Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spent over $16,000 to fly former premier Bob McLeod and two other conservative provincial leaders to Calgary last July.
NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, who obtained the flight manifest, revealed the information to other Alberta MLAs Thursday evening. There were 16 people on the flight, including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and other senior staffers.
Upon arriving, the premiers were photographed together at the Calgary Stampede, flipping pancakes.
On Thursday, Notley grilled Kenney after the premier suggested the trip was necessary to foster cooperation across jurisdictions.
“I don’t think you needed to bribe them with a free flight after your pancake breakfast to do that. That’s not building relationships,” she said.
Kenney, for his part, said he wouldn’t make an apology.
A threat to ‘national unity’
The flight last summer followed a letter from conservative premiers and McLeod slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for Bills C-69 and C-48. The former overhauled environmental assessments of large resource projects and the latter formally barred oil tankers from the northern B.C. coast.
The premiers’ letter used strong language, suggesting the legislation threatened “national unity.”
They wrote that C-69 would make resource projects “virtually impossible” and be a huge economic burden.
The bill, they insisted, “upsets the balance struck by the constitutional division of powers by ignoring the exclusive provincial powers over projects relating to these resources.
Shortly afterwards McLeod’s brother, Liberal MP Michael McLeod, told News/North he was “surprised” to read the “odd” letter. Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly also took issue, saying the decision was unilateral and “the premier went off and did this by himself.”
“There was no consultation or even notice provided to regular MLAs, the same colonial approach that he has pinned on the federal government,” O’Reilly wrote on social media. “I would be curious to know whether there was any notice given to Premier McLeod’s cabinet colleagues.”
Defending himself in a statement to News/North, McLeod emphasized the large economic role of natural resource development.
“In the Northwest Territories, as has been the case throughout Canada, natural resource development is critical to the prosperity of residents, businesses and communities,” the statement read. “This is true for all Canadians, whether they realize it or not, and is especially true for the people of the Northwest Territories.”
Trudeau, meanwhile, said the premiers’ position of “threatening national unity if they do not get their way is completely irresponsible.”
More to come.