Brian Jean apologizes after using slur offensive to the disabled

A Calgary-based group supporting artists with developmental disabilities say it would like to sit down with United Conservative Party leadership contender Brian Jean after he apologized Thursday for using a slur offensive to the disabled.

UCP leadership candidate used disputed word while referring to Quebec premier's plea for national unity

UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean apologized on social media after using a slur offensive to people with disabilities. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A Calgary-based group supporting artists with developmental disabilities say it would like to sit down with United Conservative Party leadership contender Brian Jean after he apologized Thursday for using a slur offensive to the disabled.

Speaking to reporters in Drayton Valley, Alta., on Wednesday, Jean was asked about Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard's call for national unity after Bombardier was hit with a 220 per cent tariff on its C-series planes heading to the U.S., which Couillard said was an attack against Quebec and Canada.

Couillard has also been a steadfast opponent of the Energy East pipeline project.

"This is a guy now asking for national unity? National unity while they stop our pipelines from going through because they don't believe in Energy East," Jean said on Wednesday.

"They would rather support a dictator and his abusive system to the people that he controls, rather than good, clean Alberta energy. It's ridiculous and retarded."

Jean issued an apology Thursday on social media after some expressed outrage. 

The Calgary-based Indefinite Arts Centre, which helps disabled people explore their creative side, issued an invitation to Jean to "visit, meet with, and learn from artists living with developmental disabilities at the centre."

"I was very surprised and disappointed that somebody who is as prominent as Mr. Jean would make those kinds of remarks," said executive director Jung-Suk (JS) Ryu.

"I think if he came and sat down with our artists and could hear their perspectives of why they've chosen to be artists and hear their stories… I would think he would have a very different perspective of people living with disabilities."

Education Minister David Eggen said Thursday he found Jean's use of the word "disturbing."

"Certainly that's a pejorative term that is not helpful in an educative and general way," he said. "Plus that's schoolyard diplomacy that I think doesn't forward our position as Albertans at all. And if he uses that kind of language in public, how does he talk to his colleagues in private?"

Previous verbal slips

This isn't the first time Jean has apologized after a verbal slip-up.

In 2016, he apologized to Premier Rachel Notley after making a joke about beating her while answering audience questions at a townhall meeting for the now-defunct Wildrose Party, which he led at the time.

"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," he said at the time.

Jean returned to the mic soon after and apologized then offered a mea culpa directly to Notley the next day.

Jean represents the riding of Fort McMurray-Conklin.

He's one of four vying to be the new leader of the fledgling United Conservative Party (UCP), formed earlier this year through a merger of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives.

Also running for party leader are Doug Schweitzer, Jason Kenney and Jeff Callaway.

Nathan Cooper has been serving as interim leader until the Oct. 28 leadership vote.

The second UCP leadership debate takes place on Thursday evening in Edmonton.