For the second time this month, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is dealing with the fallout from controversial comments made by members of his own party.
"This is distracting from the good work that the government is doing," the clearly frustrated Premier told reporters on Tuesday after meeting privately with Progressive Conservative MLA Doug Elniski.
Earlier this week, Mr. Elniski, a rookie backbencher for Edmonton-Calder, publicly apologized after comments he recently posted online attracted national attention and rebuke from the Alberta NDP House Leader, Rachel Notley.
In one blog entry, Mr. Elniski, who is married with three grown daughters, wrote: "Men are attracted to smiles, so smile don't give me that 'treated equal' stuff, if you want equal it comes in little packages at Starbucks."
Mr. Stelmach said that online remark and others made by Mr. Elniski, including a Twitter message alerting his followers to a bikini car wash "where girls look cold," are "totally inappropriate" and don't reflect the values of either him or his party.
The Premier said he has no plans to discipline Mr. Elniski and that his apology was enough.
"There is a huge consequence to the member, obviously emotionally," Mr. Stelmach said. "I'm sure that Mr. Elniski, living through this, has learned from it, but so have other caucus members."
The incident occurred a week after Finance Minister Iris Evans created a furor by telling a Toronto business audience that raising children "properly" means one parent needs to stay at home. Ms. Evans also linked lack of education with mental illness.
Ms. Evans later apologized for offending people, but added she still stands behind her parenting comment.
Mr. Elniski said he still plans to communicate by online methods such as Twitter in the future, but he may have his comments vetted, possibly by government officials, before they appear.
- Read his Twitter posts here
"This is a learning curve, and it's a pretty steep one, I got to tell you," he said.
The Premier's chief of staff, Ron Glen, is going to send a letter to Tory MLAs in the coming days about the dos and don'ts of using social networking websites.
Callers to a popular radio talk show on CHQR Calgary Tuesday were almost unanimously offended by Mr. Elniski's online remarks.
"I found his comments rude and insensitive," said one woman, who added she's willing to let it go since he apologized.
Still, one caller pointed out that much is being made about the MLA's missives when there are a lot more important things to worry about. "I'm offended by all these people who are offended by all these little things," she said.
With a report from Dawn Walton in Calgary