MLA Pat Rehn’s infamous mid-pandemic winter holiday photo from Mexico (Photo: Facebook/Pat Rehn).

A United Conservative Party backbencher caught up in the Alohagate pandemic travel scandal in the first hours of 2021 and seldom seen in his own riding has acknowledged reality and announced his political career is done like dinner.

Danielle Larivee, the NDP nominee in the Lesser Slave Lake riding, which she represented from 2015 to 2019 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Or, as Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn put it in a rambling letter to constituents yesterday, “I shall not be seeking to renew my mandate as your member of the legislative assembly for Lesser Slave Lake in the upcoming provincial election.”

This is mere recognition of reality. Even if Premier Danielle Smith had agreed to sign his nomination papers, there was no way Mr. Rehn could win a UCP nomination battle in the rural riding about 250 kilometres north of Edmonton, let alone an election fight with NDP candidate and former MLA Danielle Larivee, a registered nurse and well-regarded cabinet minister in Rachel Notley’s first government. 

Mr. Rehn probably could have survived getting caught holidaying in Mexico during the pandemic when the government was advising Albertans to hunker down and stay at home, although it surely wasn’t a good idea for him to publish a photo of his tropical vacation on social media. 

But Mr. Rehn, who had business interests in Texas and elsewhere, also seemed to spend as little time as possible in his rural riding, arousing the ire of many constituents and local municipal office holders. 

On Jan. 5, 2021, the mayor and council of the Town of Slave Lake excoriated Mr. Rehn in an open letter for not living in the riding, missing meetings, and spending more time tending his U.S. business interests than he did talking to constituents. The letter bluntly called on him to resign and let someone who wanted the job do it.

Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shortly after his victory in the 2019 Alberta election (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A week later, High Prairie Town Council voted unanimously to send him a letter complaining about his lack of presence in the riding.

On Jan. 13, Edmonton researcher Tony Clark revealed that Mr. Rehn’s expense claims indicated he’d been in Edmonton for all but eight days in between the start of April that year and the end of July. 

The next day, then premier Jason Kenney kicked him out of the UCP Caucus

“I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency,” Mr. Kenney said in a Facebook post. “He has ignored calls from me, UCP caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so. 

“Regrettably, MLA Rehn’s performance falls well below the high standards we expect in our caucus and party,” Mr. Kenney continued, adding, “I have made the decision to remove Pat Rehn from the UCP Caucus, effective immediately.”

Forestry Minister Todd Loewen, consigned for a time to the Independent benches by then premier Kenney (Photo: Government of Alberta).

That lasted until July that year, when the UCP welcomed the prodigal MLA back into the fold.

“Since his removal from caucus,” a party news release said, “Rehn has worked tirelessly to rebuild trust with local families, businesses, elected officials and Indigenous leaders. As a result the United Conservative Caucus was presented with letters of support – including from several municipalities and the Lesser Slave Lake Constituency Association – requesting Rehn be allowed to rejoin caucus.”

Well, OK, then. Probably the fact Mr. Kenney was facing a caucus rebellion and couldn’t risk an opposition block of right-wing rebels forming in the Legislature had nothing to do with it. Still, the former premier had already kicked Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen (now back as Premier Smith’s minister of forestry, parks and tourism) out of the caucus, and there was talk at the time that more might defect. 

In his farewell letter, Mr. Rehn described how “the passion for our home is abundant in any conversation over coffee or at any community association meeting.” 

But how would he know? When did he last visit a community association in his riding? For that matter, when did he last have a meeting with Slave Lake Town Council?

Premier offers third clarification; Crown Prosecutors weigh in

Premier Danielle Smith now appears to have clarified for a third time her claim she met with Crown prosecutors to talk about charges against Albertans for defying public health rules during the pandemic. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“You’re not allowed to do that as a politician, everyone knows that,” Ms. Smith clarified on her free Corus Radio Your Province, Your Premier platform. “I took legal advice, when I first got elected, to find out if there was anything I could do. …

“The only person I can raise this with – again, as is very well known – you can talk to your attorney general and a deputy. … My contact with the Justice Department has always been through the appropriate channels, and that’s the attorney general.”

More importantly from the perspective of figuring out what actually happened, the Alberta Crown Attorneys Association said in a statement that “our Association is not aware of any case where an elected official as attempted to contact a specific Crown Prosecutor to inquire about a prosecution.”

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18 Comments

  1. The cynic in me suspects the decision for Rehn not to run again was made when he was readmitted to the UCP caucus. It may even be in writing somewhere, in case Rehn decided to backtrack on it. I am a bit surprised it wasn’t announced until now, but I suppose the UCP has been preoccupied with a lot of other bigger problems since then.

    Rehn might have upset and offended his constituents, but unlike Loewen and Barnes, he did not particularly try to upset and offend the Premier. Hence, despite his consistent lackluster performance and incompetence Rehn was thrown a lifeline when Kenney realized the growing number of UCP MLA’s kicked out could be a greater threat. However, I suspect despite this, even the UCP realized they would need a better candidate if they had any hope to keep this riding in the upcoming election.

