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Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

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EDMONTON — Members of Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party caucus have voted to turf two of their own for challenging the leader.

Backbencher Todd Loewen was ejected Thursday night after publicly announcing earlier in the day the party is adrift and out of touch under Kenney and that the premier must quit before things spiral further.

Backbencher Drew Barnes had been the most vocal critic of the government’s COVID-19 health restrictions, saying they are of questionable effect and an intolerable infringement on personal freedoms. He was also voted out.

“Members recognize the need for government caucus to remain strong and united behind our leader, Premier Jason Kenney, as we continue to fight through what looks to be the final stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” UCP whip Mike Ellis said in a statement.

“There is simply no room in our caucus for those who continually seek to divide our party and undermine government leadership, especially at this critical juncture.”

Kenney’s spokeswoman, Jerrica Goodwin, added in a statement: “The premier is proud to stand with his caucus colleagues and lead Alberta through the greatest health and economic crisis in a century.”

Loewen, representing the northern rural riding of Central Peace-Notley, had been the chair of the UCP caucus. Barnes represents Cypress-Medicine Hat in the south.

Loewen and Barnes join a third backbencher, Pat Rehn, who was expelled earlier this year after his constituents complained he wasn’t doing any work or listening to their concerns.

Weeks of bubbling internal discontent within the caucus boiled over into an open challenge by Loewen in a public letter to Kenney published on Loewen’s Facebook page in the pre-dawn hours Thursday.

In the letter, Loewen called on the premier to resign, saying he no longer sees a commitment to teamwork and party principles.

“We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man. And while you promoted unity, it is clear that unity is falling apart,” writes Loewen.

He accused Kenney and his government of weak dealings with Ottawa, ignoring caucus members, delivering contradictory messages, and botching critical issues such as negotiations with doctors and a controversy over coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

“Many Albertans, including myself, no longer have confidence in your leadership,” Loewen says in the letter.

“I thank you for your service, but I am asking that you resign so that we can begin to put the province back together again.”

In a radio interview later in the day, Loewen said he wanted to stay in the UCP and that he was not seeking to split the party but save it from looming disaster in the next election.

“The people are upset. They are leaving the party,” Loewen told 630 CHED. “We need to do what it takes to stop the bleeding.

“We need to have our constituency associations strong. We’ve got to quit losing board members.”

Loewen later received a message of support from a second UCP backbencher, Dave Hanson.

Hanson wrote on Facebook: “Todd, I applaud your courage and stand behind your decision.

“I hear the same thing from our supporters in my area. I along with many of our colleagues share in your frustration.”

Hanson, Barnes and Loewen are three of 18 UCP backbench members who broke with the government in early April over restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. The group said the rules were needlessly restrictive and infringed on personal freedoms. Sixteen wrote an open letter expressing those concerns.

Since then Barnes has remained vocal, actively questioning why the regulations are needed in low-infection areas and demanding to see data underlying the health decisions.

Kenney tolerated the open dissension for weeks. He has said he believes in free speech and that backbenchers are not in cabinet and don’t speak for his government. But Loewen was the first to openly challenge Kenney’s leadership.

Kenney’s poll numbers, along with party fundraising contributions, have dropped precipitously during the pandemic while those of Rachel Notley’s NDP have climbed.

Notley said regardless of Kenney’s internal political troubles, Albertans need to see him focus on governing the province.

Alberta has seen in recent weeks some of the highest COVID-19 case rates in North America that threaten to swamp the province’s health system.

“It’s not looking good,” said Notley.

“What we need as a result is for the premier to clean up his house, get his house in order and provide the kind of leadership that Albertans desperately need during one of the most challenging times in our history.”

There were rumours of a widening internal UCP breach two weeks ago when Kenney suspended the legislature’s spring sitting. He said it was to keep staff and legislature members safe from COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the government extended the hiatus for another week.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said Kenney had little choice but to expel Loewen but noted it took several hours of debate among the caucus to get there.

“This is not a good day for Jason Kenney. He is wounded by this. And I don’t think it’s over,” said Bratt with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Pollster Janet Brown said the open dissension magnifies Kenney’s leadership woes. Brown said a premier relies on three pillars of support: party fundraising, caucus support and support in the popularity polls. Any one of those three can help offset crises somewhere else.

But Kenney, said Brown, doesn’t have support in any area right now.

“If you’re down in the polls, if you don’t have the confidence of your caucus and your donors are keeping their hands in their pockets, what’s your justification for continuing?” said Brown.

“It seems like he’s failing with all three audiences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Lafreniere scores in OT to lift Rangers over Flames 5-4

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By Allan Kreda in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — Alexis Lafreniere scored 1:37 into overtime and Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves as the New York Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 on Monday night.

Lafreniere led a 2-on-1 rush and then tracked down the rebound of Mika Zibanejad’s shot, beating netminder Jacob Markstrom for his seventh goal this season. That ended a frenzied game that was tied four times and featured several fights following big hits — two by Rangers captain Jacob Trouba.

“Getting the game-winning goal in OT is always fun,” the 21-year-old Lafreniere said. ”It was a great up-and-down game with two really good goalies. It was fun to play.”

Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Stone scored two minutes apart early in the third period to give the Flames a 4-3 lead, but Zibanejad scored his second goal of the game — his team-leading 24th — to tie it for the fourth time at 12:55.

