United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says remarks he made Thursday suggesting male candidates understand political tactics better than their female counterparts were distorted by the “left-wing anger machine” on Twitter.
The controversy began when a reporter asked Kenney how the UCP has tried to attract more female candidates.
“Very typically, women candidates for nominations are running for the first time and often running against guys who have been in politics for years or decades and have a network and understand tactical politics a little bit better than women, who’ve been doing usually more useful things like professions and running businesses and helping with families,” he said.
Kenney’s suggestion that men understand political tactics better than women became a subject of derision after videos of his remarks were posted on social media.
Premier Rachel Notley weighed in with a comment that also referenced the controversy over a video UCP staff took earlier this week of her director of issues management, Jeremy Nolais, and Independent MLA Prab Gill.
“Jason, Alberta’s largest-ever female caucus and our 10 female cabinet ministers are available to provide you tactical political training anytime you need it,” Notley wrote.
“You won’t even need to secretly film it. P.S. Happy #International Women’s Day.”
On Friday, Kenney denied saying men understand tactics better than women. He said he was acknowledging how experienced women politicians and groups like Equal Voice can help level the playing field for new female candidates through mentorship and training.
“Of course this gets distorted by the perennially outraged left-wing anger machine on Twitter, precisely so that you would ask that question,” he said.
“And I think that’s unfortunate. None of your colleagues thought what I said yesterday was the least bit contentious.”
Kenney said he hoped the incident wasn’t a preview of how the media intends to cover the upcoming election campaign.
The news conference capped a challenging week for the official Opposition as Alberta gets closer to an election.
This week on The Ledge podcast, legislature reporters Michelle Bellefontaine and Kim Trynacity discuss the Unite Alberta video and how it overshadowed the UCP’s daily policy announcements.
Michelle talked to Gill, who is upset about his starring role in the video, which was taken without his knowledge, and the cease-and-desist letter he received from the UCP’s lawyers.
Questions about the 2017 UCP leadership contest continue to follow Kenney. On Thursday, the party kicked out a Calgary candidate for not being “forthcoming” about his donations to Jeff Callaway’s campaign, which is alleged to have worked with Kenney to bring down his main opponent, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean.