More infighting within the Alberta government came to a head on May 13, when Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes were voted out of the United Conservative Party caucus during a virtual meeting.
“There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership, especially at this critical juncture for our province,” read a statement issued after the meeting from UCP caucus whip Mike Ellis.
The May 13 meeting could be compared to a wicker basket for how leaky it was. Details of the two MLAs’ removal from caucus were leaked to the Western Standard before the meeting was even over and immediately reported by other outlets around the province.
The two MLAs’ removal was hardly surprising, as they have rebelled against Premier Jason Kenney for weeks. Loewen went as far as publishing an open letter on May 12 calling on Kenney to resign as leader of the UCP.
“I know that many Albertans, including myself, no longer have confidence in your leadership,” he wrote. “I thank you for your service, but I am asking that you resign so that we can begin to put the province back together again.”
The expulsions from Kenney’s caucus are just the latest example of division among UCP members, many of whom are upset with Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was only last month when more than a quarter of the UCP’s 62-member caucus co-signed a joint letter criticizing the premier's implementation of additional public health measures in Alberta – including three out of five MLAs from Rocky View County-based ridings.
Discontent in the UCP ranks has been building and growing since then. Loewen’s open letter received support from other UCP MLAs, including Dave Hanson, the representative for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul. Hanson publicly replied to Loewen that he has heard similar sentiments from his constituents in northeast Alberta.
One thing is certain – Alberta’s governing party is truly divided.