2 'fair deal' panel members at loggerheads after report's release

One day after the province's so-called "fair deal" panel released its 68-page report, two panel members found themselves at odds on a Calgary radio show.

Panel's 25 recommendations were released to the public on Wednesday

Fair deal panel member Donna Kennedy-Glans criticized UCP MLA Drew Barnes on Thursday for his comments suggesting the panel's report didn't go far enough. (Bill Graveland/Canadian Press/CBC)

One day after the province's so-called "fair deal" panel released its 68-page report, two panel members found themselves at odds on a Calgary radio show.

The panel report, released Wednesday, called for 25 recommendations after months of gathering survey responses and hosting town halls across the province. Technical studies are now expected to explore the merits of measures like establishing a provincial police force and provincial pension plan.

But in an open letter released Wednesday, UCP Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, a panel member, called for the province to go further than what had been recommended. He doubled down on that demand Thursday on the CBC call-in show Alberta at Noon.

"I thought, first of all, that the report didn't grab the tone of the despair, of the desire to fix the relationship with Canada," Barnes said. "The desire for consequences if the rest of Canada won't let Alberta be freer, richer."

In his letter, Barnes called for a number of additional recommendations, such as urging Alberta to adopt a provincial constitution and to hold a referendum on equalization in six months.

But his comments and that letter didn't sit well with fellow panellist and former Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, who called into the show after Barnes made his comments and left the discussion.

She said that she was calling in to ask Barnes a question.

"Drew, I guess we would ask you, was it not your understanding that every single member of the panel agreed to this report? It was a consensus report," Kennedy-Glans said. "That was my understanding, and I believe that to be the understanding of every single one of us.

"If it was your understanding, then you felt comfortable writing an independent report after the fact. I really have concerns about what that means for the ability of MLAs in the future to contribute to panels like this."

Dissenting opinion

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said he was "quite taken aback" when he heard Kennedy-Glans's comments, adding that he had seen Barnes's dissenting letter but was unaware that the rest of the panel didn't know it was coming.

"There's been a lot of discussion over the last year or so about what Drew Barnes's motivation is," Bratt said. "You read his letter, and it would not surprise me if, you know, he was to leave the party and join one of those western separatist parties, because there's a lot of separatist stuff that he's been promoting."

Political science professor Duane Bratt says he was 'stunned' to hear Donna Kennedy-Glans's comments chastising fellow panel member Drew Barnes on Thursday. (Bryan Labby/CBC )

In his letter, Barnes said that should certain proposals be rejected, then Albertans should be given the opportunity to vote on their independence.

"While I appreciate that my colleagues on the panel do not believe that Alberta can or should raise the prospect of independence under any circumstance, I must respectfully disagree," Barnes wrote, identifying himself without party distinction as an MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat. 

"A free people must be willing to, at some point of injustice without rectification, to draw a line and make a stand."

The government released a response to the fair deal panel report on Wednesday, mapping out what work is underway, what is agreed to and what requires additional study.

With files from Alberta at Noon, Lucie Edwardson and Janet French


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