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Michelle Rempel Garner challenges her conservative colleagues


OTTAWA — Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner withdrew from her bid for the leadership of the United Conservative Party of Alberta on Thursday, citing the inhospitable internal political environment she would inherit and the lack of time to address it.

But neither is the top deputy returning to an overly hospitable federal political environment.

The Star has learned that some of her fellow Tory MPs have repeatedly threatened to kick her out of caucus in recent months over her handling of everything from her advocacy for LGBTQ rights to campaigning for the leadership of the gone in progress.

In turn, she raised formal questions about why the conduct of MPs towards each other is not covered by workplace harassment laws and whether the law that allows MPs to expel the one of their caucus actually violates these laws.

And while the internal battle has become increasingly personal, it’s also a skirmish in the wider war over the future of the Tory party as it enters the final stages of a spinning leadership race. around a key question: in which direction do the conservatives really want to go?

Rempel Garner’s name has long been in the mix as a potential leader, of the federal or Alberta Conservative parties, thanks to a profile she’s gradually built on social media and elsewhere as a voice pushing for a movement. more inclusive Conservative – and more power for Alberta.

But although she has publicly considered Jobs in the past, she has always ended up walking away.

In the current federal leadership race, she became campaign co-chair for Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, citing her ability to make inroads in multicultural and multi-faith communities that the Conservatives have struggled to reach.

The move, however, was seen as a direct criticism of his main rival, Pierre Poilievre, a longtime caucus colleague of his who has the lion’s share of support from Tory MPs.

Some also saw a longer game – she would help Brown build grassroots support in Alberta that she could later exploit for her own bid to lead the province’s United Conservative Party.

Except that the opportunity for this offer presented itself more quickly than expected. After Alberta Premier Jason Kenney barely survived a leadership review last month, he announced he would step down as soon as a new leader was chosen. His announcement follows months of brutal infighting within the UCP over his leadership style and how he has governed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This prompted Rempel Garner to leave Brown – taking campaign staff with her – to focus on her prospects as UCP leader. Two other Tory MPs had also just withdrawn their support for Brown, leading to speculation whether his departure signaled a lack of confidence in the Brampton mayor’s prospects.

In a statement Thursday, Brown said he would not be returning Rempel Garner.

“The campaign has adjusted and reset following his departure and we have the team in place that will take us to September 10 and we are not going to be making any other formal changes to that,” he said. declared.

“But I’m glad we can continue to draw on his experience and insight as we move forward.”

In a lengthy essay outlining the reasons for her decision not to run for UCP leadership, Rempel Garner made no mention of the federal leadership race – but did allude to the toxic nature of the provincial and federal politics.

“On both sides, there have also been feuds that erupted on the pages of the national media, public meltdowns, near-missed physical fights, coups, defamation, leaked records and emails. confidentiality, a lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign from their roles, and hour-long meetings where members were subjected to hours of public punishment,” he said. she writes.

“There were heated exchanges to address core concerns, unwarranted insularity in decision-making, avoidance, exclusion cliques and more.”

This kind of workplace conduct crosses a line, she said.

“In virtually any other workplace, most of the things that happened would be treated as a violation of labor codes, but in politics it’s considered Human Resources 101,” she wrote.

This is not the first time she has made this comparison.

Earlier this month, Rempel Garner quietly put a question on the Order Paper, a House of Commons procedure that allows MPs to submit written questions for more detailed answers than they would get during Question Period. daily.

In it, she asked the government whether, during recent changes to labor laws to tighten regulations on workplace harassment, it had considered whether the reform law was potentially a breach.

The law, passed in 2014, gives MPs the right – if they choose – to vote for their own leader, as well as any member of their caucus.

In his question, Rempel Garner asked if an analysis had been done “to consider whether the processes used when enforcing any provision of the Reform Act 2014, in particular the provision regarding the expulsion of caucus members, could contradict the law, the House of Commons policy on harassment or any other federal or provincial law concerning harassment in the workplace.

The government is supposed to respond within 45 days.

The law was the tool used by Tory MPs to remove Erin O’Toole as party leader earlier this year, a process Rempel Garner disagreed with at the time. She said she thought party members should be able to decide whether O’Toole should stay or go – although she also came out in favor of keeping him.

Soon after, debate began over whether the Reform Act should be used to kick him out of the Conservative caucus.

In early May, 10 people were shot dead in Buffalo, New York, by a man who allegedly believed in a racist conspiracy theory that white people are being deliberately replaced with non-white people.

Rempel Garner was quick to denounce the so-called “white replacement theory,” and Brown did the same. But Brown went further, pointing out that one of the theory’s proponents in Canada was one of the leaders of the so-called “Freedom Convoy”, and criticized Poilievre for appearing to align himself with him.

Poilievre had condemned the racism that emerged during the convoy protests, although he also supported protesters’ broader call for an end to COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Rempel Garner then wrote an op-ed in the National Post warning that more must be done to combat the racist theories that permeate Canadian politics.

“This is especially true for leaders of right-wing political movements where this sentiment may be more prevalent, and the temptation to internalize it for political gain is greater,” she wrote.

“Promoting her or keeping her quiet when she performs in the ranks is the same thing.”

On the same day, she denounced a racist email sent by a Poilievre supporter to the Brown campaign.

Within the Tory caucus, where Poilievre enjoys broad support, his actions were interpreted as effectively labeling him and other MPs a racist, multiple sources told The Star – and it was seen as going too far .

Efforts to find the minimum number of MPs required to trigger a vote on law reform have accelerated – and Rempel Garner has been told.

She did not respond to the Star’s repeated requests for comment.

While the heat applied by the leadership campaign may have been the catalyst, Rempel Garner had a rough run in caucus for years.

His call for more independence for Alberta in the so-called “Buffalo Declaration” without having full caucus buy-in, his defense of a surprise motion to pass a bill banning the practice of forcing people who question their gender or sexuality into therapy, and his butts with COVID-19 skeptics in the caucus have all been sources of tension for months. She has also been criticized for spending the first months of the pandemic shutdowns with her husband and family in Oklahoma, not her precinct.

After being forced from the party benches when O’Toole was ousted, she was refused a place on a committee of MPs to examine national security issues.

Overall, “people are just done” with Rempel Garner, a longtime Tory MP told The Star, who granted anonymity to discuss confidential caucus discussions.

It remains to be seen whether there are enough of them to resume a discussion on the reform law.

For her part, Rempel Garner said she intends to continue her work representing the citizens of Calgary Nose Hill.

“I love what I do, despite the party’s internal ups and downs in recent years and whatever happens in the future,” she wrote.

“I will serve as long as I continue to earn the trust of my community, and to be very clear, I am not going anywhere and intend to re-offer as an MP.”

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