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Ousted UCP MLA Rehn blames clerical error for expenses confusion

A deep-dive into the expense claims of the Lesser Slave Lake MLA raised questions about where the MLA spent most of his time when the legislature was not in session, and their appropriateness.

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MLA Pat Rehn says it was all a clerical error.

A deep-dive into the expense claims of the Lesser Slave Lake MLA raised questions about where the MLA spent most of his time when the legislature was not in session, and their appropriateness.

The MLA billed for three meals a day in Edmonton for two full months – even when the legislature was not in session – despite representing a constituency in northern Alberta.

“It has come to my attention that an assistant of mine has made some errors in recording meal allowances, that I was not aware of. I apologize for this, and in the future I will make sure that I personally review all expense claims before they are submitted to the province to make sure that they are correct,” said Rehn in a Monday Facebook page entry.

” I WILL NOT be claiming any expense claims for meals in Edmonton for the entire year of 2021 as a sign of my sincere regret for this.

“I can assure my constituents and all Albertans that I try to keep public expenditures that are under my control as low as possible. In the fiscal year of 2019-2020, I had a budget of $153,222.05. At the end of the year in March 2020, I still had $41,686.22 remaining which I didn’t spend. This $41,686.22 went back to the Province to be used in other needed areas.”

On January 15, Premier Jason Kenney unilaterally expelled Rehn from the UCP Caucus saying he “has made no meaningful effort to be more present in his constituency or to properly represent his hard-working constituents” and “ignored” calls to be more present in Slave Lake.

The curious reason given made no mention of the expense issue, which had come into the hands of the Western Standard and other Alberta media outlets.

Rehn has said he maintains a home in the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.

Despite this, he claimed $1,245.50 in Edmonton per diems for every day – including weekends – for every day in April, despite the the legislature sitting for just 10 days that month.

Most rural MLAs return their homes on weekends, and per diems are only to be claimed when on business.

The Western Standard has repeatedly attempted to contact Rehn for comment or explanation. As of press time, no response has been received.

Rehn also claimed $1,930 every month for his housing allowance in Edmonton, something MLAs from outside the capital region are allowed in order to maintain a residence. Alternatively, MLAs may expense stays at a hotel.

While claiming a monthly housing allowance is usual for most MLAs, it is intended for the maintenance of a secondary Edmonton residence, and not a primary residence.

The frequency of per diem meal claims on days when the legislature is not sitting raises questions about where Rehn’s actual primary residence was.

The Slave Lake Town Council alleged in a public letter that Rehn did not reside in or near the constituency, and that he spent more of his time outside of the legislature in Texas.

The legislature does not release the location of MLA primary residencies for privacy reasons.

In his May, Rehn claimed every day for meals in Edmonton except on May 1, when he just claimed only breakfast, and May 3, claiming dinner.

Every other day that month, the MLA claimed breakfast, lunch and dinner in Edmonton, billing a total of $1,193.35. He also claimed the $1,930 non-resident housing benefit. The legislature only sat for 10 days in May.

In June, Rehn appeared to make three weekend trips outside Edmonton. The legislature sat for 16 days that month, with Rehn claiming full per diems for 23 full days in Edmonton.

The house rose for the summer break on July 23, after sitting for 12 days. But Rehn claimed full Edmonton meal allowed from July 24-31, even though business had wrapped up in the capital.

The only day in July Rehn didn’t claim full per diems Edmonton was on July 18, where he billed $29.95 for lunch in Wabasca.

In the wake of the Snowbird Scandal, the mayor and entire council of Slave Lake called on their MLA to resign in an open letter. The council alleges a litany of problems they have had with him.

The town, with a population of 6,500, 255 km northeast of Edmonton, made public a laundry list of complaints against Rehn, including missed meetings and failure to represent the area for economic development.

They claim Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, doesn’t even live in Alberta (or Canada), saying he resides in Texas.

“When Covid-19 began and the Canadian government said Canadians need to get home, you were in the United States. Since that time, you have made multiple trips abroad. In fact, right now, as our businesses suffer and many of our people aren’t working, you still aren’t here.,” said the letter signed by Mayor Tyler Warman and six other councilors.

