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Fought to unite Alberta conservatives: Jason Kenney voted Alberta’s new premier

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  • Jason Kenney’s fight is over. Let the fight begin.

    The 50-year-old United Conservative Party leader, known for saying he can’t help but march to the sound of rhetorical gunfire, soundly defeated Rachel Notley’s NDP with a majority in Tuesday’s Alberta election.

    The former federal cabinet minister now takes his fight to Ottawa as Alberta’s 18th premier. He has promised to challenge the federal government on everything from the carbon tax to proposed energy regulations and equalization payments.

    It’s a new to-do list for Kenney after checking off the final box on a plan he announced three years ago to unite Alberta’s warring right-of-centre Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party and take them to the summit.

    “I had zero inkling to do it,” Kenney said in a pre-campaign interview.

    “But as I got further into the spring and then summer of 2016, I just realized that somebody with the relevant profile, network and experience had to step forward with a plan.”

    Kenney was born in Oakville, Ont., raised in Saskatchewan, and spent his adult years based in Alberta.

    He said he was just 10 years old, sitting on a couch and minding his own business at a Saskatchewan school fundraiser, when politics first found him.

    John Diefenbaker, well over a decade removed from being prime minister, came up to young Kenney, asked him his name, and struck up a conversation: Do you know the mythical story of Jason and the Argonauts? What’s your favourite subject at school? What are your future plans?

    “That 10-minute conversation made an indelible impression on me,” remembered Kenney.

    “That a former prime minister would spend 10 minutes talking to a 10-year-old boy was remarkable to me. I never forgot the kindness that he showed. And that maybe gave me sort of my initial interest in politics and public service.”

    He has lived much in the public eye as he has fought for conservative principles and the concept of ordered liberty, first as an anti-tax crusader and later as a key lieutenant in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet in portfolios that included  immigration, employment and defence.

    He is not married and happily recounts a life committed to public service. A day’s politicking is followed by late-night reading from a stack of philosophy books at the bedside. He is partial to Aristotle and Edmund Burke.

    He is schooled in the ground game of politics and had legendary campaign war chests as a Calgary MP.

    Some credit him with moving Harper’s government into majority territory by reaching out to ethnic newcomers, breaking the shibboleth that they vote Liberal, so much so he gained the nickname “minister for curry in a hurry.”

    He is a Catholic and has spoken out against gay marriage and abortion in the past, but promises not to act on those issues if he becomes premier.

    Critics say he can’t be trusted. They note he has promised, as premier, to roll back some protections for students in gay-straight alliances in schools.

    He won the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, then the new United Conservatives and finally the provincial election, illuminating his drive, populist instincts, and nose for the political jugular.

    In a province where the unemployment rate is above seven per cent in Edmonton and Calgary, he campaigned against Notley on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” tapping into latent discontent over the federal government’s failure to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project underway.

    To win the UCP leadership, he drove back and forth across Alberta in a blue pickup truck to meet and greet thousands of supporters and fence-sitters. Then, in less than two years, he got 87 constituency associations and candidates running.

    It was also about doing whatever it takes. When Kenney ran for the PC leadership, he was fined by the party for setting up a hospitality booth beside a voting station.

    Last month, campaign documents and emails revealed that his UCP leadership team worked in lockstep with another candidate to have him attack Kenney’s chief rival while Kenney stayed above the fray.

    Mounties are investigating the UCP leadership race for possible fraud.

    Kenney has said his next step is to get back on the campaign trail, this time to get the federal Liberals defeated in the fall.

    “It is in the vital economic interests of Alberta that the Trudeau government be replaced this October,” he said earlier this week.

    For Kenney, one campaign is over. Let another campaign begin.

    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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