Has Jason Kenney lost the plot?

Politicians, pundits and other thoughtful westerners chat about the priorities, preoccupations and politics of Albertans and others who are West of Centre in this podcast series hosted by CBC Calgary's executive producer of news, Kathleen Petty.

West of Centre is a CBC podcast with a focus on the politics of Western Canada

Each new podcast will be added to this webpage when posted so check back weekly. You can also catch all episodes (and more) through the CBC Listen app.

Has Jason Kenney lost the plot?

Alberta's premier is coping with spiking COVID-19 cases, deepening economic turmoil and more unfavourable polls. Instead of changing course, Jason Kenney is doubling down on his anti-Trudeau, pro-pipeline rhetoric and resisting tougher measures to fight the pandemic in favour of "personal responsibility." Kathleen Petty examines what's driving Kenney's strategy with political scientist Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University, energy reporter Emma Graney of the Globe and Mail and Macleans columnist Jason Markusoff.

Circuit breakers and personal freedom

 Some doctors in western Canada are calling for lockdowns or short-term "circuit breakers"  to stop the spike in COVID-19 cases. But the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan say they favour voluntary measures over strict rules. After trying that approach, Manitoba is now enforcing bans on social gatherings, non-essential shopping, and gym and salon visits. B.C. is threatening similar measures if case numbers don't slow down. Guest host Jim Brown looks at how the provinces are handling COVID-19 and whether politics is playing a role. His guests are Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard, University of Manitoba associate professor and former chief medical officer of health Dr. Joel Kettner, and political strategist Melissa Caouette of the Canadian Strategy Group. 

Finding common ground

New research suggests more than half of Albertans believe the province's best days are behind it. It's one of several themes that emerged in a new survey from the Common Ground research initiative at the University of Alberta. Political scientist Jared Wesley at the U of A discusses his data and the parallels with the U.S. election results, with Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt and host Kathleen Petty.

Kenney, Horgan and Moe

The results of the British Columbia and Saskatchewan elections during the pandemic are historic with implications far beyond their boundaries. B.C.voters have given the NDP's John Horgan a second term with more NDP MLAs than ever before. In Saskatchewan Scott Moe has continued his Saskatchewan Party's streak with a fourth consecutive win. Geographically, Alberta is in the middle, but politically premier Jason Kenney is strongly aligned to Moe. Kathleen Petty looks at the implications of these elections with three journalists: Vancouver Sun provincial affairs columnist Vaughn Palmer, Murray Mandryk, political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix, and Kelly Cryderman, a reporter and columnist with the Globe and Mail. 

What's a win for Alberta on Nov. 3? 

Americans head to the polls in less than three weeks, and it's not just the future of the United States that's at stake. With Democratic nominee Joe Biden promising to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, Albertans have a lot riding on the election results. But would another four years of Trump be any better? Host Kathleen Petty digs into that question and more with a panel of cross-border experts: Carlo Dade from the Canada West foundation, political scientist, Duane Bratt, and Washington strategist, Maryscott Greenwood.

What does Alberta want?

Several conservative big thinkers believe they know and they've laid out their ideas in a new book called, "Moment of Truth: How to Think About Alberta's Future." Those familiar with the province's Fair Deal Panel, or the "firewall letter" from the early 2000s, demanding Alberta exercise its constitutional powers, will have a sense of their thesis.  Guest host Jim Brown breaks it down with co-editor and co-author Jack Mintz. Then three thoughtful Albertans weigh in: Dave Yager, author and energy analyst, Melissa Caouette of The Canadian Strategy Group and freelance journalist Max Fawcett.

Jonathan Wilkinson and the price of greening the economy

The Liberal government has doubled down on its promise to meet Canada's Paris agreement commitments. Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Environment and Climate Change is vowing to exceed those 2030 climate goals. But at what cost to places like Alberta and the oil and gas industry? The minister joins Kathleen Petty to talk about what role oil and gas and the West will play in the greening of the Canadian economy. Afterwards, economist Jennifer Winter of the University of Calgary and political scientist Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University weigh in. This episode was recorded on Thursday, October 1, 2020, before the news of layoffs at Suncor Energy.

