UCP MLA says Alberta's pandemic decisions will 'cost us lives' as restriction fallout continues
A Calgary UCP MLA says his government's pandemic response "will cost us lives" as the fourth wave rages on.
Calgary-Fish Creek backbencher Richard Gotfried wrote the remarks on Facebook Thursday in response to a constituent’s question.
Gotfried says he has been advocating behind closed doors for stronger measures since late July.
"We clearly had 30 days notice that a crisis was looming...and nothing was done while we lacked any leadership at the helm," the MLA wrote. "It will cost us lives and I am gutted by the lack of responsiveness to unequivocal advocacy and clear warning signals."
The comments come the morning after Premier Jason Kenney announced stronger health measures. The Wednesday night news from Kenney followed a lengthy vacation as the fourth wave began and a persistent effort to downplay rising COVID-19 case numbers.
"I am deeply apologetic that my persistent efforts and unequivocal internal advocacy have now proven to have lacked the required urgency," Gotfried said. "I am truly sorry, but even more wracked by sadness for the collateral impact on other vulnerable Albertans."
CTV News has reached out to Gotfried for additional comments.
UCP caucus unrest has been much-discussed in 2021.
Internal party division has led to public disagreements, combative letters and even the dismissal of two rural MLAs.
One of those MLAs, Central Peace-Notley's Todd Loewen, spoke to CTV News on Thursday.
"There was a lot of dysfunction in the caucus, and I don't think that dysfunction has improved," the now-independent said. "In fact, I think it's probably gotten even worse."
Loewen accused the premier of going against caucus consent on multiple occasions after contentious meetings.
"We would have the majority of caucus saying we need to go in one direction, and then we would come out of that meeting and we would watch the Facebook Live from the premier going the complete opposite direction. That happened numerous times, and I believe it's still happening to this day."
At least a few in the party – including some outspoken urban MLAs – say they'd like to see the province enact stronger measures, sooner. Others – a handful of MLAs who represent many of Alberta's rural ridings – say they want relaxed health restrictions and a return to normalcy.
Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams believes the debate could lead to more inner-party movement.
"Jason Kenney has been desperately trying to hold a United Conservative Party together by basically pandering to those further on the right, and I think it might mean defections."
Along the federal campaign trail, Kenney's campaign management was also a hot button topic Thursday.
Both Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh spoke out against the Conservative premier.
"There's no question that Mr. Kenney is to blame here and that his leadership has been horrible," NDP leader Singh said at a campaign stop.
"I think what Canadians see in this is leadership matters at whatever level," Liberal leader Trudeau added.
But Erin O'Toole, leader of the federal Conservatives, dodged multiple questions on the subject.
When asked about Kenney and Alberta's pandemic management, O'Toole would only say he would "have strong relationships with all premiers, regardless of stripe."
"I think (Kenney's COVID-19 response) did significant damage to the federal Conservative party and will probably be significant in at least some ridings where the race is very close," Williams said.
After largely staying out of the limelight during the first month of the election, pundits expect Alberta – and Kenney – to be discussed heavily in the four days before Canada votes.