Independent MLA Todd Loewen raised a point of privilege Monday saying in the Legislature Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro made “dishonest statements” in their defence of the controversial Sky Palace dinner.
And NDP MLA Irfan Sabir agreed with Loewen there was a breach of privilege in Kenney’s statements.
Loewen said Kenney made remarks he “knew were untrue when given.”
Kenney last week defended the dinner by saying it was “fully compliant” with all COVID-19 regulations and said his party made “every reasonable effort” to follow the rules.
Shandro last week told the legislature “no rules were broken.”
Sabir said there was no way Kenney and Shandro didn’t know about the COVID-19 regulations.
Independent Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes spoke in favour of Loewen’s point, saying the “evidence” was there and Kenney knew regulations had been broken.
Speaker Nathan Cooper said he was going to take time to consider the point of privilege.
“Truth matters. While I know we may have differences of opinion or may at times be mistaken with our words, one thing that nobody in this Legislature should be doing is intentionally misleading the house—the people’s house—with dishonest statements,” Loewen wrote earlier Monday on his Facebook page.
“Perhaps the premier finds the COVID restrictions confusing or hard to follow. But, he wrote them for the rest of us. And the people deserve to know if he was deliberately misleading us last week when he said he was following them.
“Because the people must have their leaders earn their trust always, not only about this, but about all things. The Legislature must fundamentally be a place of truth and answers for the people. Alberta depends on this. If such trust is irreparably broken — as I believe it is — I reiterate the premier should resign for the good of the province, the Legislature, and the UCP.”
Earlier Monday, Kenney told a press conference he was “taking full responsibility” after photos emerged of him and top ministers breaking COVID-19 regulations during an outdoor dinner meeting on the Sky Palace balcony.
Kenney said after the outcry, staff went up and measured the distance each chair was set aside from each other. He said while four chairs were two feet apart, two chairs were not. In one photo, a total of eight people were at the table.
“I regret the perception this has created. I truly regret it. I take full responsibility,” a contrite Kenney said.
But last week, Kenney repeated said there were no COVID-19 regulations that were broken.
“I sincerely apologize to my colleagues and Albertans. I hope to learn from this,” said Kenney.
But Kenney dodged when asked why there was a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey on the table, saying only it was given to him as a gift for his birthday.
Kenney was pilloried after photos emerged last week showing him sitting with eight other people – including cabinet ministers – on the Sky Palace’s patio, clearly not following socially distancing rules. The linen-covered table is topped with a 40 oz. bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, wine glasses and bottled water.
Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews, Government House Leader Jason Nixon were all gathered around the table.
Shandro and Toews both apologized for their part in the dinner during question period, after Kenney’s apology.
Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women Leela Aheer, and minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney both took shots at Kenney over the weekend.
UCP MLAs Angela Pitt and David Hanson have publicly said they were appalled by the group’s behaviour.
The UCP caucus chair, Richard Gotfried has stepped down from his role in the wake of Jason Kenney’s Sky Palace shindig.
And earlier Monday, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean demanded Kenney resign.
The Western Standard’s Fact Check found Kenney and his guests have 18 counts of violating their own regulations, and eight counts of violating their own guidelines.
Kenney claimed it was a working business dinner that was taken outside because the risk of virus transmission is lower than being inside. He brushed aside NDP criticism, saying they did not want Alberta to reopen and no COVID-19 regulations were broken.
The Sky Palace was a media-dubbed name when it emerged former Premier Alison Redford was renovating the top of the Federal Building into a private residence for her and her daughter.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard