'Slap in the face': Kenney posts statement about huge crowds at Bowden, Alta. rodeo

Jason Kenney has responded on social media to a rodeo that drew thousands of people to a rural Alberta community on the weekend.

"It is disturbing to see large numbers of people gathering this weekend at Bowden in flagrant violation of COVID-19 public health measures," he wrote on Twitter.

"Not only are gatherings like this a threat to public health, they are a slap in the face to everybody who is observing the rules to keep themselves and their fellow Albertans safe."

He added the reason why Alberta is seeing extremely high case rates is because people are "ignoring the rules."

"If we do not begin to bend the curve, our health care system could very well be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks."

Organizers touted the 'No More Lockdowns' rodeo, held Saturday and Sunday in the community approximately an hour north of Calgary, as an act of civil disobedience.

The rodeo was supposed to be held at an official arena in Bowden, but the town's agricultural society pulled the permit for it when it learned the event was going ahead despite COVID-19 rules against it.

Alberta Health Services also condemned the event, saying it was "disappointing" that organizers went ahead with it.

"It was a clear breach of the current public health restrictions," AHS wrote in a statement. "In addition, it is extremely concerning that people would knowingly put their fellow Albertans at risk by ignoring the restrictions, particularly with increasing cases and the subsequent pressure on our healthcare system."

The Northcott Rodeo, the group behind it, said on Facebook it would not stand by as the Western heritage of Albertans was "ripped out of existence."

Kenney added the very thought of holding a large rodeo was an insult to the same Western heritage the organizers were trying to defend.

"I'm angered and saddened to see so many people selfishly put themselves ahead of others. Rodeos celebrate Alberta’s Western heritage, a key part of which is our community spirit and looking out for others, especially the vulnerable," he said.

"That’s the opposite of what these folks are doing."

The premier did not make any mention of enforcement against any of the organizers in his statement, but a spokesperson from his office said it's not the place for elected officials to direct law enforcement.

"Alberta’s government has given law enforcement and AHS increased authority to issue tickets and enforce COVID-19 public safety measures, including preventing registry services for those in violation of COVID health measures," said Jerrica Goodwin, Kenney's press secretary in an email to CTV News.

It is disturbing and to see large numbers of people gathering this weekend at Bowden in flagrant violation of COVID-19 public health measures.

— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) May 2, 2021