“I’ve been beating this drum for 10,11 years. I will continue to beat it, I promise. But it’s against the law to beat Rachel Notley…” – Wildrose leader Brian Jean
Speaking at a town hall forum in Fort McMurray, Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean made this ill-advised comment about Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
It appears as though Mr. Jean was trying to be funny while playing to a hometown crowd, which is no excuse for this kind of unacceptable comment. Jokes about assaulting women, even if they are off the cuff, are not funny. He did immediately apologize, twice, and quickly sent an apology directly to Premier Notley, but it is difficult to see how he can walk back this comment.
This wasn’t a joke made by an anonymous internet troll or a roughneck after a few beers at the local bar, this comment comes from the leader of the Official Opposition who presumably wants to be the next Premier of Alberta.
Mr. Jean’s recent comment is also embarrassing because of his previous call to Wildrose supporters to stop making online threats about assassinating Ms. Notley. “These kinds of comments cross all bounds of respect and decency and have absolutely no place in our political discourse,” Mr. Jean said in a note on his Facebook page in December 2015.
Women politicians in Alberta have been the target of constant online threats and harassment, which has unfortunately become almost normalized in our current political environment. Given recent threats levelled at Ms. Notley and women cabinet ministers, Mr. Jean’s comment is a mind boggling political fumble.
The drum Mr. Jean claims to have been beating for the past 10 or 11 years is related to the level of seniors care available in Fort McMurray, an issue which has a long history of causing political controversy in that community and in the provincial capital.
Back in July 2009, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and former cabinet minister Guy Boutilier was ejected from from the Progressive Conservative caucus for publicly criticizing the government for not funding a new facility. Mr. Boutilier publicly accused Health Minister Ron Liepert of “talking gibberish” and then criticized Premier Ed Stelmach for not wanting a cabinet minister “who graduated from Harvard with Barack Obama.” (he later admitted that he never met Obama while at Harvard).
He later joined the Wildrose Alliance in 2010 along with two other PC MLAs who had crossed the floor earlier that year. He was defeated by Tory Mike Allen in the 2012 election.
At last night’s meeting, Mr. Jean is reported to have praised Ms. Notley for moving a planned long-term care facility from Parsons Creek to the downtown Willow Square site.