Lack of loyalty reason for MLA explusion from UCP caucus, Kenney says

·2 min read
Premier Jason Kenney listens to a reporter's question at a news conference on Monday. (Government of Alberta - image credit)
Premier Jason Kenney listens to a reporter's question at a news conference on Monday. (Government of Alberta - image credit)

Premier Jason Kenney says having MLAs express a diversity of views on COVID-19 is fine, but members of the UCP caucus need to demonstrate loyalty to the team.

"I've always welcomed an expression of views. But they have to be articulated in a responsible way," he said at a news conference Monday.

"And at the end of the day, we are a team and there has to be respect for that team. There has to be a minimal level of caucus solidarity and mutual loyalty. And I think that was behind the decision that was made last last week."

Kenney's comments came four days after caucus voted to expel Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen from their ranks.

Last month, 16 UCP MLAs signed a public letter criticizing the government's public health restrictions for being too harsh. At the time, Kenney said he welcomed a wide-ranging debate as long as it was based on facts.

However, it appeared that Barnes and Loewen went too far. While Barnes has been an outspoken critic for months, Loewen was kicked out for his letter on Thursday calling for Kenney's resignation.

Both men will sit as independent MLAs when the house resumes sitting on May 25

The vote to remove Barnes and Loewen was not conducted by secret ballot. Instead MLAs, who were meeting virtually, texted their decision on Loewen and Barnes's fates to Calgary-Currie MLA Nick Milliken, the acting chair of the UCP caucus.

Milliken is obliged to keep who voted how a secret, but Loewen said the process may have caused some MLAs to think twice about their vote.

When asked about the vote on Thursday, Kenney said he didn't know the actual numbers. He also refused to disclose how he voted.

"My vote was a secret vote. It's a matter of caucus confidentiality," Kenney said. "I'm not going to breach that confidentiality."

The legislature remains on a hiatus until May 25. Kenney initially delayed the sitting for two weeks due to COVID-19 cases before extending the delay another week so the legislature could transition to virtual sittings.

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