NDP MLA kicked out of caucus after accusing party leadership of bullying

By Catherine Griwkowsky November 6, 2018

Calgary—East MLA Robyn Luff has been booted from the NDP caucus after releasing a letter saying she would no longer sit in the House in protest of the centralization of power in the premier’s office.

Luff said she has been unable to properly represent her constituents thanks to the scripted questions foisted upon her and other backbenchers by the NDP party brass.

“Under Rachel Notley’s leadership, every power that MLA’s are supposed to have to be able to represent their constituents in the legislature has been taken away or denied from the start,” Luff wrote in an open letter released Monday. “MLA’s must vote at the direction of the leader at all times. Questions from private members are written by ministries and given to them to ask.”

“I cannot, for my own health, continue to be intimidated,” Luff wrote in her letter, while alleging the premier’s office used intimidation tactics, such as threatening to not sign an MLA’s nomination papers, if they do not fall in line.

Luff began her protest on October 29, when the fall session began, and said she wouldn’t return to the Legislature until a resolution is passed to address her concerns — by Monday evening she had been removed from caucus.

After releasing the letter, Luff took to Twitter, challenging NDP House Leader Brian Mason to acknowledge she had a member statement rejected in 2017.

“To help him decide, tomorrow I will be releasing the statement I wrote that was deemed “inappropriate” for the legislature, along with the email I was sent that suggested edits. I didn’t edit it to their liking, so it was rejected,” Luff wrote.

Late Monday evening, the NDP sent out a statement saying they had removed Luff from caucus.

“Owing to Ms. Luff’s actions, NDP MLAs have lost confidence in her ability to participate as a productive and trustworthy member of government caucus,” the statement said. The statement misspelled Luff’s first name as “Robin.”

Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson — who crossed the floor from the NDP in October last year — commended Luff’s courage and said she relates to the position she is in. McPherson told reporters a central reason for her floor-crossing was that she felt she couldn’t properly represent her constituents as a member of the NDP, in a large part because of the pre-written questions she was required to ask, especially in committee.

Earlier in the day, NDP House Leader Brian Mason told reporters the premier’s office recently met with Luff to address her concerns. “Everybody in a caucus, especially a large caucus, is frustrated from time to time,” Mason said, but he called the characterization of bullying unfair.

UCP House Leader Jason Nixon called Luff’s letter “extremely alarming” and said her dissent is the result of the NDP whipping its caucus — unlike the UCP’s grassroots approach.

During the last spring session, the UCP was accused of whipping its caucus when MLAs walked out of the House during votes and debate of Bill 9, which created protection zones around abortion clinics.