Published:July 3, 2021
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he’s concerned people will hesitate to run for public office or take jobs as public servants in the wake of harassment linked to a fringe candidate in Calgary’s mayoral race.
The concerns came after supporters of far-right agitator Kevin. J. Johnston swarmed Health Minister Tyler Shandro and his family at a Canada Day event Thursday.
The protesters chanted “Lock Shandro up” and asked him to answer for destroying the lives and businesses of Albertans through COVID-19 restrictions. The abuse was directed at his two young sons as well, with one person telling them, “Sorry buddy but your father is a war criminal.”
Speaking at an event at Calgary’s Petroleum Club Friday, Kenney called Johnston’s supporters “unstable people who are capable of unstable things.”
He told reporters afterward he worries such “corrosive” behaviour could dissuade some from entering public life.
“That’s my concern, that people will hold back from putting their names forward for different kinds of public service, elected or not, if they think this is a kind of harassment that they’re going to face,” Kenney said.
“Those of us who put our name on the ballot, we expect criticism and protest, that goes with the territory, that’s fair ball. But going after somebody’s kids and family in a really vicious, hostile way, it’s brutal.”
Kenney said he’s faced threats during the pandemic, but there was also one levied against his 83-year-old mother.
Leaders from across the political aisle also spoke up following the Canada Day harassment of Shandro and his family.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said on Twitter the harassment was “awful,” saying it’s one thing to disagree with the policies of government but another to bring their kids into it.
Lethbridge-West NDP MLA Shannon Phillips echoed those sentiments, saying the action was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“I’m sorry this happened to Tyler and his wife, but I’m more sorry for his kids. Our boys are the same age,” Phillips said. “This is what happens when social-media-fuelled disinformation causes us to demonize one another.”
A Calgary judge found Friday Johnston was in contempt of three court orders, after he continued to take part in large gatherings and refuse to comply with mask requirements in violation of legal rulings.
Johnston remains in custody in relation to additional criminal charges after he and others allegedly entered shoe stores in Calgary’s Core shopping complex without masks. He’ll stand trial on those allegations July 12.
Kenney said he doesn’t want to interfere in any ongoing legal proceedings but said action must be taken against those who express “hateful, bizarre and sometimes violent” sentiments.
“I believe the legal system is responding to this individual’s abhorrent conduct and I trust that our prosecutors and courts will deal with his conducts and threats appropriately,” he said.