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Drew Barnes calls Kenney risk to equalization referendum

With Alberta's equalization referendum and municipal elections just 18 days away, Premier Kenney's plummeting popularity has become a campaign issue, according to independent MLA Drew Barnes.

"Over the summer, I have been campaigning steadily and encouraging everyone I can to vote Yes in the equalization referendum," said Barnes. "I can tell you today that the top threat to the success of the referendum has become the Premier himself."

Barnes had served in Kenney's caucus until his expulsion earlier this year alongside MLA Todd Loewen.

Loewen had published an open letter calling on Kenney to resign as premier.

“The majority of people I’m talking to, they want a strong UCP party. But they don’t see that they have that now. We need to have that so we can move forward and be able to form government in 2023.”

UCP MLAs like Drew Barnes also drew the ire of the Kenney government, having called for a localized approach in the midst of the continued lockdown in opposition to the Premier's current strategy. "Cypress-Medicine Hat [only has] a handful of cases and a healthcare system with capacity," wrote Barnes. "50% of small business may not reopen, and the long-term effects on our economy and our families is very unclear."

Key UCP MLAs led the counter-movement against the dissenters. MLA Mike Ellis affirmed a push to remove them, while Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie launched a motion to eject Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen from caucus.

A referendum on equalization is set to occur alongside the 2021 municipal elections.

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