Sprawlcast: The Jason Kenney we need right now
‘I’ve been a very absent premier.’
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By HADEEL ABDEL-NABI
Back in June, as I was zombie-scrolling through my Twitter feed (and feeling crushed by, you know... everything), something stopped me.
It was a tweet from Jason Kenney.
When I looked at his profile, there were dozens of other Alberta-themed tweets.
I had many questions: Who was this alternate-reality Kenney? Why did he know so much about Alberta politics? Was he coming to save us?
This week I finally got the chance to speak with him to understand a little more about the man behind the (infamous) Twitter handle.
We should probably establish that you are not, in fact, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
As far as I know... No. And if I am, I apologize, I've been a very absent premier.
Tell me a little bit about you—the Jason Kenney we wish we had.
I'm based in the United States—Richmond, Virginia, in particular. So I have nothing to do with Canadian politics. I used to do some communication and consultant work for politics here in the States and in Virginia and for local elections. But that was a while ago. I got out of the political arena as a paid gig, but it's still something I pay attention to.
How did you get swept up in all of this?
In March of 2007, when this brand-new-fangled thing called Twitter was rolling out, I jumped on and snagged the Jason Kenney handle.
I had firstname.lastname@example.org and got a random email from the sweet old lady who wanted to thank me for speaking at their church. And I, for the life of me, couldn't remember doing that. And that's kinda like the first inkling that it's like, "Oh, there's somebody else out there with my name."
A couple of years later, I got an email about what a great job I did at the Tasty Freeze. And it seems there's another Jason Kenney (spelled the same way) who is a musician in Georgia.
So it's not just a Canadian politician.
There have been a couple times where some of the comments are a little — a lot — much.
I feel like you guys should start a club at this point.
I'm actually thinking... maybe a podcast. Like “Jason Kenney squared,” where just like every week we have another Jason Kenney on as a guest and we just talk to ourselves.
Did the other Kenney ever reach out and try to get your handles?
There's never been any... explicit or specific, or I think purposeful outreach to say, “Hey, can I have that name?”
But I'm not saying I don't have a price.
This mistaken identity business must get annoying at times. Has it ever been difficult to deal with?
I wouldn't say difficult. I mean, there are certainly times where my Twitter feed or my mentions or whatever, it gets really cluttered ‘cause people are reacting to something that was not meant to be for me. And I've kind of chimed in like, “wrong guy!”
There have been a couple times where some of the comments are a little—a lot—much. While they aren't directed at me, it's unfortunate sometimes to see some people, you know, [sending] a death threat or things like that.
It's concerning, but it's also disappointing to see because you don't ever want to see that directed at anybody.
Thankfully those are very rare. Most folks, the moment they realize they've got the wrong Jason, are very apologetic.
Most folks, the moment they realize they’ve got the wrong Jason, are very apologetic.
You’re very gracious about everything. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that.
Yeah. Having done comms in this realm for quite some time—either political or policy-based things—unfortunately, that's par for the course.
Passions can run hot on these things. Most folks also understand that at the end of the day, we're all human.
What does your day-to-day look like when you’re not an online Albertan politician?
[I’ve] got a couple of little boys who are awesome. An incredible wife, a dog, a cat. We're doing all right, family-wise. I'm very blessed.
I do digital marketing and communications for an international nonprofit based here in Richmond. It's called World Pediatric Project. I love working for them because it’s an organization that’s literally saving babies every day.
They deliver critical care and pediatric care to children in Central America and the Caribbean who otherwise would not have access to it.
That’s incredible. It must feel really good to be a part of an organization with such an amazing mission. So how does your family feel about your name-twin and this whole situation?
They get a kick out of it too.
Of course, the rest of the Kenney family find it hilarious. They think it's fascinating.
Whether or not you agree with him, you hope that he is guided well and does what is best for all.
Would you ever consider getting into politics?
A young and impressionable and innocent and foolish Jason would have told you, “Oh yes, absolutely. One of these days.”
But an older and wiser Jason realized it's foolish of me to think that I am going to be the “white knight” to gallop in and save the world.
I can have a larger impact on society, or the things I care about, as a private citizen by doing things like the work that I do. By partaking in the causes that I care about and lending my skills and my finances—and leave the political arena to folks who can handle the slings and arrows.
Is there anything that you want to say to the other Kenney?
I mean… Hi?
Have an open mind and an open ear and good luck weathering all of the storms that are coming, because I don't envy anybody in any sort of leadership position.
I wish him the best of luck, not just for his sake, but for the sake of all Albertans. Because, you know, whether or not you agree with him, you hope that he is guided well and does what is best for all.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Listen to the rest of the interview on Sprawlcast.
Hadeel Abdel-Nabi is The Sprawl’s staff writer intern.