Premier Jason Kenney says he is making it clear to his caucus that extremists are not the United Conservative Party’s base, after receiving death threats from members of that group.
In a Facebook livestream on Tuesday, shortly after introducing new public health restrictions, Kenney said after a recent news conference he received two messages in short succession, one of which threatened his 83-year-old mother who lives alone.
He said the messages read: “You will be executed for your crimes against humanity” and “We know where your mother lives.”
I think there’s a small minority of the population creating their own reality … and maybe they’re acting accordingly.– Premier Jason Kenney
Kenney said he told his caucus that people sending those types of messages or purporting “insane” conspiracy theories are not his party’s base.
“These people, we don’t want people making death threats, people threatening to lock up Dr. [Deena] Hinshaw, people organizing rallies with Tiki torches based on the neo-Nazi rally in Virginia — those are not our supporters. Those are not Alberta Conservatives, those are not mainstream Albertans,” Kenney said.
“Those are voices of extremism and hatred.”
He also read out a message that he said could best be described as “tin-foil hat” from the organizers of a recent rodeo that was held in protest of public health restrictions near Bowden.
The message described Kenney as a “tyrannical being” and said his actions — barring large gatherings during a pandemic — violate human rights.
While Alberta Health Services is exploring its legal options toward the organizers of that rodeo, RCMP and the province took no action during the weekend regarding enforcement.
The premier said he appreciates skepticism and debate about government overreach, and said he’s been “viciously attacked” for tolerating that type of debate.
He said he welcomes different views, as long as they are within the common goal of keeping the broader population safe and minimizing COVID-19 spread.
Kenney has been criticized by health professionals and the Opposition for waiting too long to bring in new restrictions and failing to enforce those rules that are in place — but some of the criticisms of his actions to protect public health have come from inside his own caucus.
Almost half of the party’s back-bencher MLAs signed a letter in early April against public health measures, commentary Kenney said he condones as long as the MLAs do not break health restrictions themselves.
Shortly before the letter was released, two of the signatories left a coalition against health restrictions after one of the organizers invoked Hitler, while another has falsely claimed that the worst of the pandemic is over and helped to spread misinformation by hinting the federal government could be creating COVID concentration camps.
Alberta is currently combating the highest case numbers of the pandemic so far with 23,623 active cases, a positivity rate of 12 per cent and an R-value of 1.12.
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The province has the highest active case rate of anywhere in Canada or the U.S., more than twice the rate of the next highest province, Ontario.
Kenney speculated that Alberta might have a larger problem with non-compliance with health measures to protect others than other provinces because many are in “COVID-denial.”
“I think there’s a small minority of the population creating their own reality based on the Facebook pages they follow or whatever silos of information they’re getting and maybe they’re acting accordingly.”
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