In fact, the council claims the UCP government was aware of Rehn’s performance and have asked other MLAs to pick up his work.

“We have been told that your government has internally expressed its displeasure at your performance and have arranged for neighbouring MLA’s to check in to help make sure our Region is represented,” the letter reads.

“We seem to be making little to no progress in our Region in advocating for items that are a provincial responsibility. One of the factors that we believe is contributing heavily to this is the lack of engagement from you as our MLA.”

Pat Rehn’s public expense disclosure can be found on the Alberta Legislature’s website.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Moe calls Unified Grassroots founder

Following the Western Standard article on Ness’ appeal for an audience with the Saskatchewan premier, he gave her a call and talked for more than an hour.

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By LEE HARDING

Unified Grassroots founder Nadine Ness finally got a phone call from Premier Scott Moe, one week and 20,000 YouTube viewers after her online request` to talk.

In a subsequent video posted December 4 entitled simply A Message From Nadine Ness, President of Unified Grassroots, the retired RCMP officer said the premier called her the evening of December 3.

“I’m gonna give credit where it’s due. He did in fact call me last night and we spoke for quite a long period of time. I’m surprised he didn’t brush me off, to be honest. It was a good, productive talk. And I foresee there being more in the future,” Ness said in the video.

Ness said she would reveal more of the content of their conversation in a subsequent Unified Grassroots Facebook post, but told Western Standard the conversation was more than an hour.

“I suspected a lot of people in Saskatchewan felt the way I felt and felt the way a lot of people in our organization feel. And I have to admit, seeing the response of that video kind of confirm my suspicions, that we’re not alone, that the people of Saskatchewan have become really concerned with the direction this province is going with the Christmas holidays approaching,” Ness said in the video.

Ness read some mainstream media headlines where articles recommended households have their own vaccine mandates and gave suggestions for how people could tell their unvaccinated family members they weren’t welcome.

“There’s this big push that maybe you shouldn’t be inviting some of your family members over for Christmas, or maybe you should be telling them they’re unwelcome. I find that really concerning. Is this really we’re where we are right now? A year ago would you have thought that you’d be thinking and feeling the way you’re thinking and feeling right now?” Ness asked.

“It makes me wonder who has taught us to think and feel this way? I can’t help to think but think that mainstream media and news organization and Premier more I’m not not gonna let you off the hook with this one, but you play a big part in this as well.”

The Christmas season was a good time to come together, not split apart, Ness said.

“I highly encourage if you have alienated anyone from your family, maybe it’s a time to call and make amends and say I’m sorry. If we don’t do something now, we’re going to look at ourselves in the mirror a year from now and not recognize who we’ve become.”

Ness, who lives near Langham, Saskatchewan, said Unified Grassroots was hosting a “hamper food / winer clothes drive, along with some Christmas music” at an as yet undecided location on December 12.

“See, that’s the Saskatchewan that I know. The Saskatchewan that I know is the one that raises the most for Telemiracle. It’s the one when a farmer is sick, the entire community comes together and combines his field; the one where we’re if someone’s having a hard time in their family, you’ll get some meals sent to your home. People will bring you food,” said the former New Brunswick native.

“And that’s the Saskatchewan that I fell in love with and decided… to make my home. I really don’t want us to become something we’re going to regret…

“It’s time we recognize that there’s a lot of hurt going on. What if we changed our focus instead of COVID, if we changed it to loving one another or caring for one another? Maybe Maybe Saskatchewan would be a better place and start going in the right direction.”

Harding is a Western Standard contributor based in Saskatchewan

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News

Bernier given vote of confidence by PPC members

Bernier received the support of 95.6% of members.

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The leadership of Maxime Bernier in the People’s Party of Canada has been given an overwhelming show of support by members.

Party Executive Director, Daniel Tyrie, announced Saturday that with 15,454 votes cast and a voter participation rate of 57.5%, Bernier received the support of 95.6% of members, who had to answer Yes or No to the following question: Do you support Maxime Bernier remaining as Leader of the People’s Party of Canada? 

