The United Conservative Party held a Christmas reception at an Edmonton restaurant Tuesday night, despite having just asked Albertans to cancel parties and limit contact to help fight COVID-19.
"We strongly encourage workplaces to cancel any social gatherings, even if they're in a venue that's participating in the Restrictions Exemption Program," Health Minister Jason Copping said at a provincial announcement that started at 3:30 p.m.
The UCP hosted the event at the Parlour Italian Kitchen and Bar nearby the Alberta legislature. Several MLAs from the party were present.
"Albertans are frustrated. The hypocrisy we continue to see from this government undermines our public health response and exhausts Albertans,” NDP MLA Christina Gray said in response to the story. Gray conversely noted that the NDP caucus cancelled its holiday party, which had been set for Dec. 16, "to limit in-person contacts given rising COVID-19 case counts and other provinces imposing restrictions."
"Jason Kenney needs to lead by example," Gray said.
"Whether it is the Sky Palace parties we've seen, his MLAs going on vacations when Albertans have been told not to, and now having a Christmas party the same day the minister of health told all other workplaces they should cancel their Christmas parties," she said.
"It is frustrating, it is exhausting, and Albertans are sick of it."
A UCP spokesperson has confirmed the gathering took place, but defended it, saying it was compliant with provincial COVID-19 rules.
"The Premier's advice to Albertans was given only a short time before our event was to begin, and given our compliance with the REP and adequate spacing in the venue with reduced capacity, we decided to proceed," UCP spokesperson Dave Prisco wrote in a statement.
Prisco then dodged a question about how many people were in attendance. Premier Jason Kenney and Copping were not present at the party.
Kenney had announced revised public health restrictions Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, and he also asked Albertans to voluntarily reduce interactions.
"We are appealing to Albertans to reduce their number of daily in person contacts by half over the coming weeks," Kenney said. "We also need Albertans to make personal choices in their daily lives that will slow transmission."