The United Conservative Party (UCP) may have to start thinking of taking the ‘U’ out of its acronym.
Last week, 16 UCP MLAs attached their signatures to a joint letter that condemned Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to shift the province back to Step 1 of its reopening plan, amid an ongoing spike of COVID-19 that has more than tripled the province’s number of active cases in just a month.
With 62 sitting members in the UCP caucus, the revolt indicates more than a quarter of Alberta’s governing party MLAs do not agree with their own party’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dissidents include three of five members whose constituencies include portions of Rocky View County. Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper and Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin all attached their names to the letter. Rosin and Pitt both posted Facebook posts afterward that further outlined their disappointment with their government's COVID-19 response.
The only MLAs from Rocky View County-based ridings who did not sign the joint letter are Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie.
It’s interesting – though not necessarily surprising – that the 16 opposing MLAs all represent rural communities or small cities. There were no MLAs from Calgary or Edmonton attached to the joint letter, and only a couple from areas near Lethbridge and Red Deer. Many people in rural Alberta communities have felt throughout the pandemic that the government should be taking a more regional approach to its public health restrictions, as some of these communities have a small or virtually non-existent number of COVID-19 cases.
However, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. As Alberta’s top doctor, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has pointed out repeatedly, COVID-19 can spread quickly from bigger cities to smaller communities. If smaller towns did not have the same stringent restrictions as bigger cities did, residents from those cities would simply go to the rural communities for a sense of normalcy, and some would bring the virus with them.