OTTAWA – Newly minted leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta Jason Kenney is ratcheting up the ongoing war of words between him and provincial political opponent Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, calling her recent remarks on his brand of conservativism "crazy talk."
Days after Kenney beat out opponents Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer, Notley took to Twitter pledging to "stand against UCP’s job-killing, gay-outing, school-cutting, health privatizing, backward-looking, hope-destroying, divisive agenda."
We'll stand against UCP’s job-killing, gay-outing, school-cutting, health privatizing, backward-looking, hope-destroying, divisive agenda.— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) October 30, 2017
In an interview airing Sunday with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period, Kenney pushed back, calling her tweets a reflection of "transparent desperation" by the provincial New Democrats.
"They're turning the volume knob on the anger machine up to 10, 20 months before the next election. My advice to them would be just calm down a notch, because you're going to lose Albertans by using that kind of massively overblown rhetoric," he said. "I guess the only play they have is that kind of crazy talk."
Kenney also chimed in on the NDP’s new bill to protect gay-straight alliances in schools. The provincial government says it will keep kids from being outed, and comes after Kenney commented that parents should be told if their kids join a GSA.
He said his position -- that teachers know when it’s appropriate to "bring parents in to a situation"-- is reflective of "mainstream values in Alberta."
Asked whether he’d champion social conservative issues in his new role leading the UCP, Kenney said under his leadership the party will be focused on issues that unite Conservatives, welcoming a range of views, but cited free votes as a solution to democratically handling divisive issues.
"This is a broad, mainstream party reflecting the common-sense values of Albertans… It is going to be purposefully a big mainstream diverse coalition," Kenney said. "When divisive or difficult issues occasionally arise, you deal with them with mutual respect."
Kenney pledges to take on feds on carbon tax, pot
He also doubled down on his promise to take the federal government to court over its carbon tax if he becomes premier in 2019. He said if elected he plans to repeal the NDP carbon plan, and apply for intervener status and join Saskatchewan in suing the federal government if they insist on imposing the national price. He said they’d made the argument that it impedes on provincial jurisdiction.
"We would join the pending Saskatchewan constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax," Kenney said.
And on marijuana, Kenney said if it becomes legalized on the timeline the federal government is promising, his goal as prospective premier of Alberta would be to do "everything possible to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth and adolescents... the science is clear, that frequent consumption of marijuana has a retarding effect on adolescent brain development."
Both the provincial and federal governments are scheduled to have their next general elections in 2019.
Victory 'hugely important' for national Conservative movement
Kenney said his victory is a uniting moment for Conservatives across Canada.
"I think this is a hugely important step forward for common-sense values in Alberta, but also the Conservative movement nationally," said Kenney.
"I felt we couldn’t really have renewal of the national Conservative movement without Alberta coming back."
Kenney says Harper has a point on NAFTA
Asked about former prime minister Stephen Harper's letter to clients in which he criticized the Trudeau government for "napping on NAFTA," Kenney said his former boss has a point.
"I think the Trudeau government has come at this with all sorts of extraneous issues, not focused on the core trade issues. I think they've moved us to the margins as a result, so I am concerned," Kenney said.
"I think he's got a legitimate point," he said, though he conceded that he did not read Harper’s entire memo.