EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley defended her government in the legislature Tuesday after an NDP backbencher broke ranks to complain of coercion and abuse.
“I’m obviously very disappointed with the decision that was taken by (Robyn Luff,)” Notley said during question period. “But let me also say how proud I am of the team that sits with me here on this side of the house.
“They act with integrity and they know that the hard work of change sometimes comes with good days and bad days, and hard days and easy days.”
NDP caucus members voted on Monday night to expel Luff after she announced she would not sit in the house until Notley addressed what Luff called a “culture of fear and intimidation.”
In a public statement, Luff said backbenchers are harnessed to a yoke of message control so domineering and pervasive, they can’t do their job representing the concerns of constituents.
Crossing those in power means being punished by losing committee assignments and opportunities to speak in the house, she said.
On Tuesday, Luff also said caucus members were given direction on sensitive topics.
“We were told that if we had any information on opposition members who had behaved inappropriately towards women that it was best not to go public with it, because our party wasn’t completely without fault on the matter,” she said without elaborating.
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman said the NDP caucus stands with women, does not countenance harassment and is not hiding any allegations of impropriety.
Luff, a first-term member for Calgary East, could not be reached for an interview.
The government caucus issued a written statement on Monday that included the parting indignity of misspelling her first name as “Robin.”
“We had conversations about the allegations that she made,” Graham Sucha, a Calgary NDP backbencher, said Tuesday. “(We) recognized in a consensus that they were unfounded, and we didn’t like the path that she took to try to address this.
Luff said her expulsion validates her earlier accusations of a bullying culture under Notley. “The greatest blow of all is to be told that my fellow NDP colleagues have voted me out, and they are all complicit, every one of them,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Alberta Party house leader Greg Clark accused Notley of calling out bullying as a policy while allowing it to happen within her ranks.
“How can Albertans or those who work in the public service have faith in the anti-bullying policies that are in place when your own government doesn’t seem to play by the same rules?” Clark asked in the legislature.
Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Opposition, said it’s something he will leave to the NDP.
“Obviously that one member has some serious grievances – sorry to hear that,” he said. “On the other hand, her caucus unanimously asked her to leave. I don’t have a crystal ball to know what’s going on in that caucus.”
Last year, Calgary backbencher Karen McPherson quit the NDP caucus and now sits with the Alberta Party. She said this week that the concerns outlined by Luff mirror her experiences, which caused her to leave.
Luff said she will not be joining another party and won’t run again in the spring election.
“My children have made it abundantly clear that they would prefer to have more of my attention, and I intend to honour that.”