Alberta’s Prime Minister Jason Kenney has sent a cease and desist letter to a Calgary-based news agency for what his lawyer called “false and defamatory allegations” in a recent article.
The attorney’s letter received by CBC News concerns an article posted on the Western Standard website Wednesday alleging that Kenney has been in violation of COVID-19 restrictions at a restaurant, Edmonton’s Bottega, since the new year 104, has held social gatherings.
Those gatherings allegedly included Secretary of the Environment and Parks Jason Nixon and Secretary of Health Tyler Shandro.
The article also alleged that Kenney and others attended meetings at a lobbyist’s private home.
The article is based only on unnamed sources that the Western Standard says attended the gatherings.
Kenney’s office denied the allegations on Wednesday via Twitter. CBC News has not verified the veracity of the allegations.
The allegations are “a complete invention,” says the letter from attorney Steven Dollansky.
“Premier Kenney, Minister Nixon, and Minister Shanro did not attend indoor dinners at Bottega 104 (or any other restaurant) while indoor dining was prohibited by public health restrictions.”
It said the prime minister had two meals at Bottega 104, once in 2019 and again last summer in full compliance with health regulations.
“In addition, none of the elected officials you mentioned took part, as claimed or at all, in ‘illegal gatherings’ in the private homes of lobbyists.”
The managing partner of the restaurant also rejects the allegations.
“The report is wrong, the prime minister has never eaten here,” Antonio Petosa told CBC News. “I spoke to the Western Standard reporter and told him the same thing. He’s being contacted by our lawyers.”
Petosa says he could provide video footage from surveillance cameras once the data of the alleged gatherings is in, to prove the prime minister was absent. The article did not provide any dates.
Kenney apologized earlier this week after he and others were photographed eating on an outdoor deck above Alberta lawmakers. Kenney admitted that people were sitting too close together.
Western Standard stands for Article
The cease and desist letter also alleges that the Western Standard acted irresponsibly because Kenney’s response was not solicited or included in the article.
His office says it has no record of a Western Standard media inquiry. The publication says it asked for comment at 5:49 p.m. The article was published seven minutes later.
“Mere speculation is not journalism and unfounded gossip is not news,” the letter said. The article calls the article “nothing more than a sensational political hit aimed at increasing page views and commercial profits”.
The letter requests the Western Standard to remove the article and all related tweets immediately, to express a written revocation, to apologize to the Prime Minister and the persons named in the article and not to publish any further defamatory content in connection with the statements or the article .
Western Standard claims the story was correct.
“We stand by our story. We have several credible sources that have told us the same thing in detail, ”Editor and CEO Derek Fildebrandt told CBC News.
“We believe the best way to bring history is to answer our reporters’ questions, and not try to slap an independent media company that doesn’t accept government media subsidies. They know they have far greater resources than we do and “I hope this will make it go away. We keep our advice and will make further statements in the future. ”
Fildebrandt left the United Conservative Party caucus in Alberta in 2017 amid controversy, including a hit and run, illegal hunting charges, and renting his apartment through Airbnb while filing for housing benefit as an MLA.
After being elected chairman, Kenney said Fildebrandt would not be welcome back to the UCP caucus or be allowed to seek the party’s nomination in his riding after “deliberately misleading” the party about his legal issues. Fildebrandt ran as an independent and was defeated by the UCP candidate.
The two men disagreed on the details that led to this decision. Fildebrandt alleged that Kenney privately told him he could rejoin the party and left out facts in his public statement at the time. Kenney said Fildebrandt had been told he needed the support of the caucus to be re-admitted and had to make sure that “there are no open ethical or legal issues that could embarrass him or the party”.