NDP candidate surprised UCP Leader Jason Kenney took ‘a shot at my age’

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney speaks to reporters on Sept. 24, 2018. Jerry Favero/ Global News

UCP Leader Jason Kenney is coming under fire online for comments about the newly-acclaimed NDP candidate for Airdrie-Cochrane, Steve Durrell.

In an undated video circulating on social media, Kenney can be seen and heard speaking in what looks like a hotel conference room.

“The NDP acclaimed their star candidate to take on Peter Guthrie, a 19-year-old,” Kenney said, as his comment was met with laughter.

“Now, don’t take it for granted because they elected a lot of them last time.”

Durrell, a 29-year-old father of three, took to Twitter to respond on Friday after he said a member of the community brought the video to his attention.

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UCP spokesperson Matt Solberg told Global News that the information provided to Kenney about Durrell was incorrect.

“Prior to the event, Jason was informed that the NDP candidate in the riding was 19,” Solberg said in an emailed statement. “Clearly that was incorrect, and no offence was intended.

“He was simply highlighting the gulf of experience between the local United Conservative candidate, Peter Guthrie, a long-time resident of Cochrane with a background in engineering, business, and ranching, compared to the NDP’s acclaimed candidate.”

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Watch below: A video from Global News’ recent coverage of Alberta politics.

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Alberta political parties appear to be in campaign mode despite no election call yet

The recently-confirmed NDP candidate told Global News that, regardless of intention, Kenney’s comments showed the UCP leader’s views of representing Albertans of all ages.

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“Offence intended or not, I do want to point out that Alberta is a diverse province that represents people of all ages and all walks of life,” Durrell said Friday afternoon, “and I don’t think Rachel Notley would have ever made a comment about someone’s age when talking about them entering the political field.”

Durrell, an executive officer with the United Steel Workers, also said that his background with the labour movement has provided him with “a considerable amount of portable skills” applicable to the work of an MLA.

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“It was surprising that they were taking a shot at my age, especially since young people being involved in politics is a good thing,” he said. “And Alberta has the third-youngest population in Canada. It’s part of diversity, it’s part of our modern Alberta. So him taking that shot was surprising to me.”

Solberg’s statement said the UCP values young Albertans in public life, pointing to Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA Laila Goodridge and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen, UCP members both in their early 30s.

Kenney was first elected to the House of Commons at the age of 29, representing Calgary Southeast for the Reform Party of Canada.

Then, 20-year-old Thomas Dang was the youngest MLA elected in Alberta history in 2015. The NDP MLA won in Edmonton-South West.

Pierre-Luc Dusseault was the youngest-ever Canadian MP. He was 19 when he won a seat in the 2011 federal election in Quebec’s Sherbrooke riding.

Albertans and political parties in the province await the writ to drop, with an election legislatively mandated to occur on or before May 31.

Twitter users debate what Kenney is heard saying in video

Some took to Twitter to say they believe they hear Kenney call Durrell a “gay” 19-year-old in the video.

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Bob Rae, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special envoy to Myanmar, tweeted “there is something sick anout (SIC) this.

“We wouldn’t accept this kind of sneering comment about race or gender from a senior political figure,” Rae’s tweet went on to say. “Why would we accept it about sexual orientation ?”

Rae’s tweet had generated over 1,000 likes by early Friday evening.

Durrell, the target of Kenney’s comments, told Global News that he doesn’t think the UCP leader referred to him as “gay.”

“I don’t believe that he said that,” the Airdrie-Cochrane candidate told Global News.

When asked for comment about Rae’s tweet, a UCP spokesperson told Global News “Mr. Kenney did not use the term ‘gay’ in his remarks.”

“Nobody from the NDP is claiming he did, including Mr. Durrell,” Matt Solberg wrote in an email.

Global News has reached out to Rae for comment on his tweet about Kenney.

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