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High Prairie to send letter to MLA Pat Rehn over alleged absenteeism

Embattled UCP MLA Pat Rehn is facing more censure over his alleged absence in the Lesser Slave Lake constituency since his election nearly two years ago. 

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Rehn was one of six UCP MLAs to holiday outside of Canada

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, was one of six UCP MLAs that travelled out of Canada during the holidays. (Facebook)

UCP MLA Pat Rehn is facing more censure over his alleged absence in the Lesser Slave Lake constituency since his election nearly two years ago. 

High Prairie town council voted unanimously last week to send a letter to Rehn addressing his lack of presence in the region. Mayor Brian Panasiuk and councillors will review a draft prepared by administration at their regular meeting Tuesday night. 

The letter comes one week after Slave Lake town council called for Rehn to resign in a scathing public missive that accused the rookie MLA of missing or arriving ill-prepared for meetings and placing his personal business interests over constituency work. 

Rehn has so far rebuffed calls for his resignation. Instead, it appears he has decided to reach out to local leaders to repair relationships. 

Panasiuk said Rehn has contacted members of High Prairie council. While High Prairie shares the same concerns as Slave Lake, he said council won't ask for Rehn's resignation.

"We are willing to keep working with him and hopefully we can have some better support in our region," Panasiuk said. 

"We didn't do performance management with him earlier. So we didn't feel that we should be going right to saying we're looking for him to resign." 

Critical comments 

The allegations levelled by Slave Lake town council have unleashed a wave of backlash against Rehn, who unseated NDP MLA and cabinet minister Danielle Larivee in the April 2019 election.

Rehn was one of six UCP MLAs who travelled outside of Canada over the holidays. As punishment, Premier Jason Kenney stripped him of his legislative committee positions.

Handmade signs critical of Rehn have popped up in High Prairie and Slave Lake. 

Recent postings on Rehn's Facebook account about construction on the new dialysis unit in High Prairie and support for health-care workers during the pandemic were met with criticism and calls for him to resign. 

Panasiuk confirms that he and the other members of council have heard from angry residents.

"Most of the people that we've talked to have not been happy with our MLA and some of them want us to call for his resignation," he said. "But, you know, we've made a decision that I think this would be better for our region at the time."

High Prairie isn't the only community considering sending a letter to Rehn. On Wednesday, Big Lakes County plans to discuss how to respond to Rehn during a closed session of council. 

Rehn has not responded to repeated attempts by CBC News to reach him for comment. The UCP caucus has not made him available for an interview. He did post a Facebook response last week but did not address many of the allegations in the Slave Lake letter. 

Members of Slave Lake council are starting to hear from Rehn. Mayor Tyler Warman said two councillors received messages on Monday, though he has yet to be contacted. 

Warman said his council has received lots of support for the letter. As for High Prairie's decision to take a different approach, he said each council needs to decide what they think is best for their community. 

"It's a big thing to call out your MLA," he said. 

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