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Alberta Is Calling, but Is Anyone Picking Up the Phone?

Jason Kenney counts down to the end of his leadership with an odd appearance in a Toronto subway.

David Climenhaga 22 Sep 2022Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

Is it just me, or is it kind of embarrassing to see lame-duck Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and a couple of little-known United Conservative Party MLAs from rural Alberta hanging around the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway station at Yonge and Bloor trying to tout the bright lights of Wild Rose Country?

The Alberta government has spent a lot of money papering over the TTC’s big subway station at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto with advertisements hailing the advantages, real and imagined, of life in Alberta.

For example, according to signs lining the steps leading up to the street from the subway, Alberta has “AFFORDABLE HOMES” (true, at least compared to Toronto or Vancouver) and “NIGHTLIFE AND CULTURE” (maybe not so much).

For the next month, weary commuters can feast their bleary eyes on these truthy factoids as they hurry up to street level at Yonge and Bloor and make their way to their Dickensian workplaces in the towers of Toronto’s downtown.

Yesterday morning, the man who is still Alberta’s premier for a couple more weeks brought along UCP MLAs Miranda Rosin and R.J. Sigurdson to hold a press conference in the subway with him to tell folks that Alberta Is Calling.

Rosin is from Banff-Kananaskis, where she is renowned for her “STOP the COVID concentration camps” proclamation on social media. Sigurdson represents the Highwood riding south of Calgary.*

Presumably higher-profile UCP MLAs were otherwise occupied trying to get on the good side of Danielle Smith, the candidate favoured to replace Kenney when the leadership race votes are counted on Oct. 6.

Which subway station hosted the three Albertans’ stunt seems to be in some dispute, and the government’s news release was not clear. Some news reports said Yonge and Dundas. Others said Yonge and Bloor. The pictures looked like Yonge and Bloor to me, but, really… whatever.

Since all that subway signage seems to have turned out to be Kenney’s political swan song — at least for the short, unhappy Alberta portion of his career — he’s milking it like a Prairie dairy farmer before he’s put out to pasture.

And under the circumstances, who can blame him? Hope he got a chance to take a break and look for work before they jetted back to Alberta.

If they made it to the street at Yonge and Dundas the night before their hard morning of underground evangelizing about Alberta, I’m sure Rosin and Sigurdson were impressed by the bright lights on the surface, Canada’s modest response to Times Square, only without the Naked Cowboy who lends a Calgary touch to the real thing in New York.

In the government’s press release, Kenney insisted the $2.6-million Alberta Is Calling campaign — devoted mainly to wooing members of what the premier used to call the “laptop class” in Toronto and Vancouver — is money well spent.

“The incredible interest in the campaign website, as well as engagement across our social media channels, shows that this campaign is landing with Canadians,” the premier said in his canned quote in the release. “They are clearly seeing the benefits of life in Alberta, and they want to find out more.”

No statistics were provided to back up this claim.

In reality, it doesn’t matter, because the campaign is directed more at Alberta voters who may be contemplating voting for former premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party the next time they find themselves in a polling booth.

The campaign’s strategy, presumably devised before Kenney fared poorly in a leadership review vote last spring, can be summed up as, “Look busy, here come the voters!”

This phase of the Alberta Is Calling campaign is also supposed to include “more high-impact out-of-home tactics, including a newspaper wrap” in Vancouver, the press release says.

Presumably that newspaper wrap won’t be on a Monday.

On Wednesday, Postmedia, the owner of the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers, announced that nine of its moribund rags, including the B.C. papers, will no longer print actual paper editions on Mondays.

Don’t worry, though. As the slow-motion train wreck masquerading as English Canada’s largest newspaper chain assured its dwindling readership, they’ll still make a pretend e-paper version of their flagging publications every Monday, and their websites will continue to operate.

Four Alberta newspapers — the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun — will also lose their Monday editions, as will the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun and Montreal Gazette.

Former newspaper journalists are now making book on when Postmedia — which given the size and depth of its publications nowadays should really be rechristened Flyer Force — completely stops printing on paper because… what’s the point anymore?

* Story updated on Sept. 26 at 9:40 a.m. to correct a description about the Highwood riding.  [Tyee]

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