By Western Standard
Published: May 13, 2021
Albeta’s political order continued to face turbulence today as Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Caucus voted this afternoon to expel rebel MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.
The results were announced to the caucus and passed to the Western Standard after a two hour vote.
The move comes as the caucus and party has been wracked by internal infighting over issues of Kenney’s “Fair Deal Panel,” and most significantly the government’s reaction to COVID-19.
News broke early in the morning MLA for Central Peace-Notley Todd Loewen had published an open letter calling on Kenney to resign as premier.
“I no longer believe caucus can function properly; meetings have been cancelled without members’ consent, significant decisions of government have been made without notice to members, and our input as elected members is rarely considered,” wrote Loewen. “Additionally, I feel it is best to resign this position [caucus chairman] to be able to speak freely.
“The government’s response to a hostile federal government has been perceived as weak and ineffective. Albertans have lost trust in the leadership of our government and are no longer willing to extend to us any benefit of the doubt on most issues.
“I thank you for your service, but I am asking that you resign so that we can begin to put the province back together again.”
Soon after, MLA for Bonnyvile (Cold Lake – St. Paul) David Hanson publicly backed Loewen’s call for Kenney’s resignation.
“Todd, I applaud your courage and stand behind your decision. I hear the same thing from our supporters in my area. I along with many of our colleagues share in your frustration,” Hanson wrote. “We, along with many Albertans worked too hard to unite Conservatives to hand this province back to the NDP. Thanks for taking a stand.”
Drew Barnes has been an increasingly vocal critic of Kenney’s policies, beginning with his dissenting report on the Fair Deal Panel, which he said did not go far enough. Disagreement between Barnes and Kenney continued to escalate as lockdowns were reimposed, removed, and reimposed again.
A scheduled caucus meeting for the morning was canceled, but MLAs were then called to a hastily called “mandatory” emergency caucus meeting for 12:30 pm MST.
The meeting opened with a heated debate about repeated leaks of caucus discussions to the Western Standard, which was promptly leaked to the Western Standard.