Kenney speechwriter Paul Bunner, whose old columns stirred controversy in summer, set to retire
Writer was criticized for old columns that critics called racist and discriminatory
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's speechwriter Paul Bunner — accused of making racist, sexist and homophobic remarks in old columns and articles that surfaced this summer — is set to retire in the coming days, the premier's office confirmed Friday.
Bunner, who turns 65 on Monday, was a speechwriter for prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009 and was hired by Kenney last year.
Before joining government, he was a writer and a columnist for the online magazine C2C Journal and the now-defunct Alberta Report newsmagazine.
Columns and articles written by Bunner during that time prompted calls this summer for his resignation from critics, who called those articles racist and discriminatory.
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After the articles resurfaced, a spokesperson from the premier's office said the articles, some of which were released by the NDP, were decades-old.
"As I am sure you can appreciate, societal norms have changed greatly over time. For example, NDP 'saint' Tommy Douglas previously called homosexuality a 'mental illness,'" the statement read. "People's views have evolved over decades — and that includes Mr. Bunner."
Harrison Fleming, deputy press secretary, said the matters addressed in the columns "have long since been settled law."
Following criticism, Bunner met with Indigenous leaders, including Chief Wilton Littlechild, one of the leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Littlechild said their discussion was a frank but successful one.
"I wanted to try to find ways to work together," Littlechild said at the time.
Duane Bratt, a political studies professor at Mount Royal University, said he didn't feel that Kenney faced an upside from Bunner's retirement at this stage.
"He kept Bunner on for months and months after multiple stories and took all the hits for it. He's not going to get any credit for this retirement," Bratt said. "Except it demonstrates to his own people, if you are loyal to Jason Kenney, he will be loyal back."
Bratt said he felt that Bunner's comments on residential schools was the "real trigger," especially given Harper's apology to residential school survivors in 2008.
"The most important part of that is that it [Bunner's writings came] after Harper's public apology," Bratt said.
With files from Elise von Scheel