Alberta house speaker calls travel scandal amongst UCP colleagues a 'great embarrassment'
EDMONTON -- Alberta’s Speaker of the legislature has criticized fellow UCP MLAs and Premier Jason Kenney for their decision making in the wake of a travel scandal that led to the demotions of six provincially elected officials.
A photo of a recent email obtained by Postmedia and shared with CTV News Edmonton appears to show Nathan Cooper replying to a constituent. In the email, the MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills said he did not approve of the travel, nor the handling of the scandal by Premier Jason Kenney.
The photo and email within have not been independently verified by CTV News Edmonton. Attempts to contact Cooper were unsuccessful and his constituency office did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard resigned as Minister of Municipal Affairs for travelling to Hawaii over the Christmas break. Kenney’s chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, stepped down after visiting the United Kingdom. Five others MLAs were stripped of their legislative and/or committee duties.
Cooper opens his correspondence by saying he did not travel outside of Alberta over Christmas.
“That so many of my colleagues chose otherwise should be of great embarrassment to the government, especially Premier Jason Kenney who chose not to sanction these senior officials and staff members until he was prompted to do so by widespread public outrage,” reads the email.
Kenney first publicly acknowledged the travel scandal during a news conference on Jan. 1 and took personal responsibility, but said at the time there would be no repercussions for those who travelled and issued a new directive to senior party members not to travel abroad in the future unless it was for essential business. Three days later, on Jan. 4, he announced the demotions on social media.
“The hypocrisy of this scandal has clearly undermined this government’s moral authority, and while these senior officials have now been sanctioned, the government now faces an uphill battle in rebuilding the public trust that has been lost,” wrote Cooper.
Cooper closes by saying he will relay the constituent’s concerns directly to the premier.
COOPER LIKELY NOT ALONE, SAYS POLITICAL EXPERT
A political scientist at MacEwan University, Chaldeans Mensah, doubts Cooper is on an island within his party when it comes to the criticism/judgement?.
“I think this is likely to be the sentiment, I’m sure, of majority if not all of the MLAs on the UCP side,” said Mensah, who believes the email surfacing is a good thing for the government.
“I don’t think (Kenney) would necessarily condone the language (in the email),” Mensah said, “I think what I see in this letter is really a continuation of the approach taken by (new Municipal Affairs Minister) Ric McIver and the minister of health and coming out and saying we failed the team.”
“If you’re yelling at us, interestingly enough, my message is, ‘Thank you,'” McIver said during a Jan. 5 news conference.
It wasn’t until Jan.7 that Kenney took questions from the media following the Jan. 4 demotions.
“I heard very clearly from Albertans about their anger, their disgust, their frustration and their understandable demand that there be real, serious consequences. So, I listened and acted accordingly,” said Kenney.
Mensah sees the acknowledgement of failure, at both the party caucus and leadership levels, as an intentional strategy designed to rebuild public trust.
“I don’t personally see this (email) as a divide in the caucus per se, but it is simply acknowledging there’s been a momentous failure in your typical cohesive, team behaviour expected of a caucus," he commented.
“I think all MLAs, if they haven’t done so already, should be using the same language here.”
With files from Bill Fortier