The mayor of Slave Lake says the Alberta town is working around its member of the legislature to get things done for the community.
Tyler Warman says United Conservative MLA Pat Rehn has not reached out to town council since members released a public letter last week calling for him to resign for non-performance of duties.
Warman says senior provincial officials have called and are working with the town on priority issues, which include a multimillion-dollar housing project and new ambulance bays.
“Senior levels of the provincial government have reached out to see how they can help assist and move things along,” Warman said in an interview Tuesday.
“We’re just trying to get stuff done for our residents and for our region. If the province wants to work with us directly, perfect.”
Slave Lake and High Prairie are the main urban centres in the sprawling rural constituency of Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta. Both are criticizing Rehn
In Slave Lake’s letter, council accused him of not meeting with constituents, focusing more on his business interests, not showing up for meetings, and being ill-prepared when he does show up.
Warman said they had previously voiced those concerns directly to Rehn.
The mayor said the last straw was when Rehn was revealed to be among several UCP MLAs and one cabinet minister who vacationed in sunny international climes, despite the government urging Albertans to stay home and avoid family gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It was less about the Mexico trip and more about (the fact) we were fed up,” said Warman.
“The tipping point for us (with the Mexico trip) was to say, ‘OK, now we’ve got an MLA that is even less involved with the government. How is that helping us out?’”
Rehn’s constituency office declined to make him available for an interview. In a Facebook post last week, Rehn did not address specific concerns about his job performance, but said he is committed to the constituency and to serving its residents.
Premier Jason Kenney has stripped Rehn and other travelling MLAs of some legislature responsibilities. Grande Prairie’s Tracy Allard resigned as municipal affairs minister, but remains an MLA.
Warman said there is still a role for Rehn, but he must decide if he’s in or out.
Meanwhile, High Prairie’s town council was set to debate and vote Tuesday night on whether to send Rehn its own letter outlining similar grievances about his job performance.
Mayor Brian Panasiuk said the letter does not call for Rehn to quit, because council feels that would be unfair given they have not been as direct with Rehn about concerns.
Panasiuk said there are many pressing local issues, including a shortage of doctors and nurses, and getting good broadband connectivity.
He said Rehn has reached out to High Prairie council since the controversy erupted to say he had been working hard on their behalf behind the scenes and to promise to do better.
“(He said) he felt that he was meeting our concerns, bringing our concerns up to the party,” said Panasiuk.
“We just never heard it, didn’t know about it. Our residents have really felt he hasn’t been in our community and heard them directly either.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2021
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press