Kenney apologizes for slagging Alberta deputy premier

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has apologized for his blunt assessment of Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, written in an email sent in error to Kenney's Alberta caucus colleagues and their staff.

Federal immigration minister insults Thomas Lukaszuk in email to Alberta caucus

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was blunt about his assessment of Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk in an email that went to Kenney's Alberta caucus colleagues and their staff. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has apologized for his blunt assessment of Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk after calling him "a complete and utter asshole" in an email that went to Kenney's Alberta caucus colleagues and their staff.

Kenney had earlier faced repeated questions in the House of Commons about the comments and refused to say he was sorry.

But by the end of the day, a spokeswoman for Kenney said he had told Lukaszuk he was sorry.

"The minister spoke with Minister Lukaszuk to apologize for the email message, and to underscore that he looks forward to continuing with the positive working relationship between the Alberta and federal governments," Alexis Pavlich said in a statement.

The controversy comes out of an email Kenney sent last week in response to federal Conservative MP Blaine Calkins, the Alberta caucus chair.

Calkins' assistant had asked whether any Alberta Conservative MPs would host a caucus lunch or dinner for Lukaszuk when he visits Ottawa on Thursday.

Kenney recommended against it.

"I say a definite 'no' to Lukaszyk. I don't think it makes sense to create a precedent to do a special caucus meeting for every visiting minister from the provincial government. Plus he is a complete and utter asshole," Kenney wrote in the email, spelling Lukaszuk's name incorrectly.

Resisted calls to apologize

The email also went to the staff of the 26 Conservative MPs from Alberta.

In question period, opposition MPs demanded Kenney apologize, but he ignored the calls, slamming the opposition parties.

NDP MP Linda Duncan, the only Alberta opposition MP, said Kenney's chosen word for Lukaszuk is so offensive it's against the rules of the House to repeat it.

"Given that his reprehensible comments are now public, will the minister of citizenship and immigration take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Lukaszuk?" Duncan said.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux did repeat Kenney's quote, causing a round of gasps and a rebuke by House Speaker Andrew Scheer.

"I'll urge [the member] not to use that word," Scheer said.

Lamoureux said he apologized, and asked Kenney to do the same. Instead, Kenney would say only that Lamoureux's question shows why the Liberals are the third party in the House.

The immigration minister said he's met recently with a number of provincial officials and that if anyone should apologize to Albertans, it's the NDP, who want oilsands companies to pay the full cost of development, including the environmental effects.

"I and this government have a phenomenal positive working relationship with the government of Alberta …we have a very strong relationship," Kenney said.

Denied sending an email

Speaking to CBC Radio Tuesday morning, Kenney said he didn't send an email to Lukaszuk.

"I didn't send an email reply to him. And I don't comment on internal communications," he told Robyn Bresnahan, host of Ottawa Morning.

"I didn't, neither did my office, did not send an email reply to Mr. Lukaszuk."

The email reportedly went to his federal colleagues, not to Lukaszuk directly.

Lukaszuk declined to comment on the story.

A number of federal Conservatives supported the Wildrose Party in last April's provincial election, which lost to Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives.

Kenney's former press secretary had previously worked for the Wildrose, then left his office to take a position with Danielle Smith, the party's leader, during the provincial election.