A UCP campaign presser was held in the Highwood riding on Friday morning.

Incumbent Highwood candidate RJ Sigurdson was joined by fellow UCP candidates Devin Dreeshen of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Chantelle de Jonge of Chestermere-Strathmore.

The event was dedicated to highlighting past comments from Livingstone-Macleod NDP candidate Kevin Van Tighem and other NDP candidates concerning the energy sector.

Van Tighem's comments come from his 2021 book Wild Roses Are Worth It: Reimaging the Alberta Advantage, as well as an appearance on the podcast Book Talk with Ken Davis.

de Jonge called for an apology from Van Tighem.

"Many of his worst comments come from a book he wrote titled Wild Roses Are Worth It: Reimaging the Alberta Advantage, including comparing Alberta's energy ministry to slavery. In his commentary, Van Tighem also refers to Albertans as 'entitled, grabby, resource exploiters,' and 'entitled, angry rednecks.' Van Tighem also likens the energy sector to slavery and compares pipelines to addiction. This is worse than when the NDP called Albertans 'sewer rats,' and 'embarrassing cousins.' This is the most repulsive thing any NDP candidate has ever said about Albertans and our energy industry. Van Tighem needs to apologize immediately."

Van Tighem's "entitled, grabby, resource exploiters" quote was taken from his podcast appearance:

"I guess that's one of the things that's frustrated me in recent years, is that we have a reputation certainly internationally and probably nationally, and certainly amongst ourselves, as a place of sort of entitled, grabby resource exploiters, sort of that redneck thing, the pickup truck, the ballcap. That's part of who we are, that's everybody's brother or cousin, right? But there's so much more than that, there's so many more people who make this place what it is, and they're not about just grabbing money out of the ground, they're about sustaining everything that's above and below the ground."

The slavery quote referenced by de Jonge is from pages 66 and 67 of Van Tighem's book:

"Alberta's enslaved landscapes were never unemployed to start with. And most of the jobs we fore them to do impair their ability to do their real work. That's how slavery works; it makes bosses rich by stealing the energies of their slaves."

A number of other UCP candidates have released statements responding to Van Tighem's quotes, including Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre candidate Jason Nixon who called the comments "deeply disturbing."

Sigurdson took to the microphone and highlighted a 2020 tweet from Incumbent NDP MLA Janis Irwin.

"NDP candidate for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood Janis Irwin stands firmly in opposition to the oil and gas sector. On Twitter, she posted that she believes the extremist group Extinction Rebellion should be in our classrooms and taught to our children. For those who don't know, Extinction Rebellion has infamously blockaded critical infrastructure in Canada and internationally, all in an effort to kill the oil and gas industry. They've been responsible for blocking the Walterdale Bridge in Edmonton and blocking the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and Massey Tunnel in Vancouver, and if they had their ways, everyone whose jobs are supported by the energy industry would be unemployed. Rachel Notley must clearly state that she will not allow Extinction Rebellion's Extreme views in our classrooms."

Van Tighem wasn't immediately available for comment, although he addressed the discussion around his quotes in a tweet on Thursday evening.

The full UCP press event can be seen below.