From simmer to boil. What's firing up the tension between Ottawa, and Alberta and Saskatchewan?

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the policies in the federal throne speech threaten global investment and invade provincial jurisdiction. Scott Moe, his ally next door is in lock step, and about to go to the polls for the first time as leader of the Saskatchewan Party. How much of the tension is politics, and how much is real? Kathleen Petty digs in with Macleans columnist Jason Markusoff, Globe and Mail energy reporter Emma Graney and Regina Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk.

How do you like me now?

When the UCP swept into power Jason Kenney said the silent majority had spoken. A year-and-a-half later polls show the silent majority has soured on his government. Whether it's his handling of the economy, jobs and education during the pandemic, or the ongoing dispute with doctors, Kenney is pushing ahead with his agenda and pushing down his popularity. Add in the potential impact of the federal government's throne speech on Alberta. Kathleen Petty looks at Kenney's plight with political watchers Kelly Cryderman and Graham Thomson and political scientist Duane Bratt. 

Oil and the prospect of a green recovery

The hits keep coming to the oil and gas industry in western Canada whether it's price, demand or market access. For those hanging in, the future is uncertain. Opinions vary on what the government's role should be and the impact a so-called green recovery could have. Kathleen Petty looks at the current state of the industry and what to expect in the short term with two people who know it well: Rory Johnston, commodity economist and managing director at Price Street, and Peter Tertzakian, deputy director of ARC Energy research institute.

Rebel with a cause

Drew Barnes might not be a household name but the Alberta MLA is quite public about breaking with his UCP caucus and premier on a range of issues. From pushing for an expedited equalization referendum to arguing that Alberta would be LESS landlocked as an independent entity, Barnes goes his own way. Kathleen Petty talks to the rogue MLA. Then it's a return engagement with political watchers Duane Bratt, Kelly Cryderman and Graham Thomson as they assess whether Barnes has allies in caucus and how that plays into Jason Kenney's agenda as the premier navigates rough and uncharted waters.

Alberta's economic nadir and the premier's new federal ally

Premier Jason Kenney warned the numbers would be ugly and they are. The latest fiscal update shows Alberta is farther in the hole than at any time in its history. How the province digs itself out is anything but clear. Meanwhile, the candidate Kenney endorsed for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada has emerged the winner. What will Erin O'Toole's succession to the top job mean for Alberta's future in Canada? Kathleen Petty talks with political watchers and columnists, Kelly Cryderman, Graham Thomson and Duane Bratt.

The West wants what?

Interim Wexit Canada party leader Jay Hill says he knows. The veteran Reform and Conservative Party MP is leading a political movement to separate western provinces from Canada. And the next CPC leader and/or prime minister will have to deal with it. Kathleen Petty talks to Stephen Harper's former House leader about why he's giving up on the country, but voting in the CPC leadership contest. Pollsters Shachi Kurl of the Angus Reid Institute and Janet Brown of Janet Brown Opinion Research offer their analysis of what's at stake.

The next prime minister?

The pandemic bump has flattened for the federal Liberals. The next leader of the Conservative Party will try and take full advantage. As the party gets ready to choose its new leader this month three Conservative insiders assess the race, the candidates, the stakes and the prospects for a federal election. Kathleen Petty talks with Dennis Matthews of Enterprise Canada, Jenni Byrne of Jenni Byrne and Associates and Ken Boessenkool, research fellow at the CD Howe Institute.

The dark art of political communication

Owning the narrative or just getting owned? If you rely on social media for your political news, you'd conclude it's all out war among partisans. Is anyone being persuaded to consider the other's point of view? At a time of difficult and contentious issues from kick starting the economy, making peace with Alberta doctors during a pandemic to getting kids back to school safely, the divide seems more daunting than ever. Kathleen Petty talks to two strategists, skilled in the art of political communication - Corey Hogan and Melissa Caouette about how to cut through the noise, get your message out, and why it often doesn't work.

Crafting a recovery

Premier Jason Kenney is applying financial shocks to a flatlining Alberta economy. Will deep corporate tax cuts, billions in infrastructure spending including investments in oil and gas, jolt the economy back to life? How will women fare? Host Kathleen Petty talks to Lynette Tremblay of Edmonton Global and Adam Legge of the Business Council of Alberta about the business case for the premier's plan and whether his economic wager will work.

Erin O'Toole and Alberta

Albertans may have more at stake in the Conservative Party leadership race with all but one of their MPs flying the party flag in a minority government. Erin O'Toole has the enthusiastic endorsement of Premier Jason Kenney and other high profile Conservatives in Western Canada. Host Kathleen Petty asks Erin O'Toole about his economic ideas and how he'd cope with western alienation if he wins the leadership. Political scientists Jared Wesley of the University of Alberta and Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University listen in and provide their analysis. 

Alberta's economic jump start

Alberta is moving more quickly than other provinces to reopen the economy as the trend line for COVID-19 slowly improves. The challenges are monumental - with an economy gutted from the pre-pandemic oil price crash and an effective unemployment rate of 25 percent. The UCP government is making almost daily announcements to encourage job creation and investment. Guest host Jim Brown assesses Alberta's plans with commentator and business owner Emma Grace May, energy and opinion  journalist Max Fawcett and political strategist Stephen Carter of Decide Campaigns and The Strategists podcast.

Alberta's identity crisis

What lies at the core of Alberta's identity? Is it conservatism? An attachment to the oil and gas industry? Or something else? The answer could help to determine the province's future. Guest host Jim Brown in for Kathleen Petty  looks at why, with University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young, U of C economist Trevor Tombe, and C.D. Howe Institute research fellow Ken Boessenkool.

Political podcast triple threat

Four podcasters, from three podcasts, all veterans of the political trenches dissect the big political news of the week. David Herle and Jenni Byrne of the Herle Burly, and Zain Velji of The Strategists get down and partisan with West of Centre host Kathleen Petty. They tackle the fall out from the Fair Deal report, whether the West wants out and the Conservative Party leadership race. 

More Alberta less Ottawa

The Alberta government released its Fair Deal recommendations calling for more provincial autonomy - from a better deal on equalization to the creation of a new Alberta police force to replace the RCMP. It warns that if Ottawa doesn't act, separatist sentiment will grow. Guest host Jim Brown looks at the Fair Deal report, and assesses the CPC leadership race post debate with three Alberta journalists and commentators: Graham Thomson, Jason Markusoff of Macleans and Jen Gerson.

Politics, the pandemic and the personal

Anxiety levels are high in Alberta months into the pandemic. The latest CBC-Road Ahead poll surveyed Albertans on what they think now on a range of political issues. Kathleen Petty breaks down the numbers with Janet Brown of Janet Brown Opinion Research, data scientist John Santos, political scientists Melanee Thomas of the University of Calgary and Duane Bratt of  Mount Royal University.

The latest CBC-Road Ahead survey was conducted between May 25 and June 1, 2020, by Edmonton-based Trend Research under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research. The survey sampled 900 respondents, randomly selected from Trend Research's online panel of more than 30,000 Albertans. The sample is representative of regional, age and gender proportions in Alberta. A comparable margin of error for a study with a probabilistic sample of this size would be plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. For subsets, the margin of error is larger.

Is that all there is?

The  prime minister's $2.2 billion infrastructure announcement this week had many rural and urban leaders asking, "is that all there is?" The money isn't new, but will come all at once, instead of the usual two annual payments. It will be shared among more than 3,500 communities, and it's far from the $10 billion the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had lobbied for. Kathleen Petty talks to the mayor of Saskatoon and a rural Alberta councillor, both vice-chairs of FCM's Western Economic Solutions Task force, about what they do now, amidst a deepening economic crisis.

Media bias: Perception versus reality

Covering politics is a changing enterprise. Fewer reporters with more deadlines are feeding news cycles around the clock.  Are politicians getting a fair shake?  An almost two-year-old comment from Stephen Harper during a book tour has fired up the debate once again. Kathleen Petty talks to  three journalists:  Rob Russo, CBC's Ottawa bureau chief, Globe and Mail columnist Kelly Cryderman and Murray Mandryk, a columnist with the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Opposition, leadership and troubled times

Alberta opposition leader Rachel Notley knows what it's like to govern in tough times. She led the NDP to a majority government in 2015, just months after a crash in oil prices and an economic downturn. Now she's trying to hold Premier Jason Kenney's feet to the fire amidst a pandemic, a crisis in the oil and gas industry and greater economic uncertainty. The CBC's Jim Brown, in for host Kathleen Petty this week, asks the NDP leader "what would Rachel Notley do?"

Intensive care for Alberta cities

COVID-19 is battering economies in Canada's major cities. While some economists predict a rebound when the virus is contained, Edmonton and Calgary might not be so lucky. On top of the virus and the impact of a shuttered economy, they're coping with the effects of a collapse in world oil prices and demand while delivering essential services. Revenues have plummeted and cities can't run deficits. Kathleen Petty talks to Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi about the unique challenges for Alberta's two largest cities.

What the unemployment numbers hide

Economists predicted brutal numbers in the Labour Force Survey for April, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Three Alberta-based economists look at the story behind the data, and how income support programs might need to adjust to meet the needs of people who are jobless or underemployed. Associate professors Lindsay Tedds and Trevor Tombe are with the University of Calgary. Andrew Leach is an associate professor at the University of Alberta.

Reopening, recession and the Conservative Party leadership race

Provinces are taking steps toward opening up the economy and services, shut down by COVID-19. Some economists say Canada is already in recession, and some provincial economies have been devastated. In the case of Alberta, the hits just keep on coming. Three opinion leaders from three western provinces weigh in: Charles Adler, host of Charles Adler Tonight on the Global News Radio Network;  Licia Corbella, a senior columnist with the Calgary Herald, and Murray Mandryk, political columnist with the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Credit where it's due?

Many oil and gas companies are trying to survive through gutted oil prices, oversupply and low demand. They are desperate for cash to stay afloat, and looking to Ottawa for help. The sector employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and provides Canada's largest export. Does the rest of the country get it?  Kathleen Petty talks to two Alberta senators - Paula Simons with the Independent Senators Group and Doug Black with the Canadian Senators Group.

A lifeline to the energy sector

The prime minister's response to what he calls the "layers of calamity" in the energy sector include $1.7 billion for oil and gas workers to clean up abandoned and inactive wells, and $750 million for emission reductions. Kathleen Petty asks three key energy analysts what it will mean for a sector gutted by COVID-19 and cratering oil prices: Peter Tertzakian, executive director of ARC Energy Research Institute and the creator of Energyphile, Gary Mar, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation and Rory Johnston, managing director and market economist at Price Street Inc.  

An economic reckoning of historic proportions

Alberta's premier has been battling what he calls a "triple whammy" of COVID-19, massive job losses and the price of oil falling off a cliff. Jason Kenney says it all adds up to an economic reckoning.  Kathleen Petty looks at what the future holds for the province and the Kenney agenda with political analyst Graham Thomson, Globe and Mail columnist Kelly Cryderman and CBC provincial affairs reporter Janet French.

Economic anxiety in Alberta meets a pandemic

Alberta was already coping with job losses and falling oil prices when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A CBC News poll was in the field during turbulent times in the province - the Teck Frontier decision, an austerity budget, a stock market crash and the early shock of COVID-19. Kathleen Petty takes the pulse of Alberta at a critical moment with lead pollster Janet Brown, data scientist John Santos and academic advisers Duane Bratt and Melanee Thomas.

The CBC News random survey of 1,200 Albertans was conducted between March 2 and March 18, 2020 by Edmonton-based Trend Research under the direction of Janet Brown Opinion Research. The sample is representative along regional, age, and gender factors. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

Time for a fair deal?

