Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s speechwriter Paul Bunner – accused of making racist, sexist and homophobic comments in old columns and articles that appeared this summer – is set to retire in the coming days, the prime minister’s office confirmed on Friday.
Bunner, who turns 65 on Monday, was a speechwriter for Prime Minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009 and was hired by Kenney last year.
Prior to joining the government, he was a writer and columnist for the online magazine C2C Journal and the now-defunct Alberta Report news magazine.
Columns and articles written by Bunner during this period sparked calls this summer for his resignation from critics, who called the articles racist and discriminatory.
After the stories resurfaced, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said the stories, some of which were published by the NDP, were decades old.
“As I’m sure you can understand, societal norms have changed dramatically over time. For example, ‘saint’ NDP Tommy Douglas previously referred to homosexuality as ‘mental illness’,” the statement read. “People’s opinions have changed over the decades – and that includes Mr. Bunner.”
Harrison Fleming, deputy press secretary, said the issues in the columns “have long been settled by law.”
Following criticism, Bunner met with Indigenous leaders, including Chief Wilton Littlechild, one of the leaders of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Littlechild said their discussion was frank but successful.
âI wanted to try to find ways to work together,â Littlechild said at the time.
Duane Bratt, professor of political studies at Mount Royal University, said he didn’t think Kenney was facing a retirement benefit from Bunner at this point.
âHe kept Bunner for months and months after several stories and took all the hits. He won’t get any credit for that retirement,â Bratt said. “Except it shows his own people, if you’re loyal to Jason Kenney, he will be back.”
Bratt said he thought Bunner’s comments about the residential schools were the “real trigger,” especially given Harper’s apology to residential school survivors in 2008.
âThe most important part of this is that he [Bunner’s writings came] after Harper’s public apology, âBratt said.