Edmonton

Alberta MLA kicked out of Tory caucus over health-spending spat

An Alberta Tory MLA and former provincial cabinet minister has been kicked out of the government caucus after he criticized funding delays for a long-term care facility in his constituency.
Guy Boutilier (right), seen with Premier Ed Stelmach, has been kicked out of the government caucus. ((Jason Scott/Canadian Press))

An Alberta Tory MLA and former provincial cabinet minister has been kicked out of the government caucus after he criticized funding delays for a long-term care facility in his constituency.

Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo member Guy Boutilier was asked to leave Friday evening after a meeting with Premier Ed Stelmach over his public complaints, spokesman Paul Stanway said.

"It was clear to the premier that the MLA is not prepared to support government policy," Stanway said Saturday.

"[Boutilier's] been removed from the Treasury Board and he's been told he's no longer welcome in the government caucus."

Reached by CBC News on Saturday, Boutilier said he was in shock over the decision.

"I'm obviously disappointed in the fact that he refused to meet and disallowed me to meet with our caucus, because I have done nothing wrong other than represent my constituents and important health matters in the province relative to senior citizens and health care as a whole," he said.

"I was doing my job as MLA and I obviously am surprised by the action he has taken."

Boutilier, who has been part of the Tory caucus for 12 years, said he hasn't ruled out running as an Independent.

Criticized construction delay

Last week, Boutilier spoke out against a government decision to delay building a long-term care facility in the oilsands boomtown of Fort McMurray that was approved 18 months ago. Health Minister Ron Liepert said the construction would be put off for four years.

Boutilier, who has held cabinet posts in both environment and international relations, said it doesn't make economic sense to put seniors in acute-care beds in hospitals.

He disputed Leipert's argument that Fort McMurray has a largely youthful population, and repeated his criticisms in emails to constituents, adding that Stelmach would be just as upset if the same thing had happened in his riding.

"To simply say that something is wrong is one thing," Stanway said. "But he went far beyond that."

Stanway said it's essential that all government members stay on side as the Tories attempt to steer Alberta through tough economic times.

"There is no pass for any individual MLA to opt out of the recession," he said.

"All decisions will be based on need and the best advice we can, not on the amount of political pressure an individual can bring to bear by making statements in the media."

No conditions have been set for Boutilier to be welcomed back, Stanway added: "That's up to him."

NDP raps expulsion

Boutilier's expulsion shows Tory MLAs aren't allowed to stand up for their constituents, NDP Leader Brian Mason said.

"Ed Stelmach is making an example out of Guy Boutilier to muzzle other Tory MLAs who are getting an earful from constituents about the chaos being caused by health care cuts," Mason said in a release. "This proves that if Tory MLAs stand up for their constituents they may be fired."

Stanway denied the charge.

"They can make whatever statements or representations they want if they feel that is in the best interests of their constituents," he said, "but they can't do that as a member of government if they're not prepared to abide by the approach that government is taking.

"If they want to opt out of that, they're going to have to do it as a private member."

With files from CBC News