February 21st, 2024

Barnes could decide future plans soon regarding UCP

By COLLIN GALLANT on November 12, 2022.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, left, listens to a presentation by new premier and Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA-elect Danielle Smith on Wednesday, along with MP Glen Motz at the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce Leadership Breakfast.--News photo Collin Gallant

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Brooks-Medicine Hat has a new MLA, but political intrigue has shifted to the man who represents the south end of the city and Cypress County.

Drew Barnes, the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, has sat as an independent since 2021, but with shifts inside the United Conservative Party, the question of many voters is whether a return to the UCP is in the future.

He said more time is needed, but an answer could come soon when he was asked directly on Wednesday during a panel in Medicine Hat that also featured Premier and party leader Danielle Smith, who was elected as the Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA the night before.

“I’ve had a great opportunity to speak freely and speak about what Cypress-Medicine Hatters have told me is most important,” he said. “I’ve offered my services to the Smith government, and maybe there will be a meaningful role.”

During his presentation to the Medicine Hat Chamber-sponsored event, Barnes called on the government to eliminate the small business tax and return to a flat tax system – longstanding positions of the three-term MLA.

“I’m hoping the Smith government will do something meaningful about cutting your taxes.”

Smith, who didn’t address Barnes’s situation, laid out her hopes to tackle affordability issues when the legislature returns later this month.

Smith told the News on Oct. 18 that Barnes is free to choose whether he will seek the nomination – all ridings, including those with sitting MLAs, are open to nomination challenges under party rules – and the party must get candidates in place with an election seven months away.

A local nomination committee has been formed by the riding association.

“I’m looking seriously at running as an independent,” said Barnes, adding that his constituents are likely split as well. “I’ll be determining this over the next few days.”

Another former independent MLA, Todd Loewen, who like Barnes was removed by a caucus vote for criticizing cabinet and then-leader Jason Kenney, rejoined caucus after his leadership bid and this month was made minister of Parks and Protected Places.

In Cypress-Medicine Hat, local retired teacher Tim Gruber has publicly announced he will seek the nomination for the Alberta New Democratic Party. No date is set for that process, but party officials confirmed to the News this week, more than one qualified candidate will seek to run in the riding and a meeting and vote for party members will be scheduled now that the byelection in the neighbouring riding is complete.

The Green Party has named Dustin Cartwright as its candidate in Cypress-Medicine Hat, which comprises all areas of Medicine Hat south of Third Street downtown and Gershaw Drive, as well as Cypress County south of Township Road 132 east of the city and the South Saskatchewan River west of city limits.

Smith has said she intends to defend the Brooks-Medicine Hat seat in the next election and that she plans to stick with a set election date in May 2023.

Gwendoline Dirk, who placed second this week representing the NDP, will be the party’s candidate in 2023 in the riding.

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