Medicine Hat News

Barnes among two UCP MLAs to join coalition fighting COVID restrictio­ns



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

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt, 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.

Medicine Hat had 14 active cases Monday, while Cypress County sat at one. Lethbridge, which is also in AHS’s South zone, still has 189.

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.

 ??  ?? Drew Barnes
Drew Barnes
 ??  ?? Angela Pitt
Angela Pitt

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