Alberta MLA Devin Dreeshen resigned as minister of agriculture and forestry on Friday, citing “personal conduct with regards to alcohol.”
In a statement, Dreeshen said he offered his resignation as minister to Premier Jason Kenney Friday morning, “and he has accepted.”
“I accept that my personal conduct with regards to alcohol has become an issue for the government as a whole.
“I deeply regret that this is the case, but have decided that it is best for both myself and the province to resign my position and focus on my personal health and wellness,” Dreeshen said in a statement.
“He has said he doesn’t want his personal situation to be a distraction and that he is going to focus on his personal wellness, I appreciate that,” Kenney said Friday. “I think that response is commendable.”
Kenney commented on Dreeshan’s resignation during a news conference, saying he remembered people having drinks in Dreeshan’s office, including himself.
“On one occasion when he was hosting investors in the lumber industry, the forestry industry, who were looking at about a $200 million-dollar investment,” Kenney said.
“I think there was one or two drinks at a social evening gathering in his office that I attended and that’s all I can recall.”
The 33 year old was elected to represent Innisfail-Sylvan Lake in 2018 and was appointed minister of agriculture and forestry on April 30, 2019.
Kenney has tabbed Nate Horner, the associate minister in charge of rural economic development, to become the new agriculture minister.
Dreeshen will remain an MLA and a member of the UCP caucus.
NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley was asked about Dreeshen during an unrelated news conference in Calgary on Friday.
“The main thing is that the government, as an employer — whether it was us or whether it’s them now — has an obligation to provide a safe working environment for everyone, especially a safe working environment that is free of harassment directed at women.
“They have obviously failed to do that.
“With respect to Minister Dreeshen, I hope he’s able to get the help that he needs to deal with his health issues,” Ganley said.
“I hope he gets the help he needs and I hope his behaviour improves in the future.”
Dreeshen was named in a lawsuit filed against the office of premier of Alberta.
In a statement of claim filed Oct. 1, Ariella Kimmel — the former chief of staff to the minister of jobs, economy and innovation — alleges sexual harassment, fabricated rumours of her leaking stories and heavy drinking by ministers and senior staffers inside the legislature.
None of the allegations has been proven in court. A statement of defence has not yet been filed.
The statement of claim says that on Oct. 19, 2020, Kimmel went into Dreeshen’s office, where she discovered him drinking alcohol with another chief of staff. The statement also notes Kimmel was previously in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Dreeshen prior to her role as chief of staff.
The pair in the office told Kimmel they were going to another legislative office for drinks, to which Kimmel said she would meet them there after she finished work.
Later that evening, the statement claims Kimmel met the pair at another minister’s office, where they had been joined by another minister, staffer and a former MLA.
“The plaintiff immediately observed that all the individuals were heavily intoxicated,” the statement of claim reads.
Kimmel was concerned about how intoxicated Dreeshen was and encouraged him to stop drinking, after which he “aggressively yelled at her to the point of where she was in tears and a concerned bystander intervened,” the statement alleges.
“I don’t object to members of the legislature socializing, having a social drink now and then — political life is a very social activity — but people should be mature and responsible,” Kenney said Friday.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said Friday that Dreeshen’s actions on social media after news media covered the lawsuit appeared to “mock” it.
“It showed me that they’re not taking this seriously and it showed that this is actually the culture of what the problem is,” Bratt said.
“It’s not just the drinking; it’s all this other behaviour. I tie it into the Sky Palace dinner with the Jameson and the earplugs in the legislature and putting up ‘I love Alberta oil’ at Greta Thunberg’s rally at the legislature.
“It’s just a pattern of behaviour.”
“These are not university students pretending to do politics; this is the government of Alberta,” Bratt said.
While he thinks Dreeshen could recover politically from this, Bratt says it’s a major blow.
“We don’t know if Dreeshen resigned on his own or if it was asked for. But this is a significant move.
“He represented a major department, he is from a prominent conservative political family, he is a fundraising star, he was seen as an up-and-coming member of the cabinet.”
— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News and Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED