A renegade UCP MLA who has repeatedly butted heads with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a blistering letter sent by senior party officials to the premier demanding he resign, shows the power of of a grassroots movement.
“I have been honoured and grateful to represent Cypress-Medicine Hat since 2012,” UCP MLA Drew Barnes told the Western Standard.
“In the 2012 election Albertan’s voices were extremely loud wanting grassroots democratic reform and change. This movement has been quieter since I was initially elected as a Wildrose.
“Alberta families and communities deserve greater involvement and this appears to be Albertans again insisting their needs and concerns are heard.”
It’s part of a brewing party revolt that’s seen at least nine constituency associations demand a review of Kenney’s leadership, and 17 of his MLAs publicly break ranks against his third COVID-19 lockdown.
Barnes has repeatedly been a thorn in Kenney’s side, opposing the party’s moves on everything from centralizing EMS dispatch to the current COVID-19 lockdowns.
The letter just sent to Kenney said those who signed it are currently sitting, or have recently sat, on UCP constituency association boards across the province.
“We are not signing this letter on behalf of our boards, but as individuals who have given our time, our efforts, and our hard‐earned money to this party. We are the volunteers and your former supporters. However, it has become increasingly clear to us that you will not allow a proper review of your leadership in a timely manner. Party leadership has resorted to procedural tactics and strong‐arming to prevent any sort of meaningful change in this party and grassroots control,” reads the letter to Kenney obtained by the Western Standard.
The UCP constituency association for Drayton Valley-Devon joined at least eight others earlier this month, demanding an early vote on whether or not Kenney should continue to lead the party.
“Jason Kenney is obviously not going to pivot – these are not the acts of a man who is going to change,” Drayton Valley-Devon UCP board member Tim Cameron told the Western Standard.
He said Kenney’s move to put the province in a third lockdown – along with the raid and barricading of GraceLife Church outside Edmonton – has incensed the party’s grassroots.
“He is now straight, bold-faced lying to us,” said Cameron.
The recent letter to Kenney continued: “Therefore, we realize the time for discussing your leadership has come to an end. We believe that as members of the UCP and especially as board members, we have two main duties: to ensure that the values and principles as created by the membership are upheld and to work towards getting UCP candidates elected so that we may form a majority government.
“Mr. Kenney, we appreciate some of the things you have achieved and some of the promises you have fulfilled, but it has become clear to us that you have failed the party on both those priorities to which we are dutifully bound. You have not upheld the core grassroots principles of the party, particularly by repeatedly violating our Statement of Principles in attacking free enterprise, personal responsibility, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and the free use of private property. You have not controlled government spending or protected Albertan families from excessive government intrusions. Even the attempts to protect public safety with COVID‐19 restrictions have resorted in a number of secondary harms which have been ignored and trivialized.”
“Furthermore, we do not believe you have the moral authority or trustworthiness to lead this party into the next election or to continue to deliver on important conservative priorities. It has become difficult to defend a number of recent decisions and mistakes. We are concerned that your personal association with government policy, even in matters that do align with our principles, is a liability. Once you have lost trust, it can never return. Your personal unpopularity will only result in defeat.
“In closing, we wish to reiterate that we did believe in this party and the promises we were given. We worked diligently for you and the entire UCP. We sacrificed and gave ourselves to the cause of a ‘strong and free’ Alberta. Mr. Kenney, for the sake of a strong and free Alberta and for the well-being of the conservative movement in this province, we ask that you do the proper thing and resign.”
It’s all a part of a growing rebellion amongst UCP constituency associations to force a leadership review of Kenney.
According to the UCP constitution, a total of 22 constituency associations are needed to petition for the review for it to go ahead. Kenney has been meeting with rebellious local boards in an attempt to keep the number below the 22 threshold.
In March, 17 UCP MLAs signed an open letter that said Kenney was going down the wrong path by putting the province under a third lockdown and was breaking his commitment to the phased reopening plan based on measurable targets.
The Western Standard exclusively reported Kenney threatened the UCP Caucus with an early election if they did not fall into line over public disagreement with continued lockdowns and other restrictions.
The Western Standard has contacted Kenney’s office for comment on the letter but so far hasn’t received a reply.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard