POLITICS

Jason Kenney Basically Admits He Doesn't Need To Campaign Much

09/16/2015 06:39 EDT | Updated 09/17/2015 09:00 EDT

Even with polls pointing to the most unpredictable federal election in years, one top Conservative cabinet minister admits he barely needs to campaign.

In fact, Jason Kenney says his supporters in Calgary Midnapore want him out of the new riding, helping to get other Tories elected so that Stephen Harper not only wins another mandate, but keeps his majority.

Kenney was frank when asked Wednesday about the many hats he's wearing for Conservatives these days, and the amount of time he is spending on the road instead of knocking on doors.

"I'm blessed with very strong support in my constituency. I think I got 77 per cent in the last election," he said. "And my constituents are very happy to have me travelling across the country, helping with the national campaign because they want a majority Conservative government.

"So, perhaps that's why I pitch in a lot. I'm sort of someone who's able to get around and address different issues."

Laura Weston, the NDP candidate in the riding, told The Huffington Post Canada in an email that people often tell her she is the first federal politician to come to their doors.

Weston said Kenney is "missing an opportunity" to learn about the issues affecting the people he represents.

"Mr. Kenney's choice to prioritize a national campaign over the urgent needs of the constituents in this riding hinders his ability to adequately represent the interests of Calgary-Midnapore," she said.

'Minister of everything'

Though his business card reads minister of defence and minister for multiculturalism, Kenney gave a press conference in Calgary Wednesday that touched on a wide variety of topics.

He bashed NDP and Liberal economic priorities, addressed the government's plan to take its niqab battle to the Supreme Court, and defended his party's record on Syrian refugees.

There's a reason he's sometimes called "minister of everything."

Late last month, Kenney held a news conference in Ottawa pre-empting the release of a Statistics Canada report showing Canada slipped into a technical recession. He called the NDP's fiscal plans "reckless" and said they would result in an $8-billion hole in their first year of governing.

New Democrats fired back at the time by asking why finance minister Joe Oliver wasn't the one responding to the statistics.

A busy, busy man

A quick look at his Twitter profile shows that while some Tories — including cabinet ministers — are fighting tooth and nail to keep their seats, Kenney has been visiting candidates in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Ontario.

But he also attended a recent candidate forum in his riding, despite reports that Tories have been asked to skip debates and avoid the press.

Alberta not such a Tory stronghold?

Kenney was first elected in Calgary Southeast in 1997 under the Reform banner. An effective communicator and prolific fundraiser for Conservatives, he captured more than 70 per cent of the vote in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2011.

But there have been suggestions of late that things may have changed in the Tory fortress of Alberta. Last May, the Alberta NDP captured a stunning majority government and won 15 of 25 seats in Calgary.

At an event in Calgary on Wednesday morning, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suggested the NDP victory last spring proved Albertans were ready for change.

"It is time Albertans know that they don't have to be taken for granted anymore," Trudeau said.

Kenney is considered a top contender to run for the Conservative leadership someday, which means the relationships he is forging with party members and candidates across Canada could pay dividends.

He is scheduled to hold another news conference Thursday morning on "campaign spending promises and the economy" — at the campaign office of Bernard Trottier, the incumbent candidate in the Ontario riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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