Filip Chytil also scored twice for the Rangers, who improved to 9-2-3 in their last 14 games and are 17-4-3 since Dec. 5.

Halak has won six straight and seven of his last eight appearances.

Zibanejad put New York ahead 3-2 with 14 seconds left in the second but Mangiapane scored at 6:38 of the third to tie it. The play was reviewed to determine if Mangiapane kicked in the puck with his skate, but the goal stood.

“It wasn’t pretty at times. … It was a hard battle. We just kept going,” Zibanejad said. “It was a big two points and a great way to come back from the break.”

Zibanejad’s first goal came as he roofed the puck past Markstrom on the power play with assists to Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin. The assist was Panarin’s 300th point with the Rangers.

Chytil opened the scoring at 5:37 of the first, rifling a high shot past Markstrom. Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox assisted.

Calgary forward Blake Coleman tied it at 10:25 with his 11th goal.

There were several skirmishes in the first as both teams were playing for the first time since Jan. 27 following the All-Star break.

“It wasn’t a great hockey game, but it was an exciting game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was different — a bunch of fights going on. … Maybe the break was too short.”

Trouba tussled with Calgary’s Chris Tanev after the defenseman leveled Flames forward Dillon Dube with an open-ice check.

Later in the first, several fights ensued after Rangers forward Sammy Blais drilled Flames forward Milan Lucic. New York rookie Will Cuylle fought Calgary’s MacKenzie Weegar, and Lucic was assessed an extra two minutes for roughing against Rangers forward Jake Leschyshyn.

“Exciting game. Fun game. I thought we were valiant to come back,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “I thought we played really well. … There were three or four hits. They were clean, big hits.”

Chytil put the Rangers ahead 2-1 on a breakaway at 2:02 of the second. Fans at Madison Square Garden chanted the 23-year-old Czech forward’s name after his second goal.

“That’s cool, feels very good,” he said. “It motivates me to be better the next shift and show what I can do.”

Chytil has a career-best 18 goals and 31 points this season. He has six goals in his last four games and 14 points — 10 goals — in his last 12 games.

Calgary’s Tyler Toffoli tied it at 2 with his 19th goal on the power play at 16:45 of the second.

Trouba struck again with just under a minute left in the second, body-checking Nazem Kadri hard in the Rangers zone, then fighting Dube who rushed to his teammate’s defense. Dube received an extra two-minute penalty for instigating, and Zibanejad scored the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play.

NOTES: Zibanejad’s 83rd power-play goal for the Rangers moved him ahead of Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle into a tie with Vic Hadfield for sixth place on the franchise list. … Calgary scratched defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Connor Mackey, plus forward Brett Ritchie. … The Rangers scratched forwards Julien Gauthier and Vitali Kravtsov, plus defenseman Libor Hajek. … The teams meet again Feb. 18 in Calgary.

UP NEXT

Flames: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Rangers: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

___

AP NHL: www.apnews.com/hub/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

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‘I am sorry’: Man convicted in stabbing of Calgary chef apologizes at sentencing

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A man convicted of killing a chef apologized Monday and expressed dismay that no one with the victim’s family was in court to to hear it.

Tommie Holloway was convicted of manslaughter while his accomplice, Anthony Dodgson, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Christophe Herblin.

Herblin was stabbed to death in a parking lot outside his soon-to-be opened Calgary café following a break-in in 2020.

Holloway, 33, told his sentencing hearing that he hoped his words would get through to Herblin’s wife, who wrote in a victim impact statement last December that the killing had left her broken and struggling “to make sense of this tragedy.”

“It got to me. Got me emotional,” said Holloway.

“I just wish they were here today so I could look at them eye-to-eye, apologize for my actions. I know no amount of words that I’m going to say is going to bring back their loved one, but I do want them to know that I am sorry.”

The Crown has recommended Holloway serve 12 years in prison. Defence lawyer Kim Ross said his client had no previous criminal record, has made efforts to turn his life around and should serve three to five years.

“I’m not standing here saying that imprisonment is not appropriate here. The issue is how long,” Ross told Court of King’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

“Mr. Holloway has clearly learned his lesson … and I submit with some degree of confidence that this court will never see Mr. Holloway back here again.”

Herblin was a longtime executive sous chef at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, and his new restaurant was weeks away from opening.

Court heard Dodgson and Holloway broke into the restaurant with plans to get through a wall into an adjacent cannabis shop. They fled when a car drove by and returned later to continue their robbery attempt but became frustrated as Herblin had showed up.

Holloway smashed Herblin’s car windows in order to lure him into the parking lot. Dodgson attacked him and stabbed him nine times.

Herblin staggered to a nearby gas station for help and died shortly after police officers came to his aid.

Ross said Holloway had no knowledge of what was going to happen and immediately ran off after smashing out the car’s windows.

“Mr. Holloway at that point did not know what had happened. He did not know that Mr. Herblin was in the state that he was in and that he had gone to the Shell looking for help,” Ross said.

“He was leaving the scene of a possible break and enter. Certainly at the time of his leaving he did not know.”

Dodgson receives an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction. When the sentencing hearing began for both men in December, the Crown argued that Dodgson should not be eligible for parole for 15 to18 years. His lawyer asked for a range of 10 to 12 years.

The judge is scheduled to deliver his sentence for Holloway and Dodgson on Feb. 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said lawyers were recommending the time Holloway should serve before he is eligible for parole.

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