In May of 2021, MLA Drew Barnes was booted from the United Conservative Party. This week, he announced he will not seek the upcoming UCP nomination for Cypress-Medicine Hat.
A social media post Wednesday stated he would "continue representing his constituents as an Independent," leaving open the question as to whether he'd run as one in the spring election.
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, Barnes said he is considering his options.
"I have the ability and desire to continue to serve, and we're going to see where that leads to," he said.
Barnes, who's been serving his riding as an Independent for nearly two years, said he's in contact with multiple groups who've come to him with ideas about the next election.
Among them, he said, is a group of conservative Albertans who've proposed the idea of running as a band of Independents. Smaller parties, such as the Wildrose Independence Party, have also contacted him.
"There's still some options that I'm going to be weighing and evaluating over the next month," Barnes said.
Earlier this week, Barnes said he strongly supports the Sovereignty Act for Alberta, the signature legislative effort of his former party.
He also said he still backs Premier Danielle Smith's campaign promise to end "vaccine mandates and passport discrimination through changes to the Human Rights Act," a vow on which the current premier has backtracked.
In the spring of 2021, Barnes was booted from the UCP alongside MLA Todd Loewen, who represents the Central Peace-Notley riding. Both had been critical of then-premier Jason Kenney's pandemic restrictions.
Loewen rejoined the UCP last year, and he now serves Smith's cabinet as the minister of Forestry, Parks and Tourism.
"Right at the start, it was announced that Todd was back in and [I] had to repair relations," Barnes said. "I'm clear, I have nothing to apologize for. I stood up on behalf of my constituents. I stood up when premier Kenney and the past cabinet wasn't listening to me or Cypress-Medicine Hat."
Barnes says that as an Independent he's been able to speak more freely, allowing him to be a louder voice for his constituents.
Residents in Cypress-Medicine Hat first elected Barnes in 2012, when he was under the banner of the Wildrose Party. He was re-elected twice thereafter, in 2015 and 2019, by which time the Wildrose had joined with the Progressive Conservatives to form the UCP.
Prior to entering politics, Barnes, 61, worked in real estate and later opened several businesses in Medicine Hat, where he lives.