Frustrated by what he believes is a lack of rural representation inside government, former UCP, now independent, MLA Drew Barnes has released a discussion paper that suggests forming a political party that would only run seats in rural Alberta.
“Let’s face it, the UCP was a great idea on paper that has not worked out in practice,” Barnes wrote.
“Under Jason Kenney the party has turned away from the rural values and policies that propelled the UCP to victory in 2019.”
Barnes was kicked out of caucus, along with Todd Loewen, in May for repeatedly speaking out against government decisions. He now believes the best path forward for rural Albertans is a stand alone party that would run in the 41 constituencies located outside of Edmonton and Calgary, ensuring the party does abandon its principles in a chase for urban votes.
“I was ejected from the caucus for just voicing the opinions of what my constituents were saying,” Barnes told Global News.
“Rural Albertans everywhere were telling me that they’re feeling that nobody’s got their backs, that their voices and ideas aren’t being heard.”
Barnes envisions the party to be in the same mold as the former federal Reform Party, or provincial Wildrose Party, a banner he was elected under in 2012 and 2015. He says the people he speaks with don’t want to see another NDP government, but also don’t feel at home with the UCP, so he wants to give them an alternative.
Barnes knows the arguments of vote splitting will be made, but as it stands right now, he sees the NDP on a path to a majority government unless something changes, and he believes a rural presence in the legislature could prove to be a strong force.
“If you don’t vote for what you want you’ll never get it, so let’s take the risk to vote for what we want.”
Barnes says the idea is still only in the discussion stage.