now? Who is telling him, “Jason, it’s time to give way”? Assuring him that while the decision will crush his ego, he’ll recover and find another path.
What’s at stake now for Albertans is far greater now—exponentially so—than was the case in 2017. Eastern media is sneering at our bumbling, describing UCP politics in Alberta as a circus or carnival act on the prairies. And the inane antics of a leadership race are a distraction from the real work that’s needed. Albertans have their sleeves rolled up, ready to pitch in and help Ukrainians in any way we can, including massive tasks like finding homes for displaced people, planting wheat to fill hungry bellies, and producing more energy to backfill gaps created by embargoes on Putin’s oil and gas.
Saying it out loud and in public—I don’t need this job—is a signal, at least to this Albertan, that Kenney’s days as premier are numbered. Rather than heeding advice that may have been offered (I’m still hoping the Premier has critical friends), Kenney is doubling down and grasping to hold onto any shred of control in this situation. In these few words, he’s trying to let us know he’s the guy in charge here, he has choices, and he is deciding to stay on as premier.
Kenney is also laying blame at the feet of people who should be protecting his interests. While I’m here doing battle for Albertans—in a job that I don’t need—where exactly are you, my loyal subjects? You aren’t grateful enough for what I’m doing, for the sacrifices. It verges on martyrdom.
As with most things, there is a trajectory here. We can all imagine that Volodymyr Zelensky has moments where he’s thinking he doesn’t need the job of leading Ukraine, but deep down he knows and his followers know, he’s the right guy for this fight. At the other end of the continuum, who isn’t praying that Vladimir Putin will utter those very words, and give himself permission to stand down? Where is Jason Kenney on this spectrum, right now? By uttering these words—I don’t need this job—I hear him signalling an exit.