File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Jason Kenney speaks to the media at his first convention as leader of the United Conservative Party in Red Deer.

Damage control needed on Alberta Opposition leader’s India trip: trade minister

EDMONTON — The Alberta government says it will be doing “damage control” after Opposition leader Jason Kenney’s visit to India.

Trade Minister Deron Bilous says there appears to be confusion in India over who Kenney is speaking for and questions over what he is saying as he meets this week with business and political leaders.

“There’s already been confusion,” Bilous said Tuesday, citing a social media post from an Indian government cabinet minister who referred to Kenney as a minister of the Crown. “We don’t know exactly what he is saying, how he is portraying himself.”

Bilous said Kenney doesn’t speak on behalf of the government of Alberta or the government of Canada.

“What we don’t know is if he is clarifying where there are misunderstandings … but we’re not about to let this visit of Mr. Kenney’s potentially damage the government of Alberta’s relationship with India.”

Bilous said they will do follow-up work to deal with any confusion.

“We’ve directed our Alberta trade office to do damage control, correcting the record wherever we can,” he said.

“They’ll be doing follow-up conversations with all of the Indian officials that Mr. Kenney meets with.”

Kenney and two caucus members are using their own money and United Conservative Party funds for the trip to promote Alberta’s oil industry and express concerns about Indian tariffs on peas and lentils.

Nitin Gadkari, the minister responsible for roads and other resources, tweeted out this week, ”Met Mr. Jason Kenney, Hon’ble Minister, Alberta, Canada. We discussed about exploring areas of mutual co-operation in infrastructure sector.”

Kenney has also given multiple interviews with media in that country making statements that appear to conflict with ones made earlier in Alberta.

Speaking to CNN-News18, he urged Indians to invest, saying, “Canada, amongst the developed countries — Alberta in particular — have low taxes. We have one of the best educated workforces, efficient power prices. We have a lot of strategic advantages for that kind of investment.”

Kenney’s UCP has, in fact, been sharply critical of Premier Rachel Notley’s power pricing system and its tax regime.

Two months ago, Kenney said the current Alberta tax program was not luring investment but in fact undermining it, and that if his party forms government, he will axe the existing carbon tax and then look at further tax reductions.

“I want to cut other taxes to help bring back investment and get people working again,” Kenney said in a PostMedia interview published July 12.

Bilous said he hopes Albertans are scratching their heads.

“Mr. Kenney is saying one thing to Albertans and another to an international audience,” he said.

“This is where it is critical that our Alberta office in India will be following up with all the officials that Mr. Kenney meets with.”

UCP spokeswoman Christine Myatt said Kenney connected with Bilous prior to the trip and is working to build a positive “Team Alberta” approach.

Jason Kenney

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