Two members of the United Conservative Party caucus have severed ties with a national coalition calling for an end to COVID-19 public-health measures, after one of the group’s founders compared restrictions to Nazi Germany.
Angela Pitt, MLA for Airdrie East and deputy speaker of the house, and Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, quit the End the Lockdown Caucus after Ontario MPP Randy Hