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Commentary: Jason Kenney can always drown his sorrows

Politics and alcohol have long gone together
Nelson Chris web
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.

Imagine arriving for a root canal and, as you nervously wait in the chair, your dentist pulls out a bottle of vodka and suggests you join him in a toast to the procedure’s possible success.

Or, you jump aboard a hometown transit bus and the driver merrily offers you a quick shot from his handy flask with a hearty: ‘one more for the road, eh, buddy?’

It might be an understatement to suggest you’d be a tad concerned.

Yet, when it comes to the people making our laws – during a global pandemic, by the way – then booze continues to flow through their decision-making processes with all the regularity of a New Year’s Day hangover.

Politics and alcohol have long gone together. Like rum and coke. Anyone ever setting foot in a political convention knows this only too well. It isn’t limited by any party affiliation but instead is culture based. The habit’s universal, and like most habits, can be darn difficult to break.

Well, the time has come for politicians and those surrounding them to grow up and stop such silliness, in the same way other professions, where heavy drinking was thought part of the job by providing stress relief and a bonding catalyst, finally figured out such behavior was outdated and rather daft. Yes, it should be acknowledged, journalists were often part of such cohorts.

This isn’t some moralizing lecture you’ve stumbled across. Far from it: when it comes to morality I might not be bottom of the league but rarely would make the play-offs.

So, it would be the height of hypocrisy to climb upon any soapbox regarding the evils of booze, having seen the inside of emergency rooms and jail cells in younger days, helped along by its rather interesting effects.

But eventually we learn alcohol and work don’t mix. Unfortunately it appears, once again, our current premier isn’t a man who veers quickly from his set path, not without the strongest push. He still believes booze in legislature offices is OK, as long as those imbibing don’t overdo things. 

The issue, one going back decades, resurfaced recently when Devin Dreeshen stepped down as minister of Agriculture and Forestry because: “My personal conduct with regards to alcohol has become an issue for the government as a whole.”

Now that took guts. But the premier, stubbornly clinging to an outdated mindset with the tenacity of emotional super-glue, couldn’t see the forest for the tree. 

“I don’t object to members of the legislature socializing, having a social drink every now and then. Political life is a very social activity. But people should be mature and responsible in terms of consuming alcohol, especially in any kind of a workplace environment. We expect all members to demonstrate maturity and responsibility and, of course, respect for others,” was Jason Kenney’s take.

Spoken like a man who likes a full bottle of whiskey on the table during a working dinner with senior colleagues. OK, recall that infamous Sky Palace photo, which caused indignation over social distancing adherence? Me, once being partial to such hard stuff, noticed the Jameson’s immediately and saw a different issue than one of public health restrictions.

Now, Kenney doesn’t appear an empathetic man. But perhaps he could give it a try by imagining a young, female legislative staffer arriving that same evening with papers to deliver or sign. How would she feel, approaching the most powerful men in government, as they sat downing whiskey? Relaxed? Bored? Perhaps intimidated?

If the correct answer dawns then Kenney might yet keep his job in 18 months. Get it wrong and, oh well; he can always drown his sorrows.

Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.