The spring sitting of Alberta's Legislative Assembly came to an abrupt end today in the wake of the Premier's disastrous leadership review and forthcoming resignation.
"The premature end of session demonstrates exactly what I've been warning about for months; that this administration was a one-man show, and the government had no vision other than Jason Kenney's vision," said Independent MLA Drew Barnes.
"For more than a year now, I have been warning the public about the dangers of Kenney's, "my way or the highway," tendencies," said Barnes. "Now that Humpty Dumpty has fallen, the government has no idea what to do. The people's business has ground to a halt."
Barnes believes that the results of the leadership review came as a genuine shock to the Premier's inner circle but not to most grassroots conservatives.
"Members of the government just spent the past three months telling Albertans how great the economy is, and I think they started to believe their talking points. The fact is most Albertans are struggling with stagnated wages and runaway inflation. When you're having difficulties paying your mortgage or putting food on the table, you start to question who this economic recovery is actually benefitting," said Barnes.
"I started this session asking Albertans a simple question: "Are you better off?" The answer is readily apparent to anyone who is willing to listen. This government was not willing to listen," said Barnes. "Alberta is much more than a Jason Kenney province. To restore public trust and put Albertans first, the UCP needs to become more than a Jason Kenney party."
Session wraps up:
During the spring session, MLA Barnes focussed on several key issues.
• Fighting for a Fair Deal: The UCP was elected on promises to fight for a Fair Deal. Despite this, the federal government has continued to routinely interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction, and use federal powers to prevent the development and trade of provincially owned natural resources.
"As a member of the government's Fair Deal panel, I expected real action, as did many Albertans. Instead we got inaction and excuses," said Barnes. To make it clear that Albertans were fed up, Barnes brought forward a Private Member's Motion calling on the government to "deploy every legal, economic, and constitutional tool at the Province's disposal to maximize its ability to achieve a fair deal."
"The wording of this motion was lifted directly from the Premier's speech following the 2019 election. I hoped to shame him into action, and the Assembly approved this motion. But still the Premier refused to take action." With the Premier stepping down, Barnes hopes to put the fight for a Fair Deal front and centre in the upcoming UCP leadership race. "For at least three generations, the federal government has taken more in taxes than it gives in transfers and services while refusing to give Western Canadians equitable representation within Parliament.
If Alberta were not a member of Confederation today, we would have few good arguments to join," said Barnes. "If Alberta is to remain at part of Confederation, changes are needed."
• Unstacking the deck: As a member of the Legislature's Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future, Barnes took part in a formal review of Alberta's Lobbyist Act. As the lone Independent MLA to take part in the process, he raised many issues that went ignored by both the UCP and NDP. "Albertans want the powers of shadowy lobbying groups over our political process to be diminished. They also want a transparent system that ensures special interests do not have undue influence on political parties or the government," said Barnes.
"During the review it became apparent that both the Government and Official Opposition were focussed on seeking partisan advantages over each other. That's not what Albertans sent us here to do, so I put forward 13 recommendations to fix the Lobbyist Act. More than half of these reflected the wishes of the Ethics Commissioner, an Independent Officer of the Assembly. All but one of these motions was rejected." "If the UCP is to have any credibility going into the next election, these issues must be resolved. For that reason, I issued a Minority Report along with the Committee's Report. My hope is that with new leadership, the government will circle back to my recommendations and do the right thing."
• On the side of freedom: Barnes stood on the side defending Albertans' constitutionally protected rights and freedoms throughout the pandemic.
Barnes publicly opposed lockdowns, vaccine passports, and vaccine mandates, while offering common sense alternatives that went ignored by the Kenney government.
"When the protests against these coercive and unnecessary measures started in earnest this spring, I fulfilled every MLA's first duty to represent my constituents' thoughts and concerns," said Barnes. "Many of my fellow MLAs did not. I believe it is up to them to explain why they chose silence in the face of runaway government overreach," said Barnes.
Barnes supported protestors he met with at the Coutts border crossing in his home constituency of Cypress-Medicine Hat.
"When the federal government inappropriately enacted the Federal Emergencies Act to crack down on peaceful protestors and seize the bank accounts of law-abiding Canadians, I was the first in Alberta's Legislative Assembly to speak out," said Barnes.
"Eventually, once the Emergencies Act was lifted, the Kenney government followed our lead in condemning what we all knew was wrong. Why did it take them so long? Once again, that's for them to explain," said Barnes. "I think Albertans want the kind of leadership that defends their rights and freedoms every day, not just when it's convenient to do so."