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Rachel Notley Says She Was 'Bemused' By Brian Jean's Joke

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EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she was celebrating her 19th wedding anniversary when she heard the Opposition leader was joking about physically assaulting her.

"I was bemused,'' Notley said Thursday while at the opening of a new school in Edmonton.

The premier said she has accepted Wildrose Leader Brian Jean's apology.

But she urged Albertans to continue to hold all politicians to a high standard of civility so that "we not get engaged in name-calling, and that we not engage in the kind of language that we saw demonstrated earlier this week.''

There are more pressing issues that should be addressed, such as the impact of low oil prices on Alberta's economy, she said.

Jean joked about beating Notley

Jean has not spoken publicly about the comment made at a town-hall meeting in Fort McMurray on Tuesday night. He told the audience he would continue to beat the drum on key local issues, but joked that the law prevented him from beating Notley.

"I made an inappropriate attempt at humour that I promptly apologized for,'' Jean said in a statement issued Wednesday by the Wildrose party.

"Jokes of this nature are never acceptable, and I hold myself to a higher standard.''

brian jean
Brian Jean is being criticized over a joke he made about physically assaulting Premier Rachel Notley. (Photo: CP)

Politicians on both sides of the aisle in the legislature, along with Olympic rugby star Jen Kish and those who work with domestic violence victims, have condemned the remarks.

Notley and other senior women in her government have been the target of threats, violence and online hate since the NDP took office last year.

Notley has had her image defaced and vandalized online. Her face has been put on a golf course target for duffers to swing at and has been placed in virtual scope crosshairs on the Internet.

She agreed that, as the attacks continue, it's important to put a spotlight on them.

"I think that the debate around it is probably improving the overall level of debate as we go forward,'' she said.

"And I think it's important for people to understand that you can always choose to engage respectfully and to focus on the issues.''