MLA resigns as UCP Calgary caucus chair, calls on leadership to 'avoid the hypocrisy'

UCP MLA Richard Gotfried has stepped down as the party's Calgary caucus chair to allow himself to "speak unreservedly on matters of principle, ethics and government/caucus operations" and earn the trust of Albertans.

The Calgary-Fish Creek MLA also wrote a Facebook post Sunday calling on elected leaders to "show leadership, to act responsibly and to avoid the hypocrisy that makes a mockery of the tough decisions we have to make" when it comes to COVID-19 public health rules.

"None of us has been perfect, but as your elected representative, you rightly hold us to a high standard, or at minimum to the rules and regulations we set out for others," Gotfried wrote.

He did not specifically mention any particular incident or any person, but the post comes days after Premier Jason Kenney, three of his ministers and four other people dined on a rooftop patio, drawing criticism from some who say they broke the province's gathering rules and recommendations.

Two other members of Kenney's cabinet have criticized the premier's reluctance to apologize over the dinner. 

Rajan Sawhney and Leela Aheer, who are both Calgary-area MLAs, are taking Kenney to task for refusing to take responsibility for photos that appear to show him and other high-ranking UCP members and staff ignoring health rules while enjoying drinks and dinner on the penthouse patio of a building near the legislature grounds.

“All of us make mistakes, but this one is a big one, and I am truly sorry,” said Aheer in a Facebook post. “Our leadership should sincerely apologize.”

Last week, the premier refused to apologize for what a called a "business dinner" that was "fully rule compliant."

But that changed on Monday as Kenney apologized during a media availability on Monday, saying "we have to set a higher example."

"For the past 16 months, I have tried hard to observe the public health rules. I thought it's important for me to lead by example, but I have to admit, I haven't always done that perfectly. I can think of many cases where I've been within two metres of people and that I'm sure has been the case for the past 16 months for pretty much everybody in Alberta," Kenney said.

He later said he takes "full responsibility" for the meeting and apologized to Albertans.

Whether that move will be enough to quell growing anger and outrage in the province remains to be seen

"It's clear that he was apologizing because he was under pressure to do so from his caucus and from his cabinet and and presumably from the public as well," said Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

"And just as ... with the apology over MLAs traveling at Christmas time ... he didn't apologize when the issue first came up but rather he apologized later when it was clear that it was a political move to apologize, rather than something that could be presented as a sincere apology."

Another elected UCP member, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, also criticized Kenney for the patio meeting in an online post and called on him to further relax restaurant rules ahead of Stage 2.