Alberta Politics
Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Two defiant UCP ministers tell Jason Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 restrictions at Sky Palace patio party

Posted on June 06, 2021, 2:28 am
7 mins

The good ship United Conservative Party, the vessel carrying Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s ambitions, sprang a couple more leaks yesterday. 

This time it was two female members of the UCP cabinet who dared to criticize the boozy pandemic patio party last Tuesday on the roof of Edmonton’s notorious Sky Palace, during which a paparazzo in a nearby building snapped the premier, three senior ministers and two political aides violating COVID-19 restrictions.

Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In a Facebook post addressed to her constituents in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding east of Calgary, Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer called on Mr. Kenney, House Leader Jason Nixon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, and Finance Minister Travis Toews to fess up and apologize. 

“I am confused and, like you, extremely hurt,” Ms. Aheer told her constituents. “I’m so sorry for any pain, anger, or frustration this may have caused you. All of us make mistakes, but this one is a big one. … You’ve had to maneuver, pivot, and adapt to the rules put in place by our government. I can only imagine how disappointed you must be. 

“Our leadership should sincerely apologize.”

Meanwhile, speaking in both Punjabi and English, Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney made much the same point in an interview with a Calgary South Asian radio station, RED-FM. 

The MLA for Calgary-North East said in Punjabi she never would have done what the guests at the private dinner got up to, and called on the ministers who were at the dinner to stop pretending no one broke the rules and just admit their mistake. 

That, of course, is going to be hard for the four inner cabinet amigos to admit now that they’ve been saying the opposite for four days.

The day before yesterday, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt openly contradicted the premier’s repeated denials he broke any rules. “Looking at these photos it seems clear to me that several health restrictions were violated,” she said in a Facebook post. Like Ms. Aheer, Ms. Pitt is a former Wildrose Party MLA.

The science, it would seem, is on her side. 

Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

But if Mr. Kenney is unhappy with yesterday’s dissent about the Sky Palace patio party, Ms. Aheer’s criticism of his tone-deaf defence of John A. Macdonald the day before the Sky Palace pictures appeared will likely make him madder. 

Premier Kenney’s strange preoccupation with protecting the reputation of Canada’s first prime minister is well known. It was on display the afternoon before the patio party when Mr. Kenney responded to a reporter’s question at a COVID-19 briefing by assailing Canadians who would like to remove Macdonald’s name from educational institutions and his statues from public places.

“If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historical injustices, then essentially that is the vast majority of our history,” he huffed.

Ms. Aheer apparently doesn’t see it that way. Macdonald’s “deplorable acts are not to be debated,” she said in her Facebook post.

“Sir John A. Macdonald and Hector-Louis Langevin, among others, were architects of the residential schools where children died because of disease, neglect, and beatings. This must be part of the history taught.

Opposition Leader and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Changing the names of schools and educating people about these atrocities is not ‘cancel culture.’ Cancel culture is what has happened to our First Nations by not acknowledging these atrocities and those responsible.”

Now, whether this means the UCP is coming apart at the seams remains to be seen.

Alberta could be reverting to the new normal established in 2008 when the Wildrose Party was formed, creating a rift on the right that endured until 2017 when Mr. Kenney, by then leader of the Progressive Conservatives, and Wildrose leader Brian Jean managed to paper over their differences enough to form a united front to defeat the NDP in 2019.

It’s also possible the prospect of a return to power by the NDP, now leading in the polls, will be enough to keep the fractious UCP’s former Wildrose and PC factious tenuously tethered. 

We shall see. 

In the meantime, if the Opposition NDP had hoped to capture some headlines on the second day of its three-day convention yesterday, the disunited United Conservatives pretty well sucked up all the political oxygen in the province. 

Former premier Rachel Notley will address the convention – and anyone else who chooses to watch her speech on Facebook Live today at 1 p.m. – with her vision for Alberta under a restored NDP government.

Remember the hammer of D-Day, but don’t forget the anvil

Today is the 77th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, when our magnificent Canadian soldiers went ashore at Juno Beach in Normandy to play their part the grim and deadly task of sweeping Hitler and his odious empire from Europe.

Canadians need to remember, though, that the landings on June 6, 1944, by 156,000 Canadian, British, American and other Allied soldiers along the beaches of Normandy were the hammer that battered Germany. The anvil was in the East, and it was against Russia that Adolf Hitler’s armies were eventually crushed in the vise created by the landings.

You can read more of my thoughts on D-Day here. 

20 Comments to: Two defiant UCP ministers tell Jason Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 restrictions at Sky Palace patio party

  1. tom in Ontario

    June 6th, 2021

    Could it be the two female cabinet members are in a snit because they weren’t invited?

