Alberta house leader withdraws remarks from profane outburst while absent; won’t face sanction

Government house leader and Environment Minister Jason Nixon. The Canadian Press / Todd Korol

Alberta government house leader Jason Nixon will not be sanctioned for comments he made during an angry exchange that included him swearing at Speaker Nathan Cooper in the legislative assembly.

Cooper gave his decision Monday after Nixon withdrew the offending comments in a letter read aloud by deputy government house leader Joseph Schow.

About a month ago, Nixon argued in the house with Independent legislature member Todd Loewen, and at one point directed an expletive at the Speaker.

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Loewen, in turn, said he felt Nixon was trying to intimidate him. Last week, Loewen asked the Speaker to find Nixon in contempt of the house.

On Monday, Schow told the house that “while no offence was intended with the remarks, (Loewen) has indicated that he felt offended during the exchange. As such, on behalf of the government house leader, I happily withdraw any remarks that occurred ? that may have caused the offence.”

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Nixon was not in the house at the time.

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Cooper said he found Nixon’s absence unusual given the situation’s seriousness.

But, he said, he had corresponded with Nixon and accepted the reason for Nixon not being there as “significant, serious and reasonable.”

Cooper said based on the withdrawal statement, he considered the matter concluded.

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Loewen said he, too, accepted the statement, but suggested more should have been done given the seriousness of the offence.

“It is a little disappointing,” he said in an interview.

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“Jason Nixon wasn’t there himself to withdraw the comments. I was disappointed there was no apology and I believe, even with that, there should have been some consequences for that kind of performance in the legislature.”

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The issue, known formally in the legislature as a point of privilege, stems from an exchange between Nixon and Loewen in the house on March 31.

Loewen was introducing documents for the legislature record and, while doing so, publicly accused Nixon of making false statements about him.

That caused Nixon to shout back and, when Cooper intervened, Nixon shouted at him: “Mr. Speaker, the guy just called me a f—ing liar in the middle of the damn legislature.”

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That brought Cooper to his feet to loudly rebuke Nixon, who apologized for the profane outburst.

Nixon then told the house he might change the rules to prevent or put limits on the tabling of documents, which Loewen said was grounds for intimidation.

There’s bad blood between Loewen and the United Conservative Party government.

Loewen was elected as a UCP member of the legislature in the 2019 election, but was voted out of caucus almost a year ago for questioning Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership and publicly urging him to resign.

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Loewen said heightened tension and frayed tempers in the house could be due to low polling numbers for the UCP under Kenney.

UCP members are also openly feuding with each other over whether Kenney should stay as leader.

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“The stress level on the government side is pretty high,” Loewen said Monday.

“But I also believe it has a lot to do with a belief that they’re untouchable, (that) they have a majority … can rule the house and they can do whatever they want and say whatever they want because they have the numbers.”

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