An Alberta MLA who travelled to Mexico over the winter holidays and was the subject of a scathing letter from Slave Lake town council is out of Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party caucus.
On Thursday, Kenney announced that Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn will be removed from the UCP caucus to sit as an independent, for making “no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents.”
Rehn was one of several UCP MLAs who vacationed abroad over the winter holiday break, even sharing images on Christmas of himself in a Mexican cave.
The major reason for his ouster is weeks of backlash from riding residents and officials claiming he couldn’t even be bothered to live or spend time in the region since being elected to represent the large rural riding in 2019.
WATCH: Kenney apologizes for caucus travel. Story continues below.
In a scathing Jan. 5 open letter, Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman and the town’s council called on Rehn to resign, using the Mexico trip as a jumping-off point for further complaints.
“What continues to be even more frustrating than trying to get you, our MLA, to spend time in this Region is we can’t even get you to stay in the country,” the letter read.
It outlined multiple grievances, including missed meetings, a refusal to meet with local elected leaders and a failure to advocate for the region to the provincial government.
According to the letter, Rehn moved away from the riding after his election.
“We have an MLA that does not represent the people of this Region,” the letter read. “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.”
Council argued that Rehn acted like an envoy from the province, rather than a representative of Slave Lake.
“The biggest fundamental issue is that you fail to recognize that you were elected to be our representative at the Provincial level, not be the Province’s representative to our Region,” they wrote.
In an interview with the Canadian Press this week, Warman said the Mexico trip prompted the town to act on its other issues with Rehn.
“The tipping point for us (with the Mexico trip) was to say, `OK, now we’ve got an MLA that is even less involved with the government. How is that helping us out?’” he said.
“The biggest fundamental issue is that you fail to recognize that you were elected to be our representative at the Provincial level, not be the Province’s representative to our Region.”
Following the letter’s release, Rehn issued a statement saying representing the region is “the honour of a lifetime” and that he has residences in both Slave Lake and Edmonton.
“Recently I made some poor choices around travel, for which I have taken full responsibility,” part of the statement read. “It’s disappointing to see some municipal officials seizing on this to try to sow political division at this difficult time.”
Warman said Rehn has not personally reached out to town officials to apologize or discuss a way forward since the letter’s publication.
In his statement giving Rehn the boot Thursday, Kenney said the MLA repeatedly ignored calls from government officials to be more present in the region.
“I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency,” the statement read. “He has ignored calls from me, UCP caucus leadership and his constituents to do so.”
Kenney says he has personally reached out to municipal leadership, and will be arranging meetings between municipal and provincial officials in the coming weeks to address local issues.
Rehn will not be permitted to run as a UCP candidate again.
With files from The Canadian Press.