Incoming Alberta premier Rachel Notley suspends rookie over photo

Incoming Alberta NDP premier Rachel Notley has suspended a rookie member of her caucus over a social media photo deemed homophobic by the party.

EDMONTON — Incoming Alberta NDP premier Rachel Notley has suspended a rookie member of her caucus over a social media photo deemed homophobic by the party.

Notley said in a release that Deborah Drever will sit as an Independent when the house reconvenes next month for the first time since the May 5 election.

An Instagram photo of a news article featuring Tory Premier Jim Prentice and one of his cabinet ministers, Ric McIver, was circulating Friday on Twitter. Speech bubble doodles were added to the men’s pictures and a comment below from user “drevfever” said: “Gay boyz.”

It’s unclear when the image was posted, but the original article appears to be about the Tory leadership race last year.

NDP spokeswoman Cheryl Oates said the party had no idea until Friday that the photo was out there. She said the party confirmed with Drever that she posted the photo and made the comment on an Instagram account that is now closed.

“We became aware of it this morning when we saw it on social media,” Oates said. “We had no idea about this photo.”

Drever did not return requests for comment.

Notley, who had met with Drever earlier this week to discuss other controversial social media photos, said she may review Drever’s status in caucus within a year.

“I apologize to all Albertans for the homophobic statements contained in this image, which are completely contrary to the views of our party and our future government,” Notley said in the release.

“I hope Ms. Drever will take to heart our conversation earlier this week about her responsibility to speak out clearly on issues of violence against women and homophobia.

“If she does so as part of her duties to her constituents, I’ll review this matter in the coming year and consider whether she has a future in our caucus.”

Drever was one of a handful of students who won seats as the NDP swept the Tories from power earlier this month.

The 26-year-old, who lives with her grandmother in Calgary and helps raise a four-year-old niece, was a student at Mount Royal University when she was recruited by the party to run in Calgary Bow.

She has been dogged by her old social media photos ever since her election victory.

One Facebook photo circulated shortly after the vote shows a 19-year-old Drever in dark glasses hamming it up beside a marijuana T-shirt. Another shows a disembodied hand, not Drever’s, giving the middle finger to the Canadian flag.

Controversy was generated again when it was revealed she had appeared in a photo on a garage band album cover pretending to be assaulted by a man with a bottle.

Drever told The Canadian Press on Thursday that the band photo taken three years ago was an inexplicable error of youth, but one she was determined to turn the page on.

Drever’s expulsion does not impact the balance of power in the legislature as the NDP still holds 53 of 87 seats.