Jason Kenney dives into federal election in anti-Trudeau Twitter video
'I'd like to focus on separating Justin Trudeau from the Prime Minister's Office,' Kenney said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney plunged further into the coming federal election this weekend, saying in a social media post he will work to push Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from office, while dispelling calls for his province to separate from the rest of the country.
"Rather than focusing on Alberta separating from the Canadian federation, I'd like to focus on separating Justin Trudeau from the Prime Minister's Office," Kenney said in a video shared to his Facebook and Twitter accounts Saturday.
"I think that's a challenge for Albertans in the next three months."
In the video, the Alberta premier claims his province is getting a "raw deal" from provincial and federal governments that "have impaired our ability to develop our resources and have treated us unfairly and with disrespect in so many ways."
"Let me just put it this way," Kenney said in the middle of the minute-long clip. " I don't think we should allow Justin Trudeau to push us out of our country."
Albertans have been rightfully frustrated by the unfair deal we are getting in the Federation going as far as to even express support for separation<br><br>I don’t want to let <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a> push us out of our country<br><br>I’d rather focus on separating him from the Prime Minister’s office <a href="https://t.co/AEMq22BrXt">pic.twitter.com/AEMq22BrXt</a>—@jkenney
The video marks a further step in Kenney's intervention into the federal campaign, which will include the premier soliciting votes for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in key regions of the Greater Toronto Area later this year.
A sitting premier vying to unseat a prime minister isn't unprecedented, but it is rare, said political science professor Duane Bratt.
"There have been examples of sitting premiers campaigning overtly against a prime minister, but this seems to be ratcheted up a bit," Bratt said.
One of the closest examples the Mount Royal University professor raised was that of former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams, who sought to take down then-prime minister Stephen Harper in the leadup to both the 2008 and 2015 federal elections.
"Jason Kenney is a former federal cabinet minister who lost an election to Justin Trudeau in 2015. I think there's a lot more at play here than in the Newfoundland case," Bratt said.
The Prime Minister's Office would not respond to Kenney's remarks, other than pointing to Natural Resources Minister and Edmonton MP Amarjeet Sohi's Twitter response on Sunday.
Sohi hit back at Kenney's comments with a list of six Liberal investments in Alberta that he said federal conservatives voted against.
The Premier should know that his federal Conservative friends voted against all of these investments for Alberta. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yeg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ableg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ableg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/A9VZF4rYTN">https://t.co/A9VZF4rYTN</a>—@SohiAmarjeet
'The spectre of separatism'
While Kenney doesn't position himself as a separatist, Bratt said the premier is using the "spectre of separatism" in Alberta to threaten the federal government.
The province was hit hard by a drop in oil prices as Trudeau was coming into power. Despite a partial recovery of the price of oil, its industry is still struggling and the unemployment rate in Alberta remains uncharacteristically high. Trudeau has promised to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but his imposition of a federal carbon tax has also angered many in the province.
Kenney has also claimed his province is getting short-changed in federal equalization payments, which are meant to address fiscal differences between the provinces.
"He used [separatism] during the provincial campaign when he talked about a fight back strategy, to challenge the federal government in court over the carbon tax, to threaten a referendum on equalization."
But the critical question, Bratt said, is what will happen following a federal election that has already seen Kenney stirring up debates about these issues.
"What happens if you campaign so vigorously against Justin Trudeau, and every seat in Alberta goes Conservative? And every seat in Saskatchewan goes Conservative, and the Liberals get re-elected?"
"What happens when you've raised that anger up so much?"