Second UCP MLA publicly calls out Jason Kenney's leadership

·3 min read
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is the second UCP MLA to publicly question Premier Jason Kenney's leadership.  (Scott Dippel/CBC - image credit)
Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt is the second UCP MLA to publicly question Premier Jason Kenney's leadership. (Scott Dippel/CBC - image credit)

A second member of the UCP caucus is publicly questioning the leadership of Premier Jason Kenney.

Angela Pitt, the MLA for Airdrie-East, was asked by a reporter at an unrelated news conference on Tuesday if she had confidence in Kenney's leadership of the United Conservative Party.

"The answer to that question is no, I don't. And I don't think my constituents do either," she said.

"However, I think that there is a place for the grassroots to take charge of this type of decision. And that's where it will lie for now."

Pitt's statement came a week after Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer said Kenney should resign.

Kenney was able to hold off a non-confidence vote during a closed door caucus meeting on Wednesday. The embattled UCP leader agreed to hold a leadership review in the spring, months earlier than the review promised in the fall of 2022.

Although the UCP caucus voted to remove Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes over allegations of disloyalty last spring, Pitt and Aheer are still in the UCP caucus.

In response to a reporter's question later on Tuesday, Kenney said he believed he still had the confidence of his caucus and that it was no secret some of his MLAs opposed his government's measures.

"Our caucus decided, I believe as a group, that we need to focus on the crisis that Alberta is facing and maintain stability and coherence as a government," he said. "That's exactly what we are doing."

Other MLAs deflected question

Pitt was one of five MLAs who joined a news conference by Free Alberta, an organization that is advocating for a sovereign Alberta within the Canadian federation.

The initiative is led by former Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson. Pitt, Aheer, Barnes, Loewen and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper were all Wildrose MLAs before the party merged with the Progressive Conservatives in 2017 to form the UCP.

Free Alberta released a strategy outlining how Alberta can gain what it called "provincial legislative sovereignty within Alberta." It is also advocating for an end to equalization and Albertans paying tax to the federal government.

Pitt was joined at the virtual news conference by Barnes, Loewen, Cooper, and Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan. Cooper is also the speaker of the legislative assembly.

Cooper did not answer questions as Anderson said he was only there as an observer. Stephan deflected questions about his views on Kenney's suitability as leader.

"I admire and respect the premier and the things that he has accomplished. I haven't agreed with everything that the premier has said or done," Stephan said.

"My particular opinion of the premier is not really that important. There will be a leadership review and I will have one vote just like every other member of the party."

Free Alberta strategy

A key part of its strategy is passage of an Alberta Sovereignty Act which would allow the province to "refuse to enforce any piece of federal legislation or judicial decision that intrudes on Alberta's provincial rights, or that unfairly attack the interests of Alberta's people."

Free Alberta said the province should have its own banking system, employment insurance plan and Alberta revenue agency, which would recover "equalization and net transfers confiscated by the federal government by collecting a portion of all federal income tax revenue at source."

The group also wants Alberta to appoint its own superior court judges.

Several of the items in the strategy were flagged by the Fair Deal Panel which reported to the Alberta government last year.

They include the creation of a provincial police force to replace the RCMP and an Alberta pension plan.

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