Deputy premier apologizes for 'sewer rats' comment

Can you say that in the Alberta legislative assembly?

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman apologized to the legislature Tuesday for using the term "sewer rats" to describe people the Wildrose Party associates with. 

"There was no excuse and I want to start by saying that," Hoffman told reporters just before Tuesday's question period. 

"Anytime we start trying to justify using words that are hurtful and full of vitriol, it only perpetuates the issue further ... certainly wish I would have chosen my words more wisely."

Hoffman used the term on Monday after Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon asked when the premier was going to start making better choices after enacting policies over the past two years that are "devastating Alberta families."

Hoffman said her government was creating jobs, cutting school fees and freezing tuition.

"The members opposite just want to keep jacking those things up," she continued. "We're focused on hard hats. They're spending a lot of time with sewer rats."

The Wildrose immediately jumped on the statement, saying Hoffman was referring to Albertans with that comment. Hoffman apologized and withdrew the comment in the legislature Tuesday morning.

Nixon said he is glad Hoffman apologized but said the government too often resorts to calling Wildrose supporters names. He rejected a suggestion that the party was misrepresenting who Hoffman was referring to in her comment. 

Point of order 

"I asked a question on behalf of all Albertans. Very, very clear, " Nixon said.

"The deputy premier said in that answer that people I associate with are sewer rats. Well, the people I associate with are my constituents. The people I associate with are Albertans."

The issue is not over. NDP House leader Brian Mason made a point of order to the Speaker about how the opposition is misrepresenting Hoffman's use of the term.

Mason said she was not using the term to refer to all Albertans.

"I was present at the time and in no way did she intend, or could any reasonable person infer, that she was calling Albertans sewer rats," he said.

Speaker Bob Wanner said he needed to take some time before ruling on whether this is a point of order.