Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier Francois Legault leave a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Two members of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s caucus are challenging provincial COVID-19 economic restrictions and have joined a national coalition pushing back against the lockdowns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Two of Premier Kenney’s caucus members join coalition fighting COVID-19 restrictions

Pitt and Barnes have signed on to the End the Lockdowns national caucus

Two members of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s caucus are challenging the province’s COVID-19 economic restrictions and have joined a national coalition pushing against lockdowns.

Drew Barnes, the United Conservative legislature member for Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Angela Pitt, the deputy speaker of the house and chair of committees, say Albertans have not been given adequate evidence to justify the rules and real hardship and harm is resulting.

“Down here in Medicine Hat our mental health crisis is as big as our COVID crisis,” said Barnes in an interview Tuesday.

“Let’s give people more freedoms.”

He said the province should take a more regional approach to restrictions, as was done for a while last year.

There are few infections in his region, he said, and he’d like to see businesses allowed to open up more, with additional testing and with health restrictions to keep COVID-19 in check.

Barnes added he doesn’t worry about challenging government policy in the UCP caucus.

“I’m not worried about disciplinary action,” he said. “As a government backbencher, I’m not a part of cabinet. I’m not part of the decision making. It’s my job to speak up with what my constituents want.”

Pitt, the member for Airdrie, said she has been trying for months to get information out of the government to determine what evidence and rationale there is for the restrictions.

She said she and her constituents don’t, for example, understand why restaurants were allowed to reopen this week to in-person dining while gym and fitness centres can’t have group workouts.

“There’s a lot of confusion around some of the restrictions that have been put in place because of the lack of information sharing,” said Pitt in an interview.

“My constituents are having a hard time buying in, as are many Albertans across the province. And you see that in the ways of civil disobedience.

“Albertans aren’t buying into this because the case has not been made.”

Pitt and Barnes have signed on to the End the Lockdowns national caucus, part of a group called Liberty Coalition Canada.

The group includes past and present federal, provincial and municipal politicians, including Paul Hinman, the interim leader of the Wildrose Independence party, a right-wing rival to Kenney’s United Conservatives.

“After careful examination and scrutiny of mitigation measures undertaken by all levels of government, it is now evident that the lockdowns cause more harm than the virus and must be brought to an end,” writes the caucus on the Liberty website.

​Jerrica Goodwin, Kenney’s spokeswoman, responded in an email statement.

“MLAs are elected to represent their constituents, and are able to do so,” she said.

“Alberta’s restrictions are based on expert medical advice.

“What’s more, Alberta has resisted the total lockdowns of some other jurisdictions. For example, while some other provinces fully shut down non-essential retail, Alberta did not. And just yesterday, restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen, with specific requirements, as part of our phased, evidence-based plan.”

Kenney’s government has been getting squeezed from both sides of the lockdown debate as it works to keep the economy afloat and the pandemic in check.

Alberta’s current economic restrictions have been in place since mid-December when surging COVID-19 case numbers put daily infections at 1,800 and those in hospital with the virus at 800.

The numbers have been dropping ever since. Daily case counts are well under 300. On Tuesday, there were 427 people in hospital with COVID-19.

The rules initially limited restaurants to take out only.

Retailers and faith-based services remain capped at 15 per cent capacity, and entertainment venues like museums and movie theatres are closed. Indoor gatherings are banned and outdoor get-togethers are capped at 10 people.

The government began reopening the economy this week after some restaurants opened illegally to in-person dining, arguing if they didn’t violate the rules they would have to close for good.

Also, GraceLife church, just west of Edmonton, had been hosting 300 congregants at Sunday services, calling the pandemic a deliberately overblown attempt to restrict personal liberties. The church’s pastor was charged by RCMP on Monday with violating the Public Health Act.

Meanwhile, some doctors and the Opposition NDP have accused the government of risking a resurgence of cases by reopening the economy just as exponentially more contagious forms of the novel coronavirus arrive in Alberta. On Tuesday, the province had detected a total of 104 variant cases.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusJason KenneyUCPunited conservative party

Just Posted

kids
Lots of fun and learning to be found at the brand new ‘Market Buds’ program

Activities to run the gamut from outdoor games, treasure hunts and storytelling to seed planting and interactive games

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Stettler
Stettler and area’s ninth annual Eco Excellence Awards have been announced

This year’s recipients include Louise Damen, Joanne Pinder, Jan and Bob Richardson and the Jewel Theatre

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

Most Read