January 15th, 2021

Alberta premier kicks backbencher out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints


By The Canadian Press on January 14, 2021.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions after announcing $43 million in repairs and improvements to provincial parks at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney says he has kicked Lesser Slave Lake backbencher Pat Rehn out of the United Conservative caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has kicked Lesser Slave Lake backbencher Pat Rehn out of the United Conservative caucus, saying the MLA failed to represent his constituents.

Kenney made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.

“He has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency. He has ignored calls from me, UCP caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so,” Kenney said.

“Regrettably, MLA Rehn’s performance falls well below the high standards we expect in our caucus and party.”

Rehn is to sit as an independent MLA effective immediately and will not be allowed to run for the party again, Kenney added.

Messages to Rehn were not immediately returned on Thursday.

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency, including the entire town council in Slave Lake, for not doing enough to listen to concerns in the area.

Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman said in an interview that Rehn spent too little time in the region north of Edmonton, and that he was often a no-show to meetings.

And when Rehn was present, he wasn’t prepared, Warman added.

“He hasn’t read any of the information that we’ve sent to him,” he said.

“Three months later, we’re re-educating him on the same topic that we’ve talked about previously “¦ to say that that’s frustrating and disappointing is an understatement.”

Warman applauded Kenney’s announcement. But he said Rehn should resign from the legislature.

“Our residents can’t force Pat to step down. The premier can’t force him to step down. It’s democracy and that’s how it works,” said Warman.

“But when you’ve lost the respect and support of the people you represent, as well as the people you work with, I think you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask what you’re still doing there.”

Warman said he can’t remember the last time he spoke to Rehn.

He said senior representatives of the provincial government have reached out to ensure local concerns are heard. Kenney said he and some ministers will be meeting with constituents in the region in the coming weeks.

“I think just the fact that we have someone who’s willing to listen and show up is already progress,” Warman said.

Rehn was one of several UCP members who left Canada over Christmas to vacation in sunny hot spots, despite the government urging Albertans to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, Kenney took away legislature committee responsibilities from Rehn and other vacationers. Tracy Allard resigned as municipal affairs minister for travelling to Hawaii, and Kenney asked his chief of staff to step down for going to the United Kingdom.

Rehn said in a Jan. 5 Facebook post that he made “poor choices” by taking a family trip to Mexico over the holidays, but said he was disappointed to see municipal officials “seizing on this to try and sow political division.”

He said he has residences in Slave Lake and Edmonton and, while he has needed to travel to Texas in the past year for his businesses, he does not own property there.

“It is the honour of a lifetime to represent a region I have lived and worked in since I bought my first quarter-section of trees and also my first sawmill in Wabasca using every penny I had in the bank,” he wrote.

“I will continue representing Lesser Slave Lake – the region I love and call home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.

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