À la recherche du zeitgeist : une analyse du populisme dans les discours de Jason Kenney (2016-2019)

  • Searching for the Zeitgeist: an Analysis of Populism in the Speeches of Jason Kenney (2016-2019)

  • Author / Creator
    van den Brink, Timothy
  • Jason Kenney has been considered a populist by many in the media since his transition to Albertan provincial politics in 2016. However, these discussions are often lacking clear justifications and definitions leading to confusion regarding what is considered populist behavior, and what we should from traditional democratic actors. This thesis has thus sought to ask: to what extent has Jason Kenney used a populist style since his shift to provincial politics?
    This thesis begins by clarifying the concept of populism as a political style centered on four characteristics: appeals to a homogenous and good people, attacks against the elite and their system, promises of a true democracy, and an "outsider" political identity. Furthermore, this thesis connects this definition with Alberta’s populist actors of the 20th century, notably Preston Manning and Ralph Klein, providing clear examples within the Albertan conservative context. The analysis chapter of this thesis begins in July 2016 with Kenney’s intent to run for the PC party leadership and continues until his victory speech as Alberta premier in April 2019. This chapter will discuss Kenney’s conservatism, and his use of populism to sell this conservatism, as demonstrated by his discourse.
    Our analysis shows that while there were fluctuations in Kenney’s use of populism corresponding to his target audience, there is nonetheless a consistent use of the populist style. At first (2016-2018) Kenney typically uses this style to juxtapose himself as the voice of accountable and transparent democracy as opposed to the arrogant and entitled conservative party elite, whose loss of popularity led to the NDP victory in 2015. However, during the 2019 provincial elections Kenney placed a greater focus on combatting "special interests". These elite are environmental groups who attack Alberta and indeed Canada’s "vital economic interests" and are associated with the NDP and Justin Trudeau. The term "special interests" is inherited from Klein and Manning and is an example of Kenney's efforts to connect with their past popularity and success. However, the limits of Kenney’s use of populism fall short of the precedents noted within this paper. Indeed, Kenney’s political identity, and that of his party, remain well within the traditional system. Kenney does not pretend to be a rupture or "outsider", but rather an experienced federal conservative. Thus, Kenney uses populism to a degree but ultimately argues his political legitimacy through the use of economic ideology.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.