“I am extremely proud to know I have the support of the vast majority of our members. I believe this vote signals a strong unity within our party around the principles and policies that I have been defending since its founding,” said Bernier.

“We have grown so much over the last three years, but we’re just getting started. I have big plans for the PPC to prepare us for the 45th General Election and I am excited to get to work with this newfound mandate!” 

The leadership review was conducted online in partnership with third-party firm, SimplyVoting. The vote took place between November 12th and December 3rd. All PPC members with active membership by September 20th, 2021 (the date of the 44th General Election) were allowed to vote. Official results from SimplyVoting are available on their website at https://ppc.simplyvoting.com/index.php?mode=results&election=155777&language=en

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Sask Polytech ditches vax policy but burdens unvaxxed with testing costs

The Justice Centre is unsatisfied with the response of Sask Polytech and reiterated its intention to pursue legal action against the institution and against the University of Saskatchewan over its requirement for staff and students to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

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By LEE HARDING

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is unsatisfied with the decision of Saskatchewan Polytech to reverse its vaccination requirement for staff and students because the institute does not recognize natural immunity and imposes testing costs on the unvaccinated.

On November 19, the Justice Centre sent Sask Polytech and the University of Saskatchewan letters demanding they reverse their requirement that all staff and students be vaccinated by January 1, 2022. 

On December 1, Sask Polytech reversed its “vaccinated only” policy but now requires unvaccinated staff and students to comply with testing three times a week at their own expense. In a press release, the Justice Centre called this “unacceptable.”

“Such testing requirements for students are even greater than the Saskatchewan government’s requirements for employees of its ministries. Sask Poly has also failed to recognize the compelling scientific evidence of natural immunity for those who have already recovered from Covid-19 and have proof of antibodies,” reads a JCCF press release on Saturday.

“Testing costs, which could exceed $200 per week, mean that only the wealthy and privileged can bear the burden,” stated Andre Memauri, the Justice Centre’s Saskatoon-based lawyer.

“Sask Poly, which has chosen to impose discriminatory testing requirements for staff and students, has the ability to acquire these tests at wholesale cost.”

The Justice Centre said it would commence legal proceedings against Sask Poly in the Court of Queen’s Bench unless Sask Poly immediately absorbs the testing costs and recognizes natural immunity. 

On October 28, the U of S and Sask Polytech announced mandatory vaccinations for all students, staff and faculty, removing the alternative of twice weekly testing which had been in place since the start of the school year. The Justice Centre will also commence legal action against the U of S for refusing unvaccinated students. 

On November 26, Global News reported a 19-year-old student was hospitalized briefly with breathing problems after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The student’s mother, Michelle Marciniuk, publicly called for the university to reconsider its policy.

The U of S’ policy includes exemptions on medical and religious grounds in accordance with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. But according to the Justice Centre, the university usually rejects exemption requests or does not respond to them for several weeks. Besides this, the university has made itself the arbiter of faith considerations for religious exemptions. Medical exemptions have become a difficult document for patients to receive in Canada, due to regulatory pressure on physicians not to provide them based on their medical judgement except in very rare circumstances.

The U of S crowns itself for academic freedom, diversity, equality, human dignity and a healthy work and learning environment, yet it has harshly terminated faculty for speaking on the hallmark principle of informed consent for Covid-19 vaccination of children,” stated Andre Memauri, a U of S alum. 

“Now, the U of S seeks to exclude and villainize those who decide for various reasons not to be vaccinated…Without question, our community has been through a great deal of difficulty and it requires these institutions to lead as vessels of science not ideology…The Justice Centre demands both schools follow the science and adopt policies that bring students together in the most safe and lawful manner.”

The letters sent to both schools from the Justice Centre on November 19 warned that the schools are seeking to deprive students from education on the basis of vaccination status, contrary to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Sections 2(a), 7, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Harding is a Western Standard contributor based in Saskatchewan

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