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Fair Deal panel hears from reformists & sovereigntists in Calgary

Most speakers’ presentations ranged from anger at the federal government to demands for outright independence, while several speakers spoke in favour of continued cooperation with Ottawa.

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Hundreds of Albertans filed into the Commonwealth Centre in northeast Calgary Tuesday evening to participate in the province’s ‘Fair Deal Panel’ hearings.

Panel members appointed by Premier Kenney listened while Albertans that showed up were allowed to speak for two minutes each.

Most speakers’ presentations ranged from anger at the federal government to demands for outright independence, while several speakers spoke in favour of continued cooperation with Ottawa.

A man that introduced himself as Michael was the second to speak at the microphone.

A speaker takes the microphone at the Alberta Fair Deal Panel hearings in Calgary.

“I tell you people, you need your premier to stop being a damned federalist…Alberta and Saskatchewan, what the hell are you waiting for?…I’m a full on seperatist now. You’ve got to ask yourself, why the hell do you want to stay?

Strathmore resident Alexander Lindsey said that to get a fair deal, Alberta should cease oil shipments to other provinces.

“We shouldn’t turn the taps off for a day. We should turn the taps off until Elizabeth May gets a job as a pipeline labourer.”

Peter McCaffrey of Project Confederation supported the “Firewall” measures being studied by the panel, but chastised Premier Jason Kenney for gradually walking back demands that Ottawa must meet to avoid an Equalization referendum.

Former Wildrose and PC MLA Rob Anderson said that Alberta needs to begin preparing to form an independent nation if Alberta can’t achieve a fair deal within confederation.

One woman identified herself as a UCP member and said that she supported the government’s Fair Deal Panel considerations, but said that if they cannot be achieved, that she would move to support independence.

A former Alberta Independence Party candidate said, “I don’t leave Canada. Canada left me.”

Several union members showed up speaking in opposition to any attempt by Alberta to assert more control over areas under its jurisdiction, or tax cuts. One federalist insinuated that Alberta appointing its own Chief Firearms Officer would result in property owners shooting “Natives.” Another federalist claimed that Alberta having its own pension plan would be used to prop up the “dinosaur fossil fuels industry,” and that people would be better off under the CPP invested in “socially responsible” industries.

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CTF says Rehn drama shows need for recall legislation

Kenney promised recall legislation when he was campaigning in 2019 and has made the vow again after the election.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the controversy swirling around Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn shows the need for provincial recall legislation.

Rehn was booted from the UCP caucus on Thursday morning after Premier Jason Kenney claimed that he was not doing enough to help represent his constituents.

Rehn was one of seven UCP snowbird MLAs who jetted out of the province over the holidays while their own government had Albertans under a strict lockdown.

Rehn tweeted a picture of himself from a cave in Mexico, one of the moves that kicked off the entire scandal.

“Kenney kicked Rehn out of caucus, but it should be up to his constituents whether he stays in the legislature or gets sent packing,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director, in a Thursday statement.

“The premier has done all he can and now it should be up to the people to decide whether Rehn should continue to collect his six-figure MLA paycheque.”

Last week, the mayor and entire council of Slave Lake called on their MLA to resign in an open letter.

In a withering letter to Rehn, the entire Slave Lake council alleged a litany of problems they have had with Rehn.

Rehn will now sit in the legislature as an independent MLA with an annual salary of $120,936. MLAs also receive $16,548 through a retirement investment payment along with other expenses and benefits.

Kenney promised recall legislation when he was campaigning in 2019 and has made the vow again after the election.

The province’s Democratic Accountability Committee recommended a 40 per cent signature threshold to trigger a recall by-election. The CTF has recommended the province set the threshold at 25 per cent of votes cast in the last election.

“Local politicians and constituents shouldn’t have to resort to backroom political brokering or rely on media coverage to hold their MLA accountable,” said Terrazzano.

