Posted on Jan 29, 2021


EDMONTON - Premier Jason Kenney must fire Drew Barnes from the United Conservative Party Government Caucus after the Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA used a media interview to spread a dangerous conspiracy theory about Alberta’s COVID-19 tests and also said it was “debatable” whether masks help prevent spread.

In a video interview with the Western Standard on Thursday, Barnes praised the testing system in Florida, and said “of course, we’re hearing here that our tests may be 50 per cent ineffective.”

In fact, Alberta’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are close to 100 per cent accurate, and quarantining people after a positive PCR test result is the foundation of COVID response in Alberta, across Canada, and around the world.

“It’s time for Kenney to back up his big talk with real action,” said Sarah Hoffman, Deputy NDP Leader. “By his own admission, his vacationing staff and MLAs harmed Alberta’s public health efforts. And now, yet another UCP MLA is undermining public safety by spreading false information. 

“More than 1,600 Albertans have been killed by COVID-19. Albertans have made incredible sacrifices to keep each other safe. For Drew Barnes to suggest this has all been some kind of hoax is deplorable. This is a leadership test moment for Jason Kenney. He must remove Barnes from the government caucus: full stop.”

Kenney himself has attempted to quash this conspiracy theory and told a Facebook Live questioner on January 6 that PCR testing was the “overwhelming scientific consensus,” and noted that the ratio of new cases detected by PCR tests to eventual hospitalizations has remained steady over the past year.

In his Thursday interview, Barnes also gave credit to Albertans for wearing masks despite it being, according to him, “debatable about the effectiveness.”

“Drew Barnes is putting Albertans in real danger when he suggests that people can disregard the results of their COVID-19 test and that masks may not work,” said David Shepherd, NDP Critic for Health. “It’s unacceptable for an elected official to spread conspiracy theories and lies, especially when there are fears that the new, highly contagious COVID-19 variant strains will spread in our community.

“I cannot stress enough that this kind of misinformation puts the lives of Albertans at risk. It cannot be tolerated.”

Barnes isn’t the first UCP MLA to be caught spreading misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shane Getson told a September town hall audience he had heard testing numbers were being exaggerated, and questioned the effectiveness of masks. Miranda Rosin published a constituency newsletter in November that claimed “the worst of the COVID-19 health pandemic is behind us” and Associate Minister Jason Luan told his constituents the government’s plan was to push the healthcare system “to the limit,” before retracting his comments and apologizing days later.

After the “Aloha-gate” international travel scandal that led to the resignation or demotion of five MLAs, a cabinet minister, and the premier’s own chief of staff, Kenney promised Albertans he would insist on “a culture of discipline” within the UCP Caucus in order to “rebuild public trust.” 

“Now is the time for the premier to show Albertans that he meant it,” Hoffman said.