    Reply
  2. Simon Renouf

    June 6th, 2021

    Is this the end? In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited Lord Marchmain is dying. “Is this the end?” Julia asks the doctor. “It is impossible to say,” the doctor answered; “when he does die it will probably be like this.”

    Reply
    • TENET

      June 8th, 2021

      Well reasoned, well put.

      Reply
  3. Curious George

    June 6th, 2021

    My first thoughts last night after reading the story on reddit and following the link to CBC about the comments by Ms. Aheer: “oh she is applying for the job of Premier”. Not so much because of her thoughts on the dinner but because of her thoughts on residential schools, historic figures, and so called cancel culture. After all that was a direct moral challenge.

    Those thoughts do mirror mine – after all quite a few white people never had a problem cancelling anything – but dare anyone offer critique on their “heroes” (and I am Caucasian).

    And my second thoughts – Mr. Kenney is done like toast. What will be interesting to see is how the exit will happen. Will it be Ms. Redford style – the caucus gives her instructions on how to proceed, and Ms. Redford decided that she will not stoop that low. Or will Mr. Kenney have the courage of stepping down – big boy stuff – I made a mistake and will step aside just like my ministers did at Christmas – yeah right. Fully well realizing that the option is one of being forced out – and this is the convenient high road instead.

    Reply
  4. Carlos

    June 6th, 2021

    Those who complain about cancel culture are precisely the same people that cancelled the very important part Russia had in the victory against Hitler during the Second World War and everything about the native culture and impact in the creation of Canada.

    Reply
  5. ema

    June 6th, 2021

    So are some of these uppity wimmen (sic) finally getting out of Jason’s kitchen now?!!

    We can only hope that many of the other caucus members will find some integrity and toss JK under the bus. It seems like they are all too happy to hang on to their salaries, rather than taking a real stand against Bumbles, who regularly acts like an original Laurentian elite.

    Reply
  6. Gerald

    June 6th, 2021

    In this case, sucking up all the political oxygen is not necessarily a bad thing for the NDP. Yes, the UCP is getting media attention. Which is making their faults glaringly obvious.
    Possible consequences … well, take a step back look at the last US election. Joe Biden didn’t try to compete with Trump’s media attention, he arguably let Trump hoist himself on his own petard.
    Translating to Alberta, the question is will these UCP/Kenney cluster****s be remembered at next election time? Speaking myself and my wife, parents, and children, oh yes indeed. In any case, I am completely confident in Kenney’s continuing ability to screw up.

    A question, of the two ministers, the backbench mla, and the other mla who posted in support to the backbench mla, how many of these 4 were also signatories to the “covid measures” letter?

    Reply
  7. Abs

    June 6th, 2021

    Jason Kenney was busy ignoring the calls for his apology yesterday by visiting a mass vaccination clinic in Calgary’s northeast. Yes, that’s the same northeast that he criticized and blamed for the spread of Covid, and refused to help after a catastrophic hail event damaged 70,000 homes during the pandemic. He did eventually help a small number of homeowners who experienced overland flooding in the same event. He also allowed insurers to raise premiums, so there’s that.

    At last word, the vaccination clinic had lower attendance than expected, 1170 of 2500 capacity. Maybe it was the horrendous weather, reminiscent of last year’s hail storms. Maybe it was the appearance of Jason Kenney at said event. Who knows? In any case, Kenney couldn’t resist posting some erroneous information about the clinic on Twitter, which had to be corrected on Twitter by those involved. Thanks a bunch, premier! Maybe just don’t do what you do, K?

    Reply
    • Abs

      June 6th, 2021

      “Just a quick fix on this tweet from the Premier. It’s in NE Calgary (not NW) and open until 10pm (not 8pm). Currently no wait times for this first dose walk in clinic! Just walk up – no Alberta health care card needed and many languages spoken from the volunteers! #abvax”

      https://mobile.twitter.com/ab_vax

      The wrong info here:

      Jason Kenney on Twitter: “Great to visit the temporary vaccine clinic at Village Square Leisure Centre in NW Calgary. They’re open till 8pm tonight, then all day tomorrow. No appointment needed!”

      Bumbles!

      Reply
  8. ayeamaye

    June 6th, 2021

    ” All you have to do is kick the door down and the whole rotten edifice will come down” Adolph Hitler

    How’s that for hubris.

    Personally I think the Canadian soldiers were some of the best in both World Wars. Just ask the Dutch.

