Edmonton

UCP roasts NDP minister over 'eat less meat' tweet

A three-day-old tweet from Alberta's environment minister suggesting people "eat less meat" has landed her in trouble with people who think she is working against the province's producers of beef and other meats.

Tweets come on same day Statistics Canada releases positive job numbers for Alberta

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips is the MLA for Lethbridge West. (CBC)

A three-day-old tweet from Alberta's environment minister suggesting people "eat less meat" has landed her in trouble with people who think she is working against the province's producers of beef and other meats.

"Need a resolution?" Shannon Phillips, the MLA for Lethbridge-West posted about Environment Lethbridge's 30-day Green Challenge. "Use reusable shopping bags, take shorter showers, unplug electronics devices, eliminate vehicle idling and eat less meat."

(Twitter)

Phillips' tweet was posted on Jan. 2 to little initial reaction. However, it became a hot issue on the social-media platform on Friday when Unite Alberta retweeted it using the #ableg hashtag. Unite Alberta is a political action group that supports United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.

"So Alberta's minister of the environment is now suggesting Albertans 'eat less meat,' " the post stated. "And PETA is pushing for a 'meat tax.' "

Earlier this week, the animal rights organization People for Ethical Treatment of Animals suggested a meat tax could go toward nutrition programs to encourage people to consume less meat and reduce health-care costs.

(Twitter)

UCP MLA Ric McIver continued the social media pile-on. 

"We have a government minister trashing our agriculture industry," McIver tweeted. "Will you have this minister take down her tweet, Rachel Notley?"

Kenney joined in several hours later.

"Why is the Environment Min. telling Albertans to 'eat less meat?" he tweeted. "[People] are obviously free to eat what they like — and let's keep it that way.

"As someone who supports Alberta's farmers and ranchers — and enjoys a good steak from time to time — I will not be taking the NDP's advice."

But others questioned the timing of the UCP's tweets. 

On Friday, Statistics Canada released job numbers showing Alberta posted 26,000 new jobs last month. Most of them were full-time. That put Alberta's unemployment rate at the lowest level since late 2015.

"Looks like someone in the opposition knew when the jobs numbers were coming out," said former NDP staffer Marcella Munro, "and instead of cheering for Alberta, wanted something to get back in the news cycle on their faux outrage program."

Other people pointed out that Alberta's agriculture industry also includes farmers who grow lentils and other pulses, which vegetarians use as sources for protein. 

CBC asked Unite Alberta about the timing of the retweet.

The group responded via Twitter: "A tweet from only three days ago would seem to still be relevant. Not everyone was judiciously monitoring Twitter just after the holiday. A concerned Albertan flagged the Minister's comments."

As for Phillips, she told CBC News in a written reply that the NDP supports the "beef and agriculture industry" in Alberta. 

"My tweet was about a local environmental challenge in my riding and was in no way meant to offend the industries that are vital to our province's culture and economy," Phillips said. 

"We know that the rhetoric from Jason Kenney and the UCP is often overheated and their comments today are just another example of that," she said. 

"They should be celebrating Alberta's economic recovery and employment gains, but instead they're just playing politics."