Premier defends relocating office to ‘sky palace’

By Catherine Griwkowsky January 7, 2021

Premier Jason Kenney confirmed Wednesday that he has been working out of former premier Alison Redford’s infamous “sky palace” since early last year.

The premier said the choice to relocate to the 11th-floor penthouse in the Federal Building was made in March so government meetings could be held in more spacious offices once social distancing was required.

While it had previously been known that Kenney had shifted his office to the Federal Building due to exterior construction on the legislature, government officials had not specified the space he was using.

Kenney’s spokesperson Christine Myatt told AB Today Kenney relocated because of the noise of jackhammering, as well as security concerns with the scaffolding, and that there were no costs associated with the move (the premier is using existing furniture).

The premier maintained his office in the legislature is much nicer than the sky palace. “It is not a residence … there’s no bedrooms. There’s no personal amenities. These are just boring government offices,” Kenney said on Facebook Live Wednesday evening. “It’s not about fancy surroundings. It’s just about getting the job done during Covid.”

Premier Rachel Notley weighed in to say when she was premier, there were offices available on the 10th floor that Kenney could be using instead.

“I would have never worked out of the sky palace and I’m puzzled why Jason Kenney wouldn’t use the existing offices,” Notley said in a tweet.

On Facebook Live, Kenney also discussed the UCP MLA travel scandal, for which he apologized, and pledged to bring in recall legislation during the upcoming session. Moving forward, UCP MLAs will not be allowed to leave the province without approval, nor will high-level public servants and heads of boards, agencies and commissions, per the premier.

Kenney was noncommittal when asked whether lockdown measures, such as gym closures, would be lifted on January 12 when they are scheduled to expire, citing ongoing high hospitalization numbers. “I’ve been packing on the Covid pounds again since my gym was closed,” he joked.

Politically toxic space
Notley is not the only premier who considered the so-called sky palace a location too politically toxic to work in. Ex-premier Jim Prentice also eschewed the use of the space, which was initially planned as a residence and meeting area for ex-premier Redford and her daughter.

The suite, which has since been retrofitted into meeting rooms, as well as Redford’s use of government planes, became symbols of the former Progressive Conservative government’s entitlement and led to Redford quitting politics in the middle of her term and the toppling of a four-decade PC dynasty.

Those renovations were part of a $400-million overhaul of the Federal Building, which included the now-dismantled living wall.