Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

‘We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man’:Kenney faces internal call to quit

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen posts Facebook letter

EDMONTON — Simmering internal discontent within Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative caucus has now boiled over into an open challenge to his leadership.

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen, in a letter posted on Facebook in the pre-dawn hours Thursday, called on Kenney to resign, saying he no longer has confidence in his leadership.

Loewen accuses Kenney and his government of weak dealings with Ottawa, ignoring caucus members, delivering contradictory messages, and botching critical issues such as negotiations with doctors and controversy over coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

“Many Albertans, including myself, no longer have confidence in your leadership,” writes Loewen.

“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.”

Loewen is the member for Central Peace-Notley, a sprawling rural riding in northern Alberta,

He was one of 18 United Conservative backbench members to break with Kenney’s government in early April over health care restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. They say the rules are needlessly restrictive and infringe on personal freedoms.

Kenney has tolerated the open dissension for weeks, saying he believes in free speech and that the backbenchers are not in cabinet and therefore don’t speak for his United Conservative government.

However Loewen, a second-term legislature member, is the first to openly break with Kenney himself and call on him to step down.

Loewen, in the letter, also resigned as UCP caucus chair, saying he needs to do so to speak his mind, but says he has no intention of leaving the party.

“The caucus dysfunction we are presently experiencing is a direct result of your leadership,” writes Loewen.

He said backbench members are sidelined and ignored.

“I no longer believe that caucus can function properly; meetings have been cancelled without members’ consent, significant decisions of government have been made without notice to members, and our input as elected members is rarely considered.”

He said they have tried to be heard.

“Albertans perceive our government as out of touch and arrogant, and they expect our caucus to bring their issues of concern to the government. Many of us have tried to do so repeatedly only to be ignored and dismissed.

“When the premier chooses not (to) listen to caucus, is it any wonder why the people choose to stop listening to the government?

“Our supporters and those I represent can no longer tolerate this. These folks have not abandoned the principles and values of the UCP, but they have abandoned you specifically.”

Loewen said Kenney’s track record in government is problematic: “The government’s response to a hostile federal government has been perceived as weak and ineffective.

“Negotiations with physicians were not handled well. The government’s actions on the eastern slopes did not align with the expectations and values of Albertans.

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

Kenney’s government was engaged for more than a year in an acrimonious dispute with physicians after unilaterally tearing up the master agreement on pay and work rules with the Alberta Medical Association.

There is still no new deal in place.

Following a public outcry, the government also backtracked this year after quietly revoking a 44-year-old policy that had protected the eastern slopes and summits of the Rocky Mountains from coal mines.

Kenney, a former cabinet member in the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper, was one of the architects of the merger of two right-centre Alberta parties – his Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose party – to form the United Conservative party. The UCP then went on to defeat Rachel Notley and the NDP in 2019 to form a majority government.

Loewen said he and his constituents still believe in the UCP, which is why he intends to remain inside the party tent to fight for it.

“Along with so many Albertans, our understanding was that we in the UCP had united around our shared principles, integrity, and common sense approaches to governing.

“We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man. And while you promoted unity, it is clear that unity is falling apart.”

There were rumours of a widening UCP internal breach two weeks ago, when Kenney suspended the spring sitting of the legislature. Kenney said the move was to keep staff and legislature members safe from COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the government extended the hiatus for another week.

Loewen’s letter comes a week after Kenney risked further pushback from the dissidents by imposing extra health restrictions along with stepped-up enforcement to stop soaring COVID case numbers that are threatening to swamp the health system and force doctors to triage patients.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said it looks like Kenney had struck a truce with the dissidents last week over those new restrictions, but said the dam now appears to be breaking.

“I don’t think (Loewen) is a person coming out on his own,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“I think you’re going to hear more coming on the record after this.

“Kenney’s going to have to respond.”

Bratt also wondered where Albertans fit into the equation.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Shouldn’t the government be focusing on that (rather) than internal politics within itself?” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.

Jason Kenney

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read