Alberta’s outgoing premier offered no regrets or apologies Tuesday as he stood for questions for the first time since announcing his resignation.
Jason Kenney shocked many on May 18 when he quit as leader of the United Conservative Party after receiving a slight majority in his leadership review.
Kenney later clarified that he intends to stay on until his successor is chosen.
He was asked Tuesday if he would have done things differently, and immediately launched into an answer focused on COVID-19 fury.
“I think the energy in the no vote was primarily driven by people angry about vaccines, and I make no apology for promoting safe and effective vaccines that have saved lives,” Kenney told reporters at a healthcare announcement in Edmonton.
“There was also a lot of residual anger about public health restrictions. And while I guess I, we, could go back and nitpick about particular policies at particular times, generally I do not regret the difficult decisions we made.”
Kenney said many of the people that opposed him from within his own party are not long-standing members and came to the vote with conspiracy theories in mind.
“There is a small but highly motivated, well organized and very angry group of people who believe I, and the government, have been promoting a part of some globalist agenda and that the vaccines are at the heart of that,” he stated.
He was also asked about his own general population polling numbers, which had been the lowest of any premier for much of the pandemic.
“Some of the pollsters, to whom you are referring, were off in predicting results of the last election by 15 and 20 points. So, if you take them as an objective metric of Alberta politics, I would call that journalistic malpractice,” Kenney told a columnist who asked him twice if he wanted to take responsibility for his popularity downfall.
Kenney said he respected the results of the May 18 vote and that he will continue to focus on improving the economy, while boasting that his party has already delivered on about 90 per cent of its campaign promises.
‘THAT’S JASON KENNEY’: BRATT
A local political scientist, who also announced Tuesday he’s writing a book about Kenney, was critical of the outgoing premier’s comments but said he wasn’t at all surprised.
“He’s never apologized for anything. And even when he does, it’s backhanded,” said Duane Bratt from Mount Royal University.
“He does not accept criticism. He does not apologize, and that’s one of the reasons he’s going to leave as premier. That’s Jason Kenney as we know him.”
Bratt pointed out that the first-term premier was slow to say sorry for COVID-19 scandals, like when several MLAs travelled internationally against federal advice and when he and others dined on top of the SkyPalace without following provincial rules.
Kenney later apologized and took responsibility for both of those incidents, as he did when he said sorry for prematurely lifting COVID-19 restrictions, but Bratt believes those came too late.
The premier could have also said sorry, Bratt said, for unpopular decisions surrounding the curriculum rewrite, coal mining near the Rocky Mountains or spending money on the Allan Inquiry which then found little, but Kenney hasn’t.
“He doesn’t take responsibility. Even when errors were made, he sent other people out to apologize,” Bratt said.
“That’s not his challenge (anymore). That’s the challenge of Travis Toews and any other minister that is going to run (for UCP leader). They have to distance themselves from Jason Kenney. Brian Jean doesn’t need to do that. Danielle Smith doesn’t need to do that.”
The UCP has not yet set a date for a leadership vote.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Alex Antoneshyn
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