“That’s why we need recall legislation that works for Albertans and let’s us hold politicians accountable.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney boots MLA Rehn from UCP caucus

Rehn was one of the UCP snowbird MLAs who ignored health recommendations and jetted out of the province over the holidays.

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Premier Jason Kenney has punted Lesser Slave Lake Pat Rehn MLA from the UCP Caucus – after an entire town council called for his removal.

“The most important job of an MLA is to represent his or her constituents. 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,” said Kenney in a Thursday morning tweet.

Rehn was one of seven UCP snowbird MLAs who jetted out of the province over the holidays while their own government had Albertans under a strict lockdown.

Rehn tweeted a picture of himself from a cave in Mexico, one of the moves that kicked off the entire scandal.

Kenney’s letter states that he fired Rehn and that he will not be allowed to seek a UCP nomination in the future, however the UCP constitution states that removal from caucus is a power for the caucus as a whole, not the leader; and that disqualification for a nomination must be made by the party, not the leader alone.

Kenney’s statement did not cite the Snowbird Scandal as a contributing reason for his removal, only that he was absent from his constituency.

He said Rehn “has made no meaningful effort to be more present in his constituency or to properly represent his hard-working constituents.”

Kenney said Rehn had “ignored” calls to be more present in Slave Lake.

“Regrettably, MLA Rehn’s performance falls well below the high standards we expect in our caucus and party,” Kenney said.

Last week, the mayor and entire council of Slave Lake called on their MLA to resign in an open letter.

In a withering letter to Rehn, the council alleges a litany of problems they have had with him.

The town, with a population of 6,500, 255 km northeast of Edmonton, made public a laundry list of complaints against Rehn, including missed meetings and failure to represent the area for economic development.

They claim Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, doesn’t even live in Alberta (or Canada), saying he resides in Texas.

“When Covid-19 began and the Canadian government said Canadians need to get home, you were in the United States. Since that time, you have made multiple trips abroad. In fact, right now, as our businesses suffer and many of our people aren’t working, you still aren’t here.,” said the letter signed by Mayor Tyler Warman and six other councilors

In fact, the council claims the UCP government was aware of Rehn’s performance and have asked other MLAs to pick up his work.

“We have been told that your government has internally expressed its displeasure at your performance and have arranged for neighbouring MLA’s to check in to help make sure our Region is represented,” the letter reads.

“We seem to be making little to no progress in our Region in advocating for items that are a provincial responsibility. One of the factors that we believe is contributing heavily to this is the lack of engagement from you as our MLA.”

“Since the April 2019 election, it has become clear that the hard work that you put into campaigning for the position of MLA has not continued since being elected.”

In the letter, the council alleged the following problems with Rehn:

•    Shortly after you were elected MLA, you decided to no longer reside in the constituency.

•    Lack of time spent in the constituency engaging with residents and elected leaders. In fact, you have yet to even meet with some of the Region’s elected leaders.

•    Since your election, you have spent more physical time managing your business in Texas than being physically present in our Region.

•    Multiple missed meetings and lack of preparation for meetings that do happen.

•    Missing a meeting with local leaders and the Justice Minister (regarding a spike in local crime) so that you could attend an oilfield expo in Fort McMurray for your business.

•    Missed a meeting with the Housing Minister for a $4 million housing project that has been years in the works, but again, you could not be bothered to show up on our behalf to help move the project forward. This meeting was scheduled by your government.

The council’s note concludes “we have an MLA that does not represent the people of this Region. This lack of representation can be directly attributed to the fact that you don’t reside here, spend little time here, and have failed to “know” the people you represent. 

“As such, we have lost faith that you have the ability and the desire to undertake the work which is required of an MLA. On behalf of the Town of Slave Lake and those we represent, we are asking for your resignation as MLA for the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.”

Rehn put up a Facebook statement defending himself.

