By Justin Seward
Cypress-Medicine MLA Drew Barnes and Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, who is also the UCP goverment’s deputy speaker and chair of committees, joined a national coalition last week that are pushing against the current public health restrictions
The coalition began earlier this month and is a nonpartisan caucus that has over 40 members in the group.
“The goal is to be open, honest and transparent about all government’s reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barnes.
“Clearly we’re in unprecedented times and I think it’s absolutely crucial we get public policy correct. I’m so glad that elected politicians and past politicians—municipal provincial and all across Canada, federal as well—have joined this.”
Barnes’ concern is the COVID 19 pandemic is entering its 12th month and is going to go on for months more.
His focus will be on the mental health aspect.
“In Medicine Hat, we’ve had a mental health challenge as big as the COVID challenge,” he said.
“And let’s have a discussion about making sure that everyone is given full opportunity and all lives are valued.”
Barnes is not worried about discipline being handed down because of his decision.
“I’m pleased that I’m able to speak out,” he said.
“I’m not a cabinet minister but my job is to hold the government to account. I’m not a decision maker and our parliamentary system works best with me as one of the 87 paid people in Alberta to speak on Albertans behalf and I’m so grateful to represent Cypress-Medicine Hat.”
Premier Jason Kenney was asked at a Feb. 10 press conference about Barnes and Pitt joining the coalition and what the decision says about the confidence of his leadership.
“I think what it says is those MLAs have a perspective,” said Kenney.
“We unlike some other parties allow people to speak their minds and represent the views of their constituents. We believe that Alberta has followed the right balanced approach in protecting lives and livelihoods. We’ve looked at restrictions as a last and limited resort because they can be so damaging to the broader health of our society. But they can also be necessary as they are now on a targeted basis.”