With Alberta continuing to see more than a thousand COVID-19 case every day, the crisis surrounding Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership of his party and the province couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Whether the party’s recent decision to remove rouge MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes will be enough to restore confidence in the embattled leader and his first-term government remains anyone’s guess.
Premier Kenney and his loyal MLAs will, of course, try to spin the ejection of Loewen and Barnes as a positive step going forward. Yet can it not also be seen as a desperate move by divided party struggling under increasingly unpopular leadership?
The latest crisis for Kenney was sparked when UCP caucus chairman Loewen issued a statement calling for the leader to step down, citing “persistent dysfunction within government.”
“I believe we must remove the primary source of this dysfunction, Premier Jason Kenney,” he said.
In response, the UCP caucus met behind closed doors for hours before deciding to kick Loewen and fellow UCP MLA Barnes out of caucus, the collection of party MLAs.
“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,” said UCP caucus whip Mike Ellis.
Of course the latest firestorm sparked by Loewen isn’t the first crisis for Kenney. Just weeks ago more than a dozen MLAs, including Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper and Barnes, signed a letter critical of the premier’s COVID response.
The removal of the two rouge MLAs gives Premier Kenney what may be a last chance to fulfill the vital leadership role he has been entrusted to carry out by the people of this province.
At this time of pandemic emergency what is needed more than ever is strong and wise guidance. Whether Jason Kenney will now be able to overcome the current leadership crisis and rise to the occasion remains to be seen.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.