Alberta United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney is standing by his personal attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he called empty and clueless.
Kenney says, from his experience, Trudeau struggles with nuanced political issues, particularly the contentious debate around the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“I worked with dozens of MPs in Ottawa, including [opposition] critics who were thoughtful, intelligent, engaged people with whom I had a constructive relationship. He wasn’t one of them,” Kenney said Wednesday.
WATCH: Trudeau won’t respond to ‘personal attacks’ from Jason Kenney
Kenney dismissed suggestions it’s a personal issue with Trudeau, whose Liberals defeated Kenney’s Conservatives in the 2015 federal election.
“This is about standing up for Alberta against a federal government that has inflicted massive economic damage on our province,” he said.
In a Calgary Sun column published Wednesday, Kenney was quoted attacking Trudeau’s ability to resolve a dispute that has delayed construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of Alberta oil flowing to tankers in B.C. Trudeau doesn’t have “the foggiest idea what’s going on,” Kenney said in the column.
“I know Justin. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. This guy is an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl,” he is quoted as saying.
“He can’t read a briefing note longer than a cocktail napkin, OK.”
Watch below: The leader of the UCP isn’t apologizing for personally attacking the prime minister. Jason Kenney said Justin Trudeau has the “political depth of a finger bowl.” Sarah Kraus has more.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the comments show “personal hostility” toward Trudeau.
“Anyone who is presenting themselves as being equipped to lead the province needs to learn very quickly to rise above his own personal hostilities, and that is not what we see demonstrated in the quotes that were reported today,” said Notley.
Watch below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley calls Jason Kenney’s comments about Justin Trudeau a sign of ‘personal hostility.’
Government house leader Brian Mason said the true Kenney is peeking out.
“He’s been Mr. Civility in the house and it struck me as a pose,” said Mason. “I think he’s let the mask drop a bit here and revealed his own personal grudge against the prime minister.”
Kenney has pledged to return civil discourse to politics. During debate Tuesday, he responded to shouts from the NDP benches, by saying “When they go low, we’ll go high.”
When asked how calling out the prime minister’s IQ squares with a return to civility, Kenney pointed to his party’s actions in the legislature over the past few months.
“I think we’ve gone 10 weeks here… based on my recollection, not a single heckle coming from a United Conservative MLA and as I say everyday, I have tremendous respect for our premier and many great, talented members of her team and we intend to continue with that.
“I was using colourful language to respond to a question about his understanding of this issue,” he said. “I was asked about whether I think the prime minister understands the complexity of the pipeline issue, and frankly, based on my firsthand experience, I don’t think he does.”
Watch below: Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney admits he used colourful language to respond to a question about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and said he doesn’t believe the prime minister knows what’s going on with Kinder Morgan.
Trudeau approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline but B.C. Premier John Horgan’s government says it is concerned about the potential for oil spills on its waterways and coastline.
The $7.4-billion project has faced court challenges and permit delays to the point that the builder, Kinder Morgan, says it may not proceed.
Kenney has promised a more antagonistic approach to Trudeau’s government should his party win power in the spring 2019 provincial election.
Kenney, in a speech to party members earlier this month, said he will challenge Trudeau on everything from carbon taxes to equalization payments to make sure Albertans are not shortchanged.
On Wednesday, Kenney called Trudeau “one of the worst prime ministers for Alberta in our history” and also said he was “the most unpopular prime minister in Alberta polling history.”
“The reason we’re in this crisis now is because he killed Energy East, he killed Northern Gateway, he surrendered to Obama on Keystone XL and he’s done precisely nothing to ensure the construction of Trans Mountain. He’s trying to impose a 67 per cent increase on the carbon tax, a pipeline bill that will prevent the construction of future pipelines – this is a series of policies that have done deep damage to Alberta jobs and the economy and I cannot understand the Alberta NDP’s strategy of total surrender to Justin Trudeau on all of these fronts. It’s time that we had a provincial government that actually defends our province and doesn’t apologize for it.”
-With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich