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Brian Jean, left, during a caucus meeting in Edmonton on July 24, 2017.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

A candidate for the leadership of Alberta's United Conservative Party is apologizing for calling Quebec's position on Bombardier "retarded."

Former federal MP Brian Jean tweeted that he regrets his choice of words.

Jean was speaking with reporters in Drayton Valley, Alta., Wednesday when he was asked about Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard's call for the federal government to stand up against American tariffs on Bombardier jets.

Jean went on a rant about Couillard wanting Canada to stand with Quebec when there is opposition in Quebec to the Energy East pipeline that would carry Alberta oil to the East Coast.

"This is the guy that's now asking for national unity – national unity while they stop our pipelines from going through because the don't believe in Energy East," said Jean, former leader of the Opposition Wildrose.

"They would rather support a dictator and his abusive system to the people that he controls rather good, clean Alberta energy. It's ridiculous and retarded."

Jean was blasted by at least one of his leadership rival's campaigns.

"Unacceptable," tweeted Blaise Boehmer, a spokesman with former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney's campaign. "This kind of comment is completely at odds with the big, broad, and tolerant tent we want to build with the UCP."

This is not the first time Jean has had to apologize for an off-the-cuff remark that went too far.

Last year, at a town hall gathering in Fort McMurray Jean was asked about a lack of seniors care and housing in the northern Alberta city.

He responded that he had been "beating" the issue for a decade and will continue to do so, but added "it's against the law to beat Rachel Notley."

The remark drew laughter and applause, but Jean told the gathering moments later that he should not have said what he did because the premier has been accommodating on the issue and should be complimented for it.

A Wildrose spokesman later said Jean reached out to apologize directly to Notley.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips reminded people of that remark on Twitter Thursday.

"Here's a guy who joked about beating up our premier. Then insults (Albertans with) disabilities," she wrote. "Wants to lead our province. Where to, exactly?"

– with files from RDNews Now

Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties have reached an agreement in principle to form a consolidated party. PC Leader Jason Kenney says he and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean will 'park' their egos in the leadership race.

The Canadian Press