Alberta's premier is demanding the federal government help with the economic fallout from depressed energy prices and the corona virus. Meanwhile, Jason Kenney's Fair Deal panel is writing its report. The panel heard from thousands of Albertans on a range of life changing questions - from creating an Alberta pension plan to separation from Canada. Two panelists: United Conservative Party MLA Drew Barnes and former Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans say Albertans need a fair deal now more than ever.

Published: March 13, 2020

Information vigilantes -  academics and the fight against false information

Debates about taxes, climate change and fossil fuel development have become more polarized. Politicians and commentators use information often taken out of context or simply wrong, to promote a narrative. On social media, facts don't seem to matter.  Academics have become vigilantes in the fight against misinformation - economists like Andrew Leach, Lindsay Tedds and Trevor Tombe.

Published: March 06, 2020

Alberta through the looking glass

Alberta's budget forecasts an improving economy from increased fossil fuel production and provides scant detail about efforts to fight climate change. Meanwhile, Teck has withdrawn its $20 billion Frontier oil sands mine application, as Alberta wins its carbon tax challenge in court. Pollster Janet Brown, journalist Jason Markusoff and political scientist Roger Epp take stock of what Alberta sees when it  looks in the mirror, and how that's reflected in the rest of Canada.

Published: Feb. 28, 2020

Bonus episode: Roy Romanow's perspective on the prairie politics of yesterday and today

Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow has witnessed and made history — from his early association with Tommy Douglas to the patriation of the Constitution. Along the way, he dug his province out of insolvency and advised Jean Chrétien's federal government on reforming health care. We asked him how his experiences shape his view of today's political challenges.

Published: Feb. 23, 2020

Deconstructing the blockades

Barricades continue to disrupt rail service and Canadians want the blockades to come down. Are federal and provincial governments fuelling the crisis or lowering the temperature? Three political columnists in Western Canada weigh in: Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun, Niigaan Sinclair of the Winnipeg Free Press and journalist Max Fawcett in Calgary.

Published: Feb. 21, 2020

How a political evolution led one long-time strategist to become 'post-partisan'

Rick Anderson has worked in the trenches of politics for decades. As a young Liberal, he campaigned for Pierre Trudeau, and worked and volunteered for the party for years. In the '90s, Anderson headed to the Reform Party and built bridges with provincial conservative governments across the country. He played a key role in the movement to unite the right in Canada. These days, Anderson continues to provide strategic advice with the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, but now as a committed Independent.

Published: Feb. 14, 2020

How court decisions and protests can sway public opinion on energy projects

Courts have helped clear some of the hurdles for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. But opposition to the project has spiked in Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, has been analyzing what's going on and how the court rulings and protests may affect public opinion. 

Published: Feb. 7, 2020

What western voters need to know about the Conservative Party leadership race

Two political strategists who worked for Stephen Harper explain why western voters may have to change their expectations when it comes to the next CPC leader. Ken Boessenkool is a founding partner at Kool Topp & Guy Public Affairs. Dennis Matthews is vice-president of marketing and communications with Enterprise Canada.

Published: Feb. 7, 2020

The past and future of energy politics

Andrew Nikiforuk and Dave Yager are two energy authors with different perspectives on fossil fuel development. They talk to Kathleen Petty about the immense challenges for jurisdictions hooked on oil.

Published: Jan. 31, 2020

Energy development and the divide among Indigenous groups

There is no consensus among Indigenous communities when it comes to energy mega projects, fossil fuel extraction, and pipelines. Kathleen Petty talks to two leaders about how to bridge the divide. Here's her conversation with businessman and former Fort McKay chief Jim Boucher and Judith Sayers, elected president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and teaches environmental studies and business at the University of Victoria.

Published: Jan. 31, 2020

What Canada should know about Alberta

Albertans are feeling misunderstood by the rest of the country. Many of them are angry. Kathleen Petty asks Brian Jean, former leader of Alberta's official opposition, writer Chris Turner and political scientist Lisa Young what they want Canada to know about western alienation.

Published: Jan. 31, 2020

A CBC political podcast with Kathleen Petty. (CBC)



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