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Two UCP ministers tell Jason Kenney to apologize for breaking COVID-19 restrictions

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Leela Aheer. Image credit: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta via Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

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.

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 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," 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 Aheer, Pitt is a former Wildrose Party MLA.

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

But if Kenney is unhappy with yesterday's dissent about the Sky Palace patio party, 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 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.

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.

"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 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 factions 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 was scheduled to address the convention -- and anyone else who chooses to watch her speech on Facebook live 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.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image credit: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta via Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

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