Lesser Slave Lake United Conservative Party MLA Pat Rehn on his recent Mexican vacation (Photo: Facebook).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney moved quickly to kick Pat Rehn out of the United Conservative Party Caucus this morning, a day after an Edmonton researcher revealed the Lesser Slave Lake MLA spent almost all of last April, May, June and July in Edmonton while constituents complained he was never in the riding.

In a Facebook Post published at 8 a.m., Mr. Kenney said Mr. Rehn “has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Moreover, he claimed, “I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency. He has ignored calls from me, UCP caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so.”

Accordingly, the premier said, “I have made the decision to remove Pat Rehn from the UCP Caucus, effective immediately. MLA Rehn will sit as an independent MLA. He will not be permitted to run for a future UCP nomination.”

Mr. Kenney said he’s spoken to local leaders in the north-central Alberta riding, about 225 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, “to express the Government’s support for their communities.”

Needless to say, this wouldn’t have happened a year ago, no matter how dissatisfied were local leaders like the town council of Slave Lake, all seven of whom signed an open letter to Mr. Rehn on Jan. 5 expressing their displeasure with his protracted absence and complaining that he spends more time in Texas managing a business he owns there than he does in the riding. 

They asked him to resign and got a defiant refusal in response. 

But that was then, and this is now – when dissatisfaction is running high province-wide with the Kenney Government’s response to COVID-19, the UCP is suddenly low in the polls, and the government has suffered a series of embarrassments from MLAs including Mr. Rehn and UCP political staffers who travelled out of the province and out of the country over the winter holiday despite pandemic travel restrictions. Mr. Rehn went to Mexico. 

A recent poll by Mainstreet Research for a right-wing online publication indicated support for the UCP had plummeted to 26 per cent, compared to 41 per cent for Rachel Notley’s NDP, while the Wildrose Independence Party would take 9 per cent of the vote. 

Former Lesser Slave Lake NDP MLA Danielle Larivee (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It must be noted that Mainstreet Research has published controversial and sometimes inaccurate polls in the recent past, and has been called out for its methodology by some other pollsters, so I wouldn’t bet the farm on this one being bang on. 

Still, the premier’s reaction suggests there’s something to it, and that the UCP has been rattled by voters’ reactions to recent events. 

Mr. Clark’s discovery, which he revealed on social media yesterday, included the detail that Mr. Rehn had “expensed nearly every meal” over the four months during which he spent all but eight days in Alberta’s capital. That would come to $4,713 in per diems.

In addition to the outburst from the Slave Lake Town Council, councillors in High Prairie, another town in the rural riding, voted to send Mr. Rehn a letter of their own complaining about his lackadaisical performance. 

Danielle Larivee, the former NDP MLA for the riding won by Mr. Rehn in the 2019 general election, noted on her Facebook page that “to add insult to injury, Pat Rehn claimed expenses for being in Edmonton … ‘for the purpose of carrying out duties as a Member.’ I know he was sitting in the House in the Legislature for some of those days, but what about the rest?”

Researcher Tony Clark (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In light of the dud Mr. Rehn turned out to be as MLA, many residents of the riding have doubtless regretted turning the capable and hard-working former NDP MLA out of office in the 2019 general election. 

In his Facebook post, Mr. Kenney promised that “Alberta government ministers and I will be meeting with Lesser Slake Lake constituents in the weeks to come to ensure that they have direct access to their government, and to help them address important local issues.”

They’ll need to if they are going to repair the bridges that Mr. Rehn appears to have so cavalierly burned. 

Mr. Rehn also received the maximum MLA housing allowance for a residence-away-from-home in Edmonton last year, $1,930 per month, Mr. Clark said. If he doesn’t resign as MLA, though, he will be able to continue receiving that subsidy.

And while the premier needed to make a public example of Mr. Rehn, who is not the only member of the UCP caucus with other interests, he is unlikely to want to have to face a by-election in the riding now even if he could fire the MLA, which is not possible in the Westminster Parliamentary system. Only voters can do that. 

After all, it’s almost certainly better from the UCP’s perspective to have a lousy Independent MLA in the riding than a capable New Democrat with cabinet experience. 

