Well, here we are.
Jason Kenney, former cabinet minister from the Reform-wing of the old Harper Conservatives, has been crowned the new leader of Alberta's Progressive Conservatives.
But during his coronation speech, Kenney didn't do much to put to rest the concerns of moderate Tories that their new leader is a touch too extreme when he invoked the memory of Ralph Klein and spoke of "severely normal" people.
@CarrieTait Yep, quoting Ralph— James Wood (@JamesWoodPress) March 18, 2017
As Athabasca University professor Gloria Filax explains, that line about "severely normal" people has a severely loaded history:
"Klein used the phrase 'severely normal' interchangeably with a fictitious pair he called 'Martha and Henry' in his pronouncements about socially contentious issues. Severely normal came to stand in for an Alberta subject who was: adult, right-wing, conservative, fundamentalist Christian, white, straight, worked hard, eschewed big-G government, male. All others in the province became 'not normal' in relation to 'severely normal discourse'."
Reminder: “Severely normal” was code in Alberta politics for homophobic. https://t.co/8drLQy9R1W— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) February 16, 2017
Whatever he meant by that, one thing's for sure: if you spend a little time digging beneath the surface, Kenney probably wouldn't meet most people's definition of "severely normal" himself.
Just consider a few things the new PC leader has actually said he believes:
1. Schools brainwash children with anti-conservative beliefs
During an interview with Ezra Levant's Rebel Media, an alt-right website disavowed by Conservative leadership candidates and slammed by media outlets around the world, Kenney stated that he believes the "schooling system" has "hard-wired" Millennials with anti-conservative beliefs:
"I think it's the first generation to come through a schooling system where many of them have been hard-wired with collectivist ideas, with watching Michael Moore documentaries, with identity politics from their primary and secondary schools to universities. That's kind of a cultural challenge for any conservative party, any party of the centre-right, and we've got to figure out how to break that nut."
Kenney, who is not a parent, has previously stated he believes other people's children would be better off taught at home rather than going to schools run by "the state":
"I, and I believe the vast majority of Canadian parents, believe that the first and best school is at home and that the first and best teachers are parents and not the state."
2. Constitutional powers are passed down to Canadians from God
During the 2015 election, Kenney told an evangelical Chinese business group in Richmond Hill, Ontario he believes the "supremacy of God" is more supreme than the authority of Parliament and the courts.
"Canada is founded upon principles which recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law," Kenney said, explaining that he interprets the preamble of the Charter of Freedoms to mean constitutional powers come from God – even though constitutional experts say the preamble is "all but ignored by the Supreme Court."
Kenney also said Charter rights flow from "being created in the likeness and image of God ... because if our rights are just given to us by a majority, or by the Parliament, or by the state, or by the judges, they can take those rights away."
"We do not create ourselves and we therefore do not create our own rights, but we are created and rights are bestowed upon us. Fundamental human rights such as the right to life are inalienable. Even individuals cannot through the exercise of some radical personal autonomy alienate rights which cleave to the human nature of individuals because they were granted to us by our Creator.
This is what the preamble of our constitution suggests."
3. Carbon dioxide is good
Thought pumping large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere of a planet was a bad thing for its climate?
Despite what scientists tell you, Kenney tweeted last year that carbon dioxide is no biggie because trees like CO2.
Kenney also told a supporter last December that he thinks climate change is a "natural" phenomenon:
"We all know climate change exists because it's a natural part – the climate's been changing since the beginning of time, right?"
And Kenney added:
"We shouldn't indoctrinate students into the most extreme view about [climate change], I don't think we should be teaching in our schools that whatever David Suzuki says is gospel truth."
4. "Bohemian" youths are "unconsciously" promoting communism
Kenney also has pretty out-of-touch and over-the-top ideas about the fashion choices of "bohemian" youths.
In a Calgary speech last summer, Kenney condemned youths who "unconsciously" promote communism as they "walk down a fashionable part of a Canadian street these days":
"If you go to a university campus or walk down a fashionable part of a Canadian street these days, you're likely to see young people unconsciously displaying symbols associated with this ideology of violence ...
It is essential for us to ensure that those young people now and in the future understand that if they walk down the street with a Mao cap, with a red star emblazoned on their t-shirt, with an image of Che Guevara or Lenin or Karl Marx or the hammer and sickle, that this isn't some charming, sophisticated, bohemian image of counterculture ... Yes, we must stigmatize those symbols of a inhumane ideology."
Got that? Hope old man Kenney made himself clear, you charming, sophisticated, bohemian teenagers!
5. Marxist professors are working to "suppress" Canada's "Christian patrimony"
Here's an interesting bit of trivia about Jason Kenney – he subscribes to some pretty wild conspiracy theories too.
Talking about "the Frankfurt school" & cultural marxism, Jason Kenney sounds like he'd be at home on the far right: https://t.co/0DKt1w7AEQ— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) October 7, 2015
Speaking at an Italian religious conference in 2012, Kenney described a small group of Marxist academics are using "multiculturalism" in an effort to "suppress completely the Christian patrimony of Canada."
Kenney would go all the way down the rabbit hole, linking European "multiculturalism" to a "radical academic theory of cultural relativism that was really inspired by the Frankfurt school of Marxists." The Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled that story a "conspiracy theory," one that attempts to blame the legacy of the 1960s counterculture on a "tiny group of Jewish philosophers who fled Germany in the 1930s":
The theory holds that these self-interested Jews — the so-called "Frankfurt School" of philosophers — planned to try to convince mainstream Americans that white ethnic pride is bad, that sexual liberation is good, and that supposedly traditional American values — Christianity, "family values," and so on — are reactionary and bigoted. With their core values thus subverted, the theory goes, Americans would be quick to sign on to the ideas of the far left.
Kenney's not alone – the same story has been floated by InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
6. Women talking about abortion? What's next? "The Church of Satan"?
Let's fire up the wayback machine and take a look at an interview young Kenney did with CNN:
As an anti-abortion activist in college, Kenney opposed the efforts of a group of law students to talk about abortion on campus.
Here's what Kenney had to say about those who say "free speech" should cover providing information about women's reproductive health on campus:
"We have to ask these valiant defenders of 'free speech' if they would be active if the university were refusing access to the Klu Klux Klan. If the [University of San Francisco] were to accept or support the activities of a group whose objective is to legalize prenatal murder, on what basis could it refuse similar assistance to groups promoting racism? On what basis could it refuse the establishment of a cell of the Man-Boy Love Association that calls for the legalization of pedophilia? On what basis could it refuse access to a fascist club or a cell of the Church of Satan? Only a radical relativism that gives more importance to rules than to truth could justify accepting such cases."
Last summer, a right-wing anti-abortion group called on supporters to purchase PC memberships in a bid to help Kenney take over the party and elect him Alberta's "pro-life premier."
Photo: Unite Alberta, YouTube.