In keeping with my role as Soothsayer, warning of the Ides of February, today I consider what role Jason Kenney may play in the eventual assassination of Stephen Harper’s political career.
Kenney has long been viewed as Harper’s right-hand man — a longtime Reformer with solid conservative bona fides and an eerie ability to chorale traditional-suspicious cultural communities into the Tory fold — and has been promoted and advanced as the face of Harper’s government for much of the Conservatives’ mandate.
That sort of loyalty-buying doesn’t come cheap. Kenney, long-touted as a possible leadership contender in a post-Harper era, has become second-only to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in cabinet. After building up an ethno-cultural fortress around the GTA previously thought to be impossible, Kenney was shuffled into the quixotic new portfolio of Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism.
Whereas, at one time, Labour or Finance might be considered the department responsible for job creation, that gig now goes to Kenney — a clear carving-out of responsibilities to feed the power-hungry, and young, Calgarian, seemingly at the expense of old-guard Flaherty.
Elevating the ambitious to roles of power is always a risky proposition — the ruins of Chretien and Clark lay testament — yet Kenney has thus far shown remarkable restraint.
The social conservative of deep conviction could no doubt command considerable support from the ornery backbenches of ex-Reformers upset with the muzzles slapped on by Harper. In fact, it seems almost a sure bet that those neglected representatives from the Upright Citizens Brigade are sitting on their hands while they anticipate a change of guard in the PM’s chair.
And it’s open secret that Kenney is amassing the troops. Rumours of him securing donations for a future leadership bid are rife and not hard to come by. Coupling his behind-the-scenes donation shakedown is a public tempering of his traditionally-held beliefs, which some may consider extremist in our current climate, to make himself palatable to Louis and Philippe, the Quebecois married couple down the street.
So Kenney carries the big stick, and is walking softly. It should be clear to just about any astute Hill-watcher that Harper’s management of the chaos unfolding has been less-than-perfect (read: awful.) Why, then, has Kenney kept fiddling while Rome burns? (Apologies Mrs. Beaton, my High School history teacher.)
The easy answer is that he’s loyal, and has sheathed his sword until such a time that the Prime Minister considers himself done with the job. But, as Paul Martin can tell you, chomping at the bit eventually gives you a sore jaw.
The second answer is that he’s unsure if unseating the boss will endear him to the caucus that he needs to win over. After all, Kenney is going to have a hell of a time winning over the peasants anyway, without being known as the kingslayer.
The third is more salacious: that Kenney is readying for the palace coup. Kenney, like Shakespeare’s Brutus (yes, I made a Brutus reference yesterday, cut me some slack) he has heard the whisperings in his ear, telling that he could become king. Just as Cassius convinced Brutus that Caesar’s unbecoming behaviour as a king-cum-dictator would destroy all of Rome, Kenney must no-doubt be hearing that Harper’s miscalculations have threatened the integrity of the Conservative fortunes — a coalition that Kenney did remarkable work to build.
If Kenney seems skittish to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, it is perhaps because he expects that the reclusive Prime Minister may be readying for battle himself. If Kenney is afraid that, at the first whiff of mutiny, Harper will drop the writ, he will hold back.
Yet as the future of another Conservative mandate slips away thanks to the Prime Minister’s stubbornness, he cannot lay in wait forever.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream.
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