Alberta Politics

Kenney’s party may be falling apart but caucus remains intact

Many of us sat and pontificated about how long it would take for Drew Barnes to walk the walk. He’s talking – he’s been talking for the better part of a year and a half – and nothing else.

Barnes has essentially been the lone defender of a free and independent Alberta while sitting comfortably with his feet up in the government caucus.

“Drew’s writing opinions for the Western Standard,” people said, “it won’t be long now!”

Define long. Pandemic March long or “still referring to my child’s age in months” long?

“There are rumblings that MLAs will be sitting as independents before the fall sitting,” some said.

If you haven’t been keeping up, you didn’t miss it, because nothing happened.

Nothing until Albertans rang in the New Year with Hawaiian punch, that is.

By the time the honorable Minister Tracy Allard was called back from her traditional family Christmas vacay, there were five known MLAs out of the country. Kenney took “full responsibility” for not giving detailed instructions that included them specifically in every speech and Facebook live where he asked Albertans to stay home.

Amazingly, by taking all responsibility, the Premier also managed to relieve the offending MLAs of theirs. Plot twist.

Thanks to party-connected people trying to push through the Aloha-gate, Albertans were then rewarded with Kenney’s verbal two-step as he walked back his initial freedom-loving “no consequences” to a stony acceptance of resignations announced via Facebook.

It’s why a quite contrite Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver made public apologies in place of former Municipal Affairs Minister Aloha Allard and no one speaks of the former Parliamentary Secretary, Calgary-Klein ML-ei Jeremy Nixon.

The fact remains that fewer elected officials have spoken publicly about Aloha-gate than actually went on vacation.

Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo reached out to her local paper to share her disappointment.

If an MLA makes a statement to the rural print media, does anybody really hear?

For a story this big, it’s almost certain that Ms. Glasgo would have received multiple interview requests. Then again, you can hardly fault her for supporting local as every other outlet had to reference CHATNews.

But aside from Health Minister Tyler Shandro and McIver fielding reporter’s questions, and Glasgo reaching out to media, the rest simply responded to angry emails from their constituents.

CBC stated that an email from Lac Ste. Anne – Parkland County MLA Shane Getson to a constituent said the responsibility “to their constituents, to their team members as a whole, and to the premier” lay with those who made the decision to travel. How could they ever possibly recover from such a text lashing?

What really got people talking was the response from Speaker Nathan Cooper and Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt who seemed to be the only MLAs within the United Conservative Party willing to call a spade a spade.

Like the vast majority of Albertans, I followed the government’s recommendations to avoid unnecessary international travel.

That so many of my colleagues chose otherwise should be of great embarrassment to the government, especially Premier Jason Kenney who chose not to sanction these senior officials and staff members until he was prompted to do so by widespread public outrage.

The hypocrisy of this scandal has clearly undermined this government’s moral authority, and… the government now faces an uphill battle in rebuilding the public trust that has been lost.

Speaker Nathan Cooper in an emailed response to a constituent, published by CBC

Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt shared similar sentiments with a constituent saying “I, too, am extremely disappointed in the actions of my colleagues and furthermore, the response and inaction from the premier” according to the same article.

While it’s refreshing to hear a blunt statement of condemnation after the sparse statements of fluff and misdirection, the bottom line is that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are supposed to maintain a non-partisan role “and refrain from party politics” while fulfilling their appointment – their responses don’t even count as party-affiliated.

As we have discovered, there is nothing more non-partisan in Alberta in 2021 than being fed up with Jason Kenney making decisions that benefit only a chosen few.

Fancy that – he really did manage to Unite Alberta.

This post contains opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political commentator physically distancing in Southern Alberta. 
Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, @thisweekinAB for posts@politicalRnD for something in between

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