Rachel Notley finds Jason Kenney's actions during India trip 'amusing'

While some of Alberta's cabinet raised concerns about United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney's trip to India, Premier Rachel Notley is taking a tongue-in-cheek tack.

Kenney said he represented himself as a former federal minister while on the trip

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley spoke to reporters Monday about Jason Kenney's trip to India. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

While some of Alberta's cabinet raised concerns about United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney's trip to India, Premier Rachel Notley is taking a tongue-in-cheek tack.

On Monday when reporters asked Notley what she thought of concerns about how Kenney was representing himself abroad, she suggested he might have either "seen the light" — agreeing with NDP policies — or dipped into legalized cannabis early.

Eyebrows were raised earlier last week after Nitin Gadkari, India's minister of infrastructure, referred to Kenney as "Hon'ble minister, Alberta, Canada." Kenney holds no such position within the government and it wasn't immediately clear what was being discussed during the meeting.

Kenney also appeared to reverse himself on a core criticism of Notley's government. He has said that Alberta's tax system, particularly the carbon tax, is counterproductive and undermining investment, but in India he told a TV reporter that Alberta is a prime spot for investment because of many factors, including low taxes.

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous told CBC News he'd be following up with everyone whom the Opposition leader visited to ensure the Indian officials understand his role within the Alberta legislature, and used the opportunity to explain government policies.

"We're not about to let this visit of Mr. Kenney's potentially damage the Government of Alberta's relationship with India," he said. 

On Monday, Notley said the only thing she's worried about is the fact that Kenney has a record of going out and saying he's something he is not, referring to him as the "minister of make-believe." 

UCP spokesperson Christine Myatt said Kenney would never misrepresent himself and said the Indian minister's tweet may have mistaken about his title. Kenney was previously a federal cabinet minister.

"It's quite clear that this latest NDP smear job is a desperate attempt to distract from its disastrous record," she wrote in an email last week.

'I find it amusing:' Notley

"I find it amusing that he apparently wants to suggest he's a minister in our government, and that he's there to sell the policies of our government," said Notley.

Kenney has returned from his trip. Last week he visited Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar and Jamnagar. On his Twitter feed, Kenney wrote that he met with several cabinet ministers, including Gadkari.

Kenney criticized Notley and Bilous during a Monday afternoon news conference for not visiting India once over the past three years. However, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier has been there twice.

"I have 20 years of deep connection in that country … I think that's good for Alberta," said Kenney. "It's unfortunate the NDP sought to politicize it but I was very careful, we were very careful, not to mention a single word of criticism of the Alberta government."

Kenney said he shared his itinerary with Bilous in advance of the trip and offered to convey any messages the minister wanted.

Kenney says he's on 'team Alberta'

"When I leave the borders of Canada, I'm on team Alberta," Kenney said.

When asked how he was able to represent Alberta while not being a member of the government in power, Kenney said having Opposition leaders visit other countries is hardly new.

"My role as leader of the Opposition is not just to oppose the government, but to propose alternative government and to prepare to potentially be a government next spring."

He said he represented himself as Alberta's official Opposition leader and a former federal minister while on the trip.

"If I was just some unknown guy in the Alberta legislature I wouldn't have gotten any of these meetings. I was invited by the Indian government," he said.

"We observed every protocol requirement."

The trip was funded by UCP party donations. 

Myatt also expressed disappointment that Bilous would say Kenney's trip to India could hurt the province. She said the UCP leader planned to leave partisan politics at home.

With files from The Canadian Press.