    Rehn seemed to learn his lesson and has kept a low profile and quiet since then. However, as for Smith, the former talk radio show host just seems to keep talking. Maybe she developed an aversion for dead air in her previous job, but in politics, talking more does not always help. I have to wonder about that statement from the Crown Attorney’s Association. Somehow I can imagine the word yet after the word not. Maybe I am projecting Smiths character too much, but somehow one thing she does not fail in disappointing us is with being reliably disappointing. In that regard she seems fairly consistent.

  2. Pat Rehn is my MLA. When running for election, one of the doors he knocked on was mine. “Mr. Rehn,” I said as I opened the door. I recognized him from all the campaign posters all over town. The first words out of his mouth were, “Are you aware that there is an election happening?” I pointed to the Danielle Larivee sign on my lawn. Then he started with the campaign promise that a UCP government would eliminate the NDP carbon tax (that was THE issue in the riding). So I asked him what the plan was going to be when the federal tax kicked in as a result. His replied, “When Andrew Scheer is elected, he’ll remove it.” My astonished reply was, “That’s not a plan! That’s a wish!” Mr. Rehn walked away, casting aspersions upon NDP government policies and indirectly, me for supporting them. This guy was going to be my MLA and his party the new government? I was not confident positive outcomes would result. The reason he isn’t running again is most likely because he couldn’t win this riding if he was the only candidate.

  3. ” Politics makes strange bedfellows”
    Danielle Smith much like Jason Kenney before her has the unenviable task of trying to run our Province all while looking over her shoulder to see where her real base is lining up. She had to make certain concessions to these folks to even land the leadership of the party and of this they are well aware. Thus she had to give them something to sink their teeth into.Why not make a prononcement she is ” fixing ” or looking into the dreadful injustice that befell the persecuted anti vaxxers. What harm could it do? As others have pointed out they’re just ” words “. Show the base she hasn’t forgotten them without having to do anything. Another performance as it were.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, and I don’t think I am, but wasn’t Pat Rehn (oops, almost typed “Pet”) recruited from Ontario by Jason Kenney himself as a parachute candidate in 2019? He had no ties to Alberta, let alone the community he was supposed to serve, and yet the silly people of Lesser Slave Lake voted him in. Talk about a serious case of voting against your own interests. He went on to prove how little connection and commitment he had.

    Have the silly people of Lesser Slave Lake learned their lesson, or will they vote against their own interests again? Will they remember the present day, when having an absentee representative meant having no representation? Will they forget? If they forget and elect another UCP candidate, will they feel entitled to complain again? Will anyone listen if they do? Once burnt, twice shy. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Or, vote for any old donkey if it wears a conservative blue T-shirt.

    1. Abs: I don’t believe so. As far as I know he grew up in Alberta, possibly Wildwood. But I’m not absolutely certain, and there’s very little biographical information. I’m sure one of this blog’s readers can fill us in. DJC

    2. I wonder if you are thinking Dan Williams in the Peace River constituency. Alberta Views featured Peace River in one of their issues a few months ago. My memory is a bit vague, but I think it said he was Jason Kenney’s driver, which apparently was all he needed to qualify as an MLA. I think it also said a business owner and staunch UCP supporter in LaCrete gave him a job to give him a bit of local cred.

  5. Regarding Danielle Smith’s clarifications: a twitter user @BarbLarochelle misspelled clarification and inadvertently invented the term clarifiction.

    Which is almost more fitting.

  6. If a rusty old tin can was painted blue and ran as a conservative in Alberta, they’d get voted in, during an election. Albertans clearly don’t know what an actual conservative is. There is a big difference to what we had under Peter Lougheed, to what we have had since then, until now, and this includes the UCP.

  7. I’ll be disappointed if she doesn’t continue stepping on rakes—Danielle Smith is one politician with real Sideshow Bob energy. According to sources like the Breakdown and Thomas Lukaszuk on Twitter, however, Ms. Smith’s caucus is disappointed enough to be considering replacing her. Too bad Brian Jean’s all in with her now. I mean we know he’s double-jointed, but tripled-jointed? I don’t think so.

  8. Pitches, synopses, treatments, rewrites, unscreened pilots, main characters written out, undeleted scenes, comi-tragic heroines, Sasquotchity-bloopers, techno-magic alternative endings and optional plot-twists, sequel options, docudrama, UCP 2.0 3D CGI, catch-23-24? ICU-swamp-draining, carbon ODs, News fakirs, zoom-zooms, click-bait, notification bells, tweetgeeks and commentary…

    …and, despite all that, reruns of gallitics in the Wildrose province are amazingly STILL worth watching! Almost as good as live-action running the bozo flag up and down the daily series of boners and festoons of buffoonery along 107th’s Walk of Stars!

    There’s no production like it, anywhere. The autochirographic fount of daily denouement gushes as faithfully as a steaming Yellowstone mud-spew, always inviting suspended incredulity, always delivering with breath-denying deftness, without fail, always failing. Even Mel Brooks fears “The Producers” might be outdone.

    Today’s cliff-hanger: is Danielle channelling The Donald? Is she lying just to prove she can lie with as much impunity as he presumes? Or are the sound of wobbly stilt-steps on Alberta’s Stage Right genuine harbingers of a big falling-out? Or is it really just a sneaky Parthian money-shot to keep all the King’s prosecutors and federal demon-vaxxers off her tail. To find out if a daunting fifth season is in the web-tangled cards for the series as it weaves its wee way into the infernal vortex of Lethe, tune in tomorrow!

    (And keep an eye out for the long-awaited release of “UCP-The Movie,“ starring Jack Black and Courtney Love! Coming to a theatre near you!! Dates and outlets TBA!!!)

  9. Seems to me that Danielle Smith was making commitments during the UCP Leadership contest that were impossible and/or imprudent for her to keep. No doubt she knew that but continued to lie on order to secure votes from those UCP members who might not understand why they were lies.

    Details around the ill fated Sovereignty Act was a major one. The loose commitment around covid era prosecutions was another. She counted on the fact that many of her supporters did not really understand how our Government functions and the separation between Government and the Judiciary. Something that seems inexplicably lost on our Justice Minister as well.

    Now she has to compound lies and mis statements with more lies , mis statements , and clarifications to cover them over.

    I can only assume that like many other senior UCP members she must believe that her supporters are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

    I believe that at this point in time her biggest challenge is keeping track of the nonsense. No doubt she is spending more time on how to paper over these in preparation for the upcoming election than she does on Government business.

    It is getting to the point where more and more people are shaking their heads and laughing at her. Not where the UCP wants to be.

  10. This just opens up another nomination for another crazy from Smith’s base. The problem is that, in this part of Alberta, crazy gives you traction. It will be interesting who steps forward. Peter Downing? Anyone? Anyone?

  11. From what I recall, based on one another contributor mentioned, while campaigning at the contributor’s home, Pat Rehn was glib, didn’t present a sound reason why the UCP should be elected, and pretty much ridculed the contributor for not being part of the team. Reading this account, I thought back to my own encounter with a UCP candidate during the 2019 election. The candidate, who was not elected, travelled with a substantial entourage of flunkies waiting to do his bidding. The candidate struck me as the sort of person who was clearly the arrogant type. He was loud and had this aire of braggadocio about him, not unlike that of an award-winning car salesman or a real estate agent. He wanted everyone to know he was the biggest fish in the pond. As for his entourage, they say there’s strength in numbers, but I have never seen such a pack of sycophants in all my life. They reminded me of my RPC days, where the attending flock had all the fervor of a rival tent meeting. They were a roving gang of Uriah Heeps and causing certain trouble everywhere they went.

    With the departure of Pat Rehn, I get a sense that any chance of a better candidate stepping up will be slim to none.

  12. “Premier Danielle Smith now appears to have clarified for a third time . . .”, also a favorite [Calgary School] disciple, one assumes, trying her best to parody Simon Peter and failing miserably.

    The suggested , or inferred, diagnosis is a rather sad one [i.e., pseudologia phantastica, where ; “A person may live in a context where deception creates advantages. [And] If a community does not assign firm or consistent consequences for lying, a person may believe the benefits of lying outweigh the risks.”] even as it is only a casual observation based upon both past separate instances of deception and the current example:

    “Three weeks earlier, Smith told Rebel News she used the discussions to impress upon officials that she believes the public is no longer onside with future COVID-19 prosecutions and crown lawyers should consider that point — along with the fact such cases were failing in court — when they make future decisions. “I’ve put it to the prosecutors, and I have asked them to do a review of the (COVID-19) cases with those two things in mind and I’m hopeful that we’ll see a true turning of the page,” Smith told Rebel News on Dec. 21. Smith also told Rebel News she was talking to prosecutors directly, but this week Smith and the Justice Department said no such discussions occurred.”

    “Smith says she urged minister to consider whether COVID prosecutions could succeed”

    https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/smith-says-she-urged-minister-to-consider-whether-covid-prosecutions-could-succeed-1.6231160

    Realizing that, , “trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings; when this trust shatters or wears away, institutions collapse.” And where, “The lying player/politician isn’t equally situated with the player/politician who isn’t lying. The former amasses power while the latter loses it.”

    https://www.scu.edu/ethics-spotlight/social-media-and-democracy/the-dangers-of-political-lies/

    And again where, “People with power lied more easily and effectively, . . . [because] these data suggest that powerful individuals—CEOs, portfolio managers, politicians, elite athletes—don’t get burned when they touch the figurative stove. They seem to be more physiologically “prepared” to lie, which could lead to their lying more often. What we’ve shown here is that if you give people power, they’re more comfortable lying, and it will be harder to tell they’re doing it. . . . It’s unsettling to combine those two facts: Powerful people like CEOs [politicians] are better liars, and most people are bad at spotting liars.”

    https://hbr.org/2010/05/defend-your-research-powerful-people-are-better-liars

    Or, perhaps Ms. Smith, the chameleon [as opportunist, pretender, manipulator, ect.], is simply a clumsy Platonist, in the worst sense that, “Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.”

    Finally, if “The ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of their folly is to fill the world with fools.”, then perhaps the foolish will not be surprised if the larger social outcome in a ‘post truth’ world is kakistocratic in both form and function.

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