'Buck stops with me': Alberta's Kenney promises change in caucus discipline after MLA trips
EDMONTON -- Alberta's premier says there will be consequences for any "people in senior positions of public trust" who go against his new directive not to travel abroad during the pandemic.
Terrible, insulting, frustrating and trust-breaking were all words used by Jason Kenney on Thursday to describe the international travels of nine of his MLAs and senior staff.
"I also accept responsibility we didn't have a strong enough culture of discipline in the caucus, the government caucus, for people not to even think about travelling abroad at this time," Kenney told media and the public.
"Buck stops with me."
Kenney said he has given clearer direction to his caucus and staff – something he said he failed to do weeks ago.
"I think the expectation, a quite correct expectation of Albertans, for a higher standard of conduct applies to people who hold significant positions of public trust. I've defined that as elected officials, as well as senior political staff who are in key decision-making positions, as well as executive leaders in the Alberta public service.
"And I know that my deputy minister has conveyed that to his colleagues."
Six government members and the premier's chief of staff resigned or lost duties on Monday for travelling to Mexico, Hawaii and the United Kingdom over the holidays. On Jan. 1, the premier said they would not face any consequences, but has since said he "heard very clearly" Albertans' anger.
The situation, he admitted, has posed a "very real problem" for the Alberta government assuming moral authority in asking Albertans to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, which the province announced Thursday would be extended for two more weeks. They include a province-wide direction to limit cohorts to households, or two people if Albertans live alone. Restaurants are only open for take-out orders, and retail businesses are capped at 15 per cent occupancy.
"That weighs on us," Kenney said.
"We'll have to continue showing to Albertans that we've learned the lesson, we've heard them, and we have to rebuild a culture of discipline and of humility."
The premier added he has "done everything to comply with the spirit and letter" of the rules and guidelines, saying he has had only window visits with his 83-year-old mother for 10 months and marked a "very solitary Christmas." Kenney told media the last time he left the province was before the pandemic had arrived in Alberta, for a meeting with premiers in Ottawa, and the last time he left the country was to meet with the National Governors' Association in Washington in February.
Alberta reported 968 more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. It's active case count sits at nearly 13,300.