Wildrose leader Brian Jean has apologized for what he calls an "inappropriate attempt" at humour, when he told a public meeting it was against the law to "beat" Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
The official Opposition leader's comment came during a Fort McMurray town-hall meeting of Wildrose supporters Tuesday night.
Jean, who represents a Fort McMurray riding, was responding to an audience member's questions about the need to push ahead with construction of a seniors housing project in Fort McMurray, which was ravaged by a wildfire in the spring.
According to a recording taped by the Fort McMurray Today newspaper, Jean responded: "I've been beating this drum for 10,11 years. I will continue to beat it, I promise. But it's against the law to beat Rachel Notley."
Minutes later, Jean returned to the microphone and seemed to offer an apology for his comments.
"I have to compliment that woman (Rachel Notley) and I shouldn't have said what I said," Jean told the audience. "I think Rachel Notley deserves a hand of applause. And that was tough to say."
Immediately after the town hall meeting, Jean clarified his comments to CBC News.
"That's why I apologized immediately to the room and asked them to recognize that Rachel Notley has done a great job for us in regards to the aging-in-place facility," Jean said. "And also in regards to the fire and we had some good conversations and she was very responsive to that."
Later in a written statement from the Wildrose Party, Jean reached out to Notley and apologized "directly" to her.
Notley has been subjected to a series of highly publicized violent threats and images in the past year. In one instance, an image of her face was pasted on a large piece of cardboard and used as target during a golf tournament. It was condemned by critics and described by some as an example of the violence that female politicians are subjected to.
Last December, after the government passed controversial farm-worker safety legislation, Jean spoke out about the need to stop online commenters from talking about assassinating Notley.
"These kinds of comments cross all bounds of respect and decency and have absolutely no place in our political discourse," he said at the time. "This is not how Albertans behave."
Reaction on social media to Jean's comments in Fort McMurray was swift and pointed: