Alberta’s premier says government officials were not told to block dissenting comments from his livestream on a “fair deal” panel Saturday.
After more than a dozen people came forward to Global News saying their comments were removed from Jason Kenney’s Facebook page, the premier was asked why their comments were blocked.
“I don’t know, perhaps — I have no idea what that’s about,” he said initially.
Then he directed people to look at his page to see “lots of criticism, from all directions.”
On Saturday, comments including “I don’t want to separate,” and “I don’t think education is getting a fair deal right now,” appeared to be deleted or hidden from the livestream.
The users say they were blocked from commenting further or interacting with the livestream in any way other than to share it.
On Monday, Kenney’s deputy press secretary sent a statement to Global News saying “corrective action” had been taken with regards to one woman’s account.
“Ms. Dakin’s dissenting comments should not have been moderated.”
Allison Dakin, who spoke with Global News about being blocked, said things changed the following day.
“I’m not blocked anymore and also many others have been unblocked and our comments are visible again. But it’s a day later and it’s not during the livestream. So everyone that was on the livestream didn’t get to see that there were other opinions,” she said.
“Perhaps somebody was too eager monitoring that page on that day,” the premier said Tuesday.
Kenney went on to question media coverage of the blocked comments.
“We are dealing with an economic crisis in this province. You’ve got a third of Albertans talking about separation, three-quarters saying they agree with that. There are much bigger issues than angry tweets that we should be discussing.”
When asked if there are more important issues than free speech, Kenney did not directly answer the question, instead saying media should focus on the state of the province’s economy.
“My point is Albertans are concerned about an economic crisis in this province…most Albertans don’t focus on Twitter wars.”
“We’ve always had a wide open approach to people being able to comment on social media. I don’t know if somebody didn’t understand that on one particular incident on one particular day. As long as comments are not abusive — they don’t use foul language or hateful opinions — people are welcome to comment on our social media platforms.”
After hearing Kenney’s comments, and after being unblocked, Dakin responded in a comment on Tuesday’s livestream.
“I guess it’s easier to label those that disagree on policy than care about their feedback,” she said.
“The implication that those who disagree are not Albertans, merely ‘angry tweets’ gives me no comfort.”
In an interview with Global News, Dakin questioned the premier’s response.
“I don’t think he’s taking it seriously, I think he’s just throwing it away as a one-off,” she said. “But it’s not just something that happened one time.
“These people that are speaking are also Albertans and they care about the economy too, so their voices deserve to be heard.”
Allison Moroz, another Albertan who said she was blocked on Saturday, said she was appalled by Kenney’s comments – particularly the ones referring to the dissent as “angry tweets.”
“Social media is a legitimate platform for getting a voice out there — he obviously uses it and recognizes its power, otherwise he wouldn’t do Facebook live events or have his own political social media accounts,” she said.
“To not take what Albertans say to heart on social media is not listening as he so boldly claimed he intends to do throughout this fair new deal process.”
Dakin also commented on feeling like she wasn’t being considered a true Albertan.
“It was very bizarre,” she said. “It’s like there’s the Albertans that care about the economy and the crisis we’re going through, and then there’s anyone that voices dissent. That’s what it felt like — it was very divisive.”
Dakin hopes the attention being brought to the issue will cause change.
“I do hope that it doesn’t happen again.”