    There is something about the “Sky Palace” that sticks in the average Albertan’s craw. If Jason Kenney understood the people of Alberta ( like Rachel Notley does ) he wouldn’t come within a dozen leagues of the place…but he doesn’t, and I don’t think he ever will. Mining on the Eastern Slopes, user fees for K- Country,languishing in the “Sky Palace”.No clue. He may be a cunning,ruthless manipulator to get himself elected but he can’t Govern worth a spit.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      June 7th, 2021

      We have all heard the old saw about how “You’ve never known war if you haven’t fought Germans.” I had a friend years ago who served in the postwar Wester German Army who swore new recruits were taught, “You’ve never known war if you haven’t fought Canadians.”

      Reply
  9. Just me

    June 6th, 2021

    Wow.

    Two women of colour in the UCP caucus and cabinet have broken unity and demanded Premier Screaming and Crying Midget apologize for being a first-rate douchebag. This is news.

    Leela Aheer and Rajan Sawhney are both critical members, out of a caucus composed largely of middle-aged white Evangelical men, toward Kenney’s more recent transgressions, particularly his brain dead defence of John A. MacDonald (the greatest prime minister Canada has ever known, before Stephen Harpo) in response to the growing firestorm over Canada’s campaign of genocide against FNs peoples.

    While lying and distracting over a alcohol-fuelled rooftop party is one thing, going that extra mile and being totally dismissive of the generational harm caused by Residential Schools is truly the same thing as setting a rape victim on fire, and then blaming the victim for not being fireproof. The level of nonsense from Kenney has reached a point where he’s not even using rational defences anymore. Instead, he’s doubling down and going full-on European colonialism made the world better, like a good little Proud Boy.

    Women have always had problems with Kenney — Sonya Savage is the only one within his inner circle, and she gets to answer for the War Room’s antics. No doubt she’s willing to carry Kenney’s water, however, the others may not be so willing.

    I suspect Pitt, Aheer, Sawhney will be disciplined sometime this week and will be removed from cabinet, if not the caucus. Kenney, like Harper, demands unquestioning loyalty and constant fawning to his enormous ego.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    June 6th, 2021

    The UCP are making fools of themselves, and they aren’t making Alberta look good either. I also thing that the UCP MLAs who are calling out the Sky Palace party, might just be grandstanding, just to try and save the limp, tattered, and sinking UCP. Where were their concerns when UCP MLAs left Alberta, around Christmas, when the UCP were telling Albertans to remain at home, and to not see their families? Albertans were given stern warnings that the UCP weren’t any good, but they didn’t listen.

    Reply
  11. Just Me

    June 7th, 2021

    And in other news …

    The statue of Egerton Ryerson was toppled today, in response to his involvement in the Residential Schools program.

    I wonder if Kenney will find a need to make room for another orphaned statue? Perhaps he can offer asylum as well as a Hall of Honour for all those expelled icons of European coloninalization?

    Jason Kenney’s Home for Unwanted Statues. I hear there’s a lot of Confederate statues that need homes.

    Reply
      • Just Me

        June 7th, 2021

        The bizarre creation called the Dorchester Institute is nothing more than a troll farm for a bunch of angry, middle-aged, and cranky academics, who really have nothing better to do than own them lieberals. Champion has made a career out of calling every grievance launched by FNs people a hoax to get more money out of those who are truly productive. (AKA. The descendants of white Europeans) Dorchester’s founder, C.P. Champion, is something of a low rent Peter Brimelow, the author of The Patriot Game, who now operates a foundation dedicated to promoting white supremacy, known as VDARE.

        Judging by the content of their Twitter feed of late, they are pretty much on their way to getting banned.

        Reply
  12. brett

    June 7th, 2021

    This is worse than “the gang that could not shoot straight”.

    It is more like ‘the Keystone Cops” or perhaps “the Three Stooges”

    Reply
  13. Dave

    June 7th, 2021

    More bad, bad not good news in Kenneyland. The rebellion now seems to have morphed and spread closer to the center of the UCP.

    These previously fairly loyal MLAs must have concluded things are pretty bad to speak up now and I suspect they have lost whatever fear they had of Captain Kenney as he seems to continue to hit political icebergs.

    I suspect it could get a bit more chaotic as those on the upper decks of the UCP may start to scramble for whatever political lifeboats they think they can find. This probably involves putting some distance between them and their feckless captain.

    At some point you’d think Captain Kenney will get the hint as more in his party start to publicly question and contradict him. If he tries to hang on, they could make things rougher for him. There is safety in numbers and I think at this point the tide is turning towards the rebels.

    Reply

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