Premier Jason Kenney and three of his cabinet ministers did not break pandemic rules by dining outdoors on a patio on the east side of the 11th floor of the Federal Building, the UCP government said Wednesday.
Pictures sent to CBC News by an anonymous tipster show the premier, along with Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon and Finance Minister Travis Toews, dining outside in the evening hours of June 1, the first day that Alberta’s less stringent public health restrictions went into effect.
One photo shows eight individuals on the patio, including several sitting close together. Two individuals who appear to be servers are not masked.
The Federal Building is commonly called the Sky Palace after a spending scandal involving a former premier.
“The premier, with a few ministers and staff members, held a working dinner last night,” Jerrica Goodwin, spokesperson for Kenney, stated in an email to CBC News.
“You’ll note the gathering was outdoors. I suggest you review the Stage 1 guidelines, which began yesterday,” Goodwin said.
She specifically pointed to outdoor gathering restrictions, which increased from five to 10 people.
“Attendance was kept under 10,” Goodwin stated. “Costs were not incurred by taxpayers.”
The guidelines also include a provision for restaurants, noting that outdoor patio dining is allowed “for up to four household members per table, or three people if diners who live alone are with their two close contacts.”
Stage 1 guidelines also specifically state, “Distancing and masking requirements remain in effect.”
Goodwin did not answer questions from CBC News about the identity of a man and woman who appear in the photos, nor why the servers were not masked.
She did not respond to additional questions about why the group was not following the guideline to socially distance when gathering outdoors and why servers were not wearing masks.
CBC News has asked to speak to Shandro, Nixon and Toews about the dinner.
Kenney moved his office to the top of the Federal Building last year due to the noise of ongoing masonry work on the exterior of the Legislature building.
However, the same space was the focus of controversy when it was revealed in 2017 the former Progressive Conservative government was renovating the space to serve as a residence for Alberta premier Alison Redford.
The area was converted to office space after Redford stepped down but the nickname of “Sky Palace” is still commonly used by the public.
NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney was again showing a failure to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Albertans need their leaders to show leadership by following the rules, and they do not need their leaders to break the rules and do it on the top of a castle,” she said. “That is not how you lead during a crisis.”
Notley said her government only used the space for meetings and public events when she was premier between 2015 and 2019.