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10 Comments

  1. Buyers’ remorse. The people got what they wanted, but it turns out they didn’t want it after all. Why did they want it in the first place? Turns out you can get a refund if you talk to the manager: extended warranty for unsatisfactory products that failed the company’s performance standards.

    1. What “refund”? They’re still stuck with him as their MLA, but with him booted out of caucus, it’s like the manufacturer has discontinued service & support for their faulty product.

  2. It seems to never end for the UCP these days – yet another self created fire to try put out. Perhaps Mr. Kenney is more ensconced in his ivory tower, or Sky Palace, than we realize, but surely he must have had an inkling of the problems in Slave Lake for some time. This goes back to at least April of last year, so it is not even a recent thing like the MLA, staff and Ministers travel over the holiday season. So either Kenney and his staff, who are widely considered to be micromanagers, either ignored this situation in the hope it might go away, which I think is the more likely case, or they really were clueless and did not know what was going on in Slave Lake for at least the last 8 months. Regardless, either scenario does not good for them.

    I suspect the UCP long knew well about this simmering problem and figured if they just ignored it people in Slave Lake would get eventually tired and quit complaining. After all, the concerns of a small town several hours away from Edmonton about not being paid attention to are unlikely to get too much media attention, unless something more dramatic happens. Unfortunately, for the UCP and Kenney, Mr. Rehn got caught up in the bigger holiday season travel scandal and that led to more scrutiny of his other actions. Well, at least his poor judgment is consistent.

    It is interesting Mr. Rehn got fired by Facebook. I suppose it is good at least our Premier does not use twitter to fire people. I suppose doing it this way, helps the Premier temporarily avoid difficult questions, like the obvious one – when did Kenney and the UCP know about the problems with Rehn not being in his constituency much and basically not doing his job? Of course, I expect the Premier and the UCP to claim some form of ignorance and to be as vague as possible about it when the question gets put to them. The problem with that response is what if some one from Slave Lake comes forward and says the government was told months ago about this and their complaints were ignored.

    I suspect the UCP is working full time coming up with a variety of carrots and sticks to keep such more embarrassing things related to this situation from coming forward. Unfortunately, what makes this problem even worse politically for Kenney is it involves a rural constituency and rural Alberta is the UCP’s only remaining strong hold at this point.

    1. Hey, Dave

      The UCP were aware of the problem. In the letter Slave Lake council wrote to Mr. Rehn, they mentioned how the UCP had gotten MLAs from adjacent ridings to sit in for him.

  3. I definitely agree with David’s point about Jason Kenney not wanting to face a by-election. In addition to David’s points, anti-NDP voters could hold their nose and vote NDP, knowing it would only send Jason Kenney a message, and not bring about a change in government.

  4. I still don’t know how, or why Pat Rehn was allowed to continue on as a UCP MLA, and for so long. The UCP obviously didn’t take proper action, until now. The whole UCP government has got to go. I simply don’t see them helping Alberta.

  5. So….

    The Angry Midget has thrown another tantrum and inflicted punishment upon another one of his minions. This time it’s a minion who was hardly in his riding, because he was in Texas, the land of every UCP member’s Red State fantasy fetish. It’s problematic that the MLA in question was one of Kenney’s parachuted-in star candidates, a genius cast in the mold of Kenney himself, if you believe the UCP promo-videos. Judging by the unending freak-outs and jackassery of the UCP caucus, I’d say anything resembling discipline has not crossed the minds of anyone in the caucus. In fact, this sort of behaviour was likely tolerated by Kenney because Albertans are too stupid to get mad at the UCP. I mean who else are thing going to vote for? The NDP?

    Kenney is feeling the heat, from the voters and from the UCP rank and file. The coalition of libertarians, SoCONs, and old skool PCs is beginning to splinter because all are pulling Kenney in the direction they want Alberta to go. Libertarians want an anarchy, where the free market and unbridled individualism is all that matters. SocCONs want Alberta to become the theocracy of their wildest Bible-thumping dreams. As for the PCs, they want that gravy-train to keep on rolling as it always has.

    Kenney actually thought he could manage this bunch?

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