Buy My Book
Pre-orders available now; out February 6.
My book, Kenneyism: Jason Kenney’s Pursuit of Power, is now available for pre-order. While the book doesn’t come out until Feb. 6, pre-orders are important to indicate the level of interest in a book to bookstores.
Hit “Shop Local” at the link above, which allows you to input your postal code and find your nearest independent bookstore that is accepting pre-orders.
The more pre-orders there are, the more copies booksellers will purchase and the more prominently it will be displayed online and in stores.
The same goes for libraries, so please put in a request for your local library to purchase a copy.
Let me tell you a bit about the book.
For a first-time author, writing a book isn’t exactly lucrative. If you’ve got some spare change kicking around after you pre-order Kenneyism, please consider a paid Orchard subscription so I can continue doing journalism for a living.
Published by Dundurn Press, Kenneyism is part biography, part rigorous critique of one of the most influential figures in Canadian right-wing politics over the last 30 years.
As prominent Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt pointed out when I announced the book on Twitter, this is the first book by a single author about Kenney. It’s also, I would add, the first book about Kenney’s entire political career.
The two books that already exist — Blue Storm: The Rise and Fall of Jason Kenney, which Bratt edited, and Anger and Angst: Jason Kenney’s Legacy and Alberta’s Right — are collections of essays specifically about his time in Alberta politics. I haven’t read either in their entirety, but I can attest to the quality of the selections I read.
Independent political columnist David Climenhaga, who contributed a chapter to Anger and Angst on Kenney’s relationship with the media, is working on a forward to Kenneyism, which I’m very excited to read.
Suffice it to say, Jason Kenney didn’t respond to my request to speak to me for the book, which is fine by me. This is the furthest thing from an insider account, and I like it that way.
There will no doubt be books in the coming years that attempt to humanize Kenney, speaking to his inner circle to get a better sense of what he’s like and why certain decisions were made. I’ll read those books with great interest, but that’s not my style.
My argument is that Kenney is an emblematic figure of modern conservatism, who was instrumental in putting neoliberal and neoconservative ideas — the two defining ideologies of the New Right — into practice through shrewd political maneuvering.
By neoliberalism, I mean an ideology that seeks to offload the state’s responsibilities onto the market. By neoconservatism, I mean an ideology that seeks to use state power to bring order to the chaos caused by neoliberalism through appeals to tradition, authority and patriotism.
These ideologies are ostensibly at odds — one is individualist, the other collectivist; one is materialistic, the other moralistic. To paper over these contradictions, New Right leaders — whether Kenney, Stephen Harper, Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan — use a populism from above that speaks in the name of the masses to achieve fundamentally elitist ends.
But, at the end of the day, the name of the game is strengthening pre-existing power relations by destroying the remnants of the postwar welfare state.
The faux populism ended up being Kenney’s undoing. When Kenney returned to Alberta, he had to appeal to populist forces who sought to tear down the very Canadian federalism he had spent his political career helping shape in his image.
This approach worked initially, with a massive UCP majority government putting Kenney firmly in power. By the time the pandemic hit, however, Kenney’s political project was torn apart by contradictory impulses.
I had the idea in my head in late-2021 that I was going to submit a book proposal in 2022. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about, but my goal was, at the very least, to familiarize myself with the book publishing industry by shopping around a proposal.
When Jason Kenney survived a confidence vote from his party by an unexpectedly close margin in May 2022, he announced his intention to step down as premier once his successor was selected, bringing to an end a long political career that has caused immense damage to the Canadian social fabric.
At that point, a lightbulb went off in my head. As a journalist who came to Alberta in 2017, soon after Kenney won the PC leadership and set out on his mission to unite the province’s two right-wing parties, I bore witness to his rise and fall. I figured I’d be in a decent position to tell the story.
The book has 11 chapters, plus a preface, introduction and epilogue.
The first four chapters deal with his political career up to his return to Alberta — his transformation from a card-carrying Liberal into a militant Catholic theocrat at the University of San Francisco, his anti-tax agitation with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, his work on uniting the right federally as a Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative MP, and his role as Stephen Harper’s multicultural outreach guru.
The next seven chapters deal with various facets of Kenney’s Alberta premiership — his conservative unity efforts and landslide victory, his dismantling of most of the NDP’s four-year legacy, vilification of environmentalists, assault on public education, moralistic approach to the drug poisoning crisis, grotesque mishandling of the COVID pandemic, and downfall.
For the first chapter in particular, I learned some interesting tidbits about Kenney that have never been reported.
Here’s one for the paid subscribers.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Orchard to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.