UCP removes Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes from caucus after Kenney criticism

EDMONTON — The United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta has two fewer members within its ranks.

The party caucus met Thursday evening to discuss a letter former UCP caucus chair Todd Loewen published announcing his resignation as chair and stating that Premier Jason Kenney was causing “dysfunction” within the party.

READ MORE: UCP caucus chair quits, calls for removal of Premier Kenney 

MLAs from the party voted to remove Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen from the government caucus.

“Members recognize the need for government caucus to remain strong and united behind our leader, Premier Jason Kenney, as we continue to fight through what looks to be the final stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” party whip Mike Ellis said in a statement.

“There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership, especially at this critical juncture for our province,” Ellis added.

“We look forward to moving ahead as a stronger, more united team.”

Barnes signed a letter, along with 14 other UCP MLAs, back in April criticizing the government’s public health restrictions.

READ MORE: ‘Wrong direction’: 15 UCP MLAs question return to Step 1 of health measures in letter to Albertans 

Kenney’s press secretary Jerrica Goodwin said in a statement that the premier is “proud” to stand with his caucus colleagues.

“The premier is proud to stand with his caucus colleagues and lead Alberta through the greatest health and economic crisis in a century. He looks forward to putting the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and working towards Alberta’s economic recovery.”

Barnes released a statement around two hours after the caucus decision saying he would remain the MLA representing Cypress-Medicine Hat as an independent.

“That has not and will not change,” he said.

“I am saddened by today’s events, but not surprised. Many members of caucus have tried, in vain, to help the premier make better decisions in recent weeks and months.”

The former UCP caucus member added that the party “was meant to be a team” tolerating debate and that it was supposed to be “the party of grassroots conservatives.”

“Instead of MLAs representing the views of their constituents to caucus, MLAs are expected to represent the views of the premier to the constituents.

“I could never abide by this – this is not why I entered politics – and this is not how a grassroots party is meant to work.” 

Barnes also expressed concern that the vote to expel him and Loewen from caucus was not completed by secret ballot.

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