By Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press on November 17, 2020.
EDMONTON – An Alberta charity says it is reconsidering a virtual and in-person fundraising event involving Premier Jason Kenney and other political leaders in light of recent criticism on social media.
Jennifer Martin, president of Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories, says the group checked with health officials to make sure the Nov. 30 event was within public health rules.
But Martin says the group doesn’t want to send any wrong messages or arouse undue concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event is intended to allow business people to talk with politicians about economic recovery.
It’s been billed as a scotch- and wine-tasting get-together with 15 people in-person at an Edmonton Mercedes-Benz dealership and with other participants attending virtually.
Martin says her group had strict distancing and hygiene rules set, but is considering changing the date, reducing the $1,000 ticket price or making it completely virtual.
Kenney, Alberta Party acting leader Jacquie Fenske and Edmonton-Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux had promised to appear, she said. Martin is still waiting to hear back from the provincial NDP and Liberal parties and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.
Junior Achievement billed the event as a VIP evening with Kenney and others.
Critics say Kenney’s participation, while within health regulations, would send the wrong message when he has repeatedly urged people to avoid gatherings in the face of soaring COVID-19 numbers.
They also say the event would strike an unhelpful elitist tone of sipping high-end spirits at a luxury car dealership while many Canadians have lost their livelihoods.
Junior Achievement teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship to young Canadians.
“We’re open and transparent, and if there are concerns, we really just want to address them head on,” Martin said in an interview Tuesday.
“We haven’t done anything that violates any tax or ethical rules. We made sure we did our homework there, but I’m a big believer in listening.
“This is a charity just trying to survive like everybody else, and we want to help the economy.”
Kenney’s government has in recent weeks brought in health restrictions to try to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus and to prevent the health system from being overrun.
One rule limits most public gatherings to 15 people or fewer in areas with high caseloads, which includes Edmonton and Calgary and surrounding areas.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020.