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‘The Wheels Are Falling Off the Clown Car’

With UCP caucus chair’s resignation, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership is under siege on all fronts.

David Climenhaga 14 May

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter @djclimenhaga.

Update, May 14 at 10 a.m.: United Conservative Party MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes were expelled from the caucus Thursday evening over charges they had undermined leadership divided the party.

Todd Loewen, United Conservative Party MLA for the northwestern Alberta riding of Central Peace-Notley, broke party ranks Thursday morning and called for the resignation of Premier Jason Kenney.

Damning the Kenney government as “out of touch and arrogant,” Loewen also quit as chair of the party caucus. “I feel it is best to resign this position to be able to speak freely.”

A member of the group of dissident UCP MLAs known mockingly as the COVID 18 for their opposition to stricter coronavirus mitigation measures recently imposed by the Kenney cabinet, Loewen is the first MLA in Alberta’s increasingly divided government caucus to call for the premier’s resignation.

If you wanted evidence the divisions in the UCP are real, this is it. The wheels are falling off the clown car.

It’s important not to valourize Loewen. He is, after all, part of a group of mostly rural MLAs whose principal objection to Kenney is that the premier is imposing COVID-19 mitigation measures that, while still insufficient, are too strict for their taste. In other words, they’re significant contributors to the problems harming the province and causing the UCP to unravel.

That said, it’s a blistering and articulate letter that sounds as if Loewen spent hours getting the wording just right. The letter was posted just before midnight last night on Loewen’s Facebook account.

The former Wildrose MLA assails Kenney’s arrogant style of one-man government, complaining of arbitrarily cancelled meetings, big decisions made without notice to members and input from members barely considered.

He extends the list of complaints beyond pandemic response to the government’s war on doctors, its coal development policy on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, which he said “did not align with the expectations and values of Albertans,” and its dealings with “a hostile federal government.”

“Albertans have lost trust in the leadership of our government and are no longer willing to extend us any benefit of the doubt on most issues,” Loewen complained, with justice.

“The caucus dysfunction we are experiencing is a direct result of your leadership,” he told the premier. “Messaging from your government has been contradictory, confusing, and needlessly inflammatory,” he went on, skillfully wielding an Oxford comma.

“The people of Alberta have lost trust in this government because you have not brought needed balance and reason to the discussion,” he continued. “These folks have not abandoned the principles and values of the UCP, but they have abandoned you specifically.”

Accordingly, concluded Loewen, who supported former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean in the UCP leadership race, “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 province is probably alright, of course. Putting the Frankenparty Kenney helped create back in 2017 out of Wildrose and the Conservatives back together again, though, is another matter. It may be a task too big even for all the king’s horses and all the king’s men!

Alert readers will recall that Loewen was part of a group that pledged never to cross the floor because that would be disrespectful of voters. You have to wonder if this letter is a tactic to wiggle out of that commitment.

Kenney doubtless had wind of this development. It’s no wonder he wanted to keep the legislature shut down for another week.

He may not have wanted just to avoid questions from the NDP opposition, but from his own side of the house as well.

The scheduled Thursday morning meeting of the United Conservative MLAs was cancelled.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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