Premier Jason Kenney said his involvement in the United Conservative Party’s new talent recruitment campaign is not political and he’s been involved in projects like this for a while.
In an interview with 770 CHQR radio host Rob Breakenridge on Tuesday morning, Kenney said he’s been talking about Alberta’s “critical” labour and skills shortages throughout his political tenure.
“I don’t think it’s political. One of the great things for me about my current situation, frankly, is I’m not running for anything. I don’t have any votes to get,” Kenney said.
“I don’t think people realize that I probably spend upwards of half of my time and many days on investment promotion. A lot of these new projects in Alberta require effort and leadership right from the top.
“This is a very serious problem we’re facing, from mom and pop restaurants all the way to doctors and everything in between.”
The statement comes after the United Conservative Party unveiled a new program to recruit skilled workers from Vancouver and Toronto on Monday.
The program — dubbed “Alberta is Calling” — is a $2.6-million marketing campaign touting the province’s lower taxes, housing affordability, shorter commutes and proximity to the Rocky Mountains.
It will include ads on social media, radio and posters in high-traffic areas such as public transit stations.
The statement also comes after Kenney said on his radio call-in show that a key platform from one of the UCP leadership candidates was “nuts.”
Candidate Danielle Smith promised to bring forward the Alberta Sovereignty Act if elected, which will give the province the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest. Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.
“You’re referring to the so-called Sovereignty Act… I’m not commenting on the leadership election, but the proposal is basically rubbish and Alberta separatism wrapped in a new rag,” Kenney told Breakenridge after the host asked if Alberta is seen as a laughing stock across the country.
“Just to be clear, that was proposed last September. I’ve been commenting on it publicly over the winter and into the spring, long before the leadership election… It’s proposing to ignore the courts and would cause a constitutional crisis.”
Kenney also said Smith’s Sovereignty Act would be “kryptonite” for prospective investors because they won’t come to a province that does not respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He pointed to the 1976 Quebec provincial election and said real estate prices in the province crashed after businesses and investors supposedly left after former premier René Lévesque was elected. Lévesque was a leading advocate for the sovereignty of that province.
“There are a small number of Albertans who have always been separatists and likely always will be. That’s fine. They’re citizens and they have a right to that view,” Kenney said.
“I think the majority of folks in the province are focused on a strong province with a strong economy and the destabilizing of the economic momentum we’re experiencing right now is the last thing we need.”
Kenney also said the Sovereignty Act may give other provinces ideas to also leave the federation.
“If B.C. were to adopt this separatist concept, they can stand in the way of the Trans Mountain pipeline and other provinces could do so. But right now, B.C. are forcing it ahead even if they don’t like the court ruling or the pipeline,” Kenney said.
“Whether we like how political decisions are made by elected governments or by the courts, we respect them because we are deeply committed to the foundational principle of our society: the rule of law.”
–With files from The Canadian Press’ Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland.