By Dade Hayes , CNN Political Editor
(CNN) — The arrival of Jason Kenney at the Canadian party’s political convention, and his speech there, could not have been any more different from the views of that party’s traditional power center: the Trudeau government.
“I’m not going to pretend that people who don’t approve of me ever liked me to begin with,” he said in a speech that mixed demagoguery with praise for the energy industry. “It is a divisive message to have delivered by an avatar of the status quo. But I’m here because I believe we can give Alberta the future it deserves.”
Kenney, the former leader of the governing Alberta Progressive Conservatives, was elected leader of the Canadian party in April, but it still has to face a leadership review vote at the convention, which kicked off in Edmonton Saturday. The review is expected to take place Monday.
“We haven’t always governed for the people in Alberta,” Kenney said. “And some of us have got those elbows out in doing our jobs, instead of the people we were elected to serve.”
After some rousing cheers from the conference floor, Kenney stressed that he “won’t apologize for supporting the free market — Alberta must be independent from the federal government.”
Kenney ran on the promise of creating new infrastructure to boost Alberta’s economy — and did so in an election that may have been the closest in Canadian history. At his introduction, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose did not appear at all gung-ho about his bid for leadership, noting that he had “disavowed Canada’s armed forces to a very small group of people.” (Kenney’s campaign platform is still very much forward-looking.)
“We’ve seen, throughout the last few decades, that something has changed in politics,” Kenney said. “There is an uncool factor. There is an attitude that we have to always be cool and tough and above reproach, as if politics is a game of high school, and we will never win.”
He continued to assail Trudeau’s government, taking aim at clean-energy projects that bypass Alberta altogether.
“We have invested in developments such as the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, which has resulted in a tax avoidance scheme that will cost the taxpayer, in addition to the cost to the people of Alberta, more than $2 billion a year,” he said. “We are angry with Prime Minister Trudeau for almost single-handedly killing off the Trans Mountain pipeline. The government spent over a billion dollars — we could have done a lot more than that — to kill off the Trans Mountain pipeline. We are angry with Justin Trudeau for so arbitrarily thumbing his nose at Alberta. We are angry with Justin Trudeau for so cynically putting our economy at risk.”
The quip that he “isn’t going to pretend that people who don’t approve of me ever liked me to begin with” certainly suggested that Kenney, who took the stage late in the speech, is going to try hard to win over the party’s young electorate — and also just have a good time.
“I can be fun. I can be flippant,” he said. “I know there’s a stupid electorate out there, but I’m not a stupid politician.”