Jason Kenney lobs email A-bomb at Alberta deputy premier
Federal immigration minister commits mass emailing error
EDMONTON - The only explanation seems to be that when Jason Kenney, the federal immigration minister, hit the button on his personal email account, he accidentally hit “reply all.”
Why else would he declare to the world in an email that he thinks Alberta’s deputy premier, Thomas Lukaszuk, is a “complete and utter asshole”?
Kenney wrote the invective last Wednesday at 5:02 p.m. in response to an email sent from the office of MP Blaine Calkins, chairman of the federal Conservatives Alberta caucus, who wanted to know if Kenney and other MPs from Alberta would meet with Lukaszuk.
“Honourable Thomas Lukaszuk, deputy premier of Alberta will be in Ottawa on Thursday, June 21st, 2012 and is requesting a lunch or dinner with caucus,” says the email written by Calkins’ legislative assistant at 4:57 p.m. “Mr. Calkins will not be able to host this event as he has prior commitments, but would like to see if there is any caucus member who would be willing to host this event for the deputy premier.”
Kenney shot back a response just five minutes later, but instead of sending it only to Calkins’ office, he inadvertently sent it to everyone in the 26-member federal Alberta caucus, plus assistants: “I say a definite ‘no’ to Lukaszyk. I don’t think it makes sense to create a precedent to do a special caucus meeting for every visiting minister from the provincial government. Plus he is a complete and utter asshole.”
Adding insult to injury, Kenney also managed to misspell Lukaszuk’s name.
It is an email that is making the rounds of political circles as a testament to just how bad things have become, on a personal level, between Alberta Conservatives, provincial and federal, who most recently tussled in the Alberta election when a number of the more right-wing federal MPs supported the Wildrose party in defiance of the Progressive Conservatives.
Most of all, the email has created a public-relations nightmare for Kenney and the prime minister’s office which have descended into the no-comment bunker awaiting the all clear.
The only comment from Kenney on Monday came via his press secretary, Alexis Pavlich: “We do not comment on private communications.”
Requests for comments from the prime minister’s office and Blaine Calkins’ office went unanswered.
The first part of Kenney’s email actually has a valid argument. Ottawa is facing something of an invasion of government politicians from Alberta trying to build bridges and patch over differences with the federal government. Premier Alison Redford has paid a visit, so too the environment minister and the minister of intergovernmental relations. Finance Minister Doug Horner is in Ottawa the first part of this week and Lukaszuk will be there the latter part.
Kenney has a point when he says if the MPs say yes to a formal gathering for one provincial minister, they’d have to say yes to all of them.
But resorting to a personal insult against Lukaszuk undermines the sincerity of Kenney’s own argument. Is he saying “no” to Lukaszuk as a matter of principle or of pettiness?
And why does Kenney harbour such a low opinion of Alberta’s deputy premier?
The answer to that might lie in Lukaszuk’s constant lobbying, and occasional criticism, of federal immigration policy last year when he was Alberta’s employment minister. Lukaszuk wanted Ottawa to open the door to allow more immigrants to come to Alberta to alleviate the province’s shortage of skilled trades.
He decried Kenney’s reliance on temporary foreign workers as “costly,” “cumbersome” and “unfortunate.” That the two bumped heads was no secret but Lukaszuk said he had no idea Kenney was so thin skinned or held him in such contempt.
“My feelings towards him are actually rather positive,” Lukaszuk said Monday when told about Kenney’s email. “I have nothing negative to say about him.”
Lukaszuk stuck to the high road and would only characterize Kenney’s email as “an unfortunate choice of words” and joked that “we’re probably not going for a latte any time soon.” He said he would not be asking Kenney for an explanation or an apology and won’t be spending any time worrying about it.
Which is what you would expect him to say.
The fact is the Alberta government is worried about its relationship with its federal cousins. Despite the fact Stephen Harper is onside with the Alberta government’s aspirations to ship more bitumen from the oilsands to Asia and the United States, many of his federal caucus members from Alberta would dearly love it if the Alberta government was run by the Wildrose under Danielle Smith, not the Progressive Conservatives under the more moderate Redford. It doesn’t seem to matter that the PCs won a decisive victory in April’s election.
That’s the big undeclared reason why Redford announced last month she was opening a provincial office in Ottawa. Officially, it’s designed to “help forge stronger relations in Canada’s capital and advocate Alberta’s perspective on important intergovernmental matters.”
Unofficially, it is Redford’s personal pipeline to the federal government, a way of getting information to and from the federal government while circumnavigating the very people supposedly elected to do that for Alberta.
More than a few Alberta MPs have their noses out of joint that Alberta feels the need to open what amounts to foreign trade office in our nation’s capital. But reading Kenney’s email puts things in sharper perspective.
It doesn’t really matter that he intended the email to be a “private communication.” That somebody so senior in the federal government from Alberta should harbour such contempt for the province’s deputy premier calls into question just how Kenney and others in the federal caucus are doing their jobs and who actually represents Alberta’s interests in Ottawa.
Kenney drops a