Photos of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dining with members of the United Conservative caucus on a rooftop patio have drawn the ire of lockdown critics, who see the premier to be breaking his own rules.
Kenney and various cabinet ministers, including Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment & Parks, Government House Leader, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Minister of Finance Travis Toews and four unnamed UCP staffers, were photographed dining on the outdoor balcony of the “Sky Palace” on top of the Federal Building. The photos, taken on Tuesday, June 1, show the group celebrating with what appears to be bottles of red wine, Jameson whiskey, and San Pellegrino, earning the moniker “PatioGate”.
Photos were taken by a “concerned Albertan” and were shared with several media outlets with a request to remain anonymous, and are circulating on social media.
Critics include both NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (who according to polls has surpassed Kenney in popularity) and Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
"Albertans expect leaders to lead, not break the rules from the top of their castle," said Notley in a posting to Twitter Wednesday .
Bratt equally posted on Twitter: "according to current COVID restrictions: Outdoor gatherings must not have an indoor component (movement in/out of homes is not permitted). So unless the ministers scaled the wall aka Spiderman, they have violated another restriction."
Kenney's office responded to the incident by defending his behaviour.
“Albertans are happy that our province is moving in the right direction, and we fully expect that many Albertans are now enjoying the increased gatherings that Stage 1 allows,” said a statement from Jerrica Goodwin on Wednesday.
“The Premier, with a few ministers and staff members, held a working dinner last night. You’ll note the gathering was outdoors. I suggest you review the Stage 1 guidelines, which began yesterday.”
Goodwin argued that outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed under current restrictions.
Despite this, Kenney's rules actually say that "any outdoor social gatherings with 10 participants must maintain physical distancing at all times and must not have an indoor component and that health officials also recommend that only two household cohorts get together." Outdoor dining is also limited to a maximum of four members from the same household.