“It’s disappointing to see some municipal officials seizing on this to try and sow political division at this difficult time,” Rehn wrote

“To be clear, I have residences in Slave Lake and Edmonton. I do not own any property in Texas whatsoever. Yes, I do continue to own businesses – businesses that are fully disclosed and compliant with Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner. And yes, I have needed to travel to Texas within the past year to address essential business matters.

“I, of course, complied with all health requirements when doing so. It is the honour of a lifetime to represent a region I have lived and worked in since I bought my first quarter-section of trees and also my first sawmill in Wabasca using every penny I had in the bank. I will continue representing Lesser Slave Lake – the region I love and call home.”

The full letter from Slave Lake council can be found here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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EXCLUSIVE: Fired Kenney chief of staff lands $60K severance payout

“Mr. Huckabay had served as the now-Premier’s Chief of Staff since his time in opposition going back to 2018. Mr. Huckabay’s severance is in the range of $60,000,” said his staff

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After refusing to answer Western Standard questions about Jason Kenney’s former chief of staff Jamie Huckabay’s severance package, the Premier’s Office finally released the numbers.

The Western Standard has been asking Kenney’s office daily since last Friday whether Huckabay would get a severance package – but has been met with complete silence. Western Standard reporters have also been denied the right to ask questions of Kenney in press conferences.

Minutes after the Western Standard published a story on Wednesday afternoon about the refusal to answer, the Premier’s Office said that Huckabay’s severance payout was less than the $130,000 pocketed by former Alison Redford chief of staff Stephen Carter.

“Sincere apologies for the length of time it has taken me to respond to your inquiry,” wrote Kenney’s chief spokesman Christine Myatt.

“The terms for severance are outlined in staff contracts – contracts that are publicly posted for all to see. These terms for political staffers are standard, longstanding, and not unique to the current government.

“I’d note that the NDP government paid out severance of close to $6 million in public funds for their government staff after the 2019 election.

“Mr. Huckabay had served as the now-Premier’s Chief of Staff since his time in opposition going back to 2018. Mr. Huckabay’s severance is in the range of $60,000 (pre-tax) – in line with the terms of his contract.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation wasn’t happy with the severance.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for Huckabay’s severance,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director.

“Someone messed up but it wasn’t taxpayers, so we shouldn’t be paying for the mistake.”

The last time a (COS) got replaced mid-term was in 2012, when Stephen Carter left the job with then-premier Alison Redford.

Stephen Carter (photo credit: Calgary Sun)

Even though he had only been on the job for six months, Carter left the job in April 2012, with a $130,000 cheque.

Carter, whose company defaulted on $600,000 in court-ordered payments, was Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s campaign chair in 2010.

A huge hubbub erupted when Carter’s severance was initially not made public.

Redford said she couldn’t release the figure because of FOIP laws but announced the provincial government would be forming a new policy that would see all salary and severance information for senior government employees disclosed by the end of the year.

In the end, Carter tweeted the amount of severance himself on October of 2013. He said he had negotiated his own severance contract that paid him the $130,000.

Huckabay was fired by Kenney during the UCP snowbird scandal, when it was discovered at least 10 MLAs and staffers had jetted out of the province for warmer climes, despite health recommendations advising against non-essential travel. Huckabay flew to the U.K.

The province was also in lockdown, meaning Christmas was cancelled for most people because household gatherings were banned. The measures meant people were not able to visit relatives in long term care centres over the holiday.

The Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard lost her cabinet position – and the $60,000 bump in salary that came with it – after she was ordered back to the province from Hawaii, where she was having “a 17-year-traditional” Christmas gathering.

Huckabay’s publicly posted contract, dated April 30, 2019, lists his salary as $8,620.69 every two weeks – for a yearly total of $224,137,94.

It is not known whether he negotiated his own severance package.

Huckabay’s contract

Huckabay was a longtime Kenney ally, working with him on his UCP leadership campaign.

Hukabay’s contract can be reviewed here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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