Alberta MLA Todd Loewen steps down as UCP caucus chair, gets in touch with Kenney to resign

Alberta MLA Todd Loewen steps down as UCP caucus chair, gets in touch with Kenney to resign

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at the Federal Building in Edmonton on Feb. 24,2020

CODIE MCLACHLAN/The Globe and Mail

As Alberta struggles with a high rate of COVID-19 infections, internal strife in Jason Kenney‘s government burst into the open Thursday, with caucus members voting to eliminate two of their own members.

MLAs Todd Loewen– who required the Alberta Premier’s resignation today– and Drew Barnes were ejected from caucus after a vote by their peers, said United Conservative caucus whip Mike Ellis.

” Members recognize the need for federal government caucus to stay strong and united behind our leader, Premier Jason Kenney, as we continue to fight through what seems the lasts of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Mr. Ellis stated in a news release.

A UCP caucus meeting that began at lunchtime on Thursday went late into the day. There were no details released on the breakdown of the vote, or the precise factor they were expelled.

” There is just no space in our caucus for those who constantly look for to divide our party and weaken federal government management, specifically at this crucial point for our province,” Mr. Ellis stated.

” We look forward to moving ahead as a stronger, more united team.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Loewen said in an interview late Thursday, “The issue is dysfunction and disunity in caucus … I believe it’s worse than this morning.”

Mr. Kenney has actually tolerated open criticism of health restrictions from his MLAs for weeks. But Mr. Loewen of Valleyview, Alta., took it an action even more Wednesday night, posting a letter to the Premier that called on Mr. Kenney to resign “so that we can begin to put the province back together once again.” The MLA for Central Peace-Notley likewise revealed that he would step down as chair of the UCP caucus, but he would not leave the party– as he thinks his views are lined up with the grassroots.

In an interview late Thursday, Mr. Loewen said throughout the long caucus meeting he underwent a number of “unusual” allegations from the party whip, including that he, his child, his staff and his constituency association president, set up Facebook groups attacking the government. “It was a bit of throwing whatever at me and then hoping something sticks.”

He said the reason he composed his letter is easy. “When it specifies where practically everybody you speak with tells you the exact same thing– you will not be re-elected if Kenney is your leader, we are not voting UCP if Kenney is the leader– I hear that essentially from everybody. I guess it lastly got to me.”

Mr. Barnes has actually also long been a vocal critic of his own federal government’s policies, specifically associated to COVID-19 health limitations. Late Thursday, Mr. Barnes released a declaration that said he wished the caucus vote had been a secret ballot.

” The Premier’s promises of servant management, grassroots democracy and political transparency were once again abandoned in favor of caucus discipline above all else. However, I am no longer shackled by the chains of caucus discipline, particularly when the objectives of the Premier do not line up with those of my constituents.”

Both guys stated they will sit as independent MLAs.

Alberta’s struggling dining establishments and bars require more support after brand-new COVID-19 restrictions close patios

” The Premier is happy to stand with his caucus associates and lead Alberta through the greatest health and recession in a century. He eagerly anticipates putting the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and working towards Alberta’s financial healing,” said a declaration sent from Mr. Kenney’s workplace late Thursday.

Alberta is in the middle of a huge 3rd wave of COVID-19 Even in a strong vaccine push, it has the highest infection rate in The United States and Canada, and an active case rate more than two times the national figure. However, one-quarter of the UCP caucus has actually opposed stricter provincial health restrictions, with rural or small-city MLAs arguing their neighborhoods should not deal with the very same shutdowns of dining establishments, health clubs and other centers as centres where cases are greater.

Mr. Loewen and Mr. Barnes were 2 of the signatories to an April letter from a group of UCP MLAs opposing the province’s pandemic health restrictions. However Mr. Loewen’s newest letter didn’t mention COVID-19 at all. Instead, he said he’s concerned since the views of rank-and-file MLAs are overlooked, the Kenney government’s reaction “to a hostile federal government” is viewed as weak, and the federal government has mishandled problems such as negotiations with the province’s medical professionals and coal-mining allowances in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

” Messaging from your government has been inconsistent, complicated, and unnecessarily inflammatory,” he composed.

A senior government source stated Thursday there had actually been issue in caucus about Mr. Loewen’s ability to be objective and function as caucus chair “while he had his staff and board president running the ‘fire Kenney’ project.” He risked being ousted as caucus chair by his peers, said the source, whom The World and Mail is not identifying because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

There have been upset rumblings in the backbenches of Mr. Kenney’s government since the beginning of the year but it’s uncertain the number of other UCP MLAs feel the like Mr. Loewen. MLA David Hanson composed a Facebook post supporting Mr. Loewen however not fully backing his require the Premier to resign. In an interview, the MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul stated he believes the way his own government has enacted health constraints with little notification has actually shown a disrespect for small company owners.

” When I get businesspeople calling me in tears, I have actually got to respond.”

Mr. Hanson likewise revealed issue about the NDP winning the next provincial election, slated for2023 “It’s time to decide. We fought very hard for unity, to unite the conservative celebrations here. And I ‘d hate to see it go to waste.”

The Premier, he stated, “needs to get back out and talk with individuals, and attempt to heal the fences,” or ought to face a management review this year.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said in the midst of a duration of public-health and financial turmoil, the government should be rather concentrated on an overloaded contact-tracing system, paid sick leave for necessary workers, or promoting for keeping Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline open in Michigan.

” But rather Jason Kenney and the UCP are too hectic battling each other to work on the critical problems,” Ms. Notley stated in a tweet.

With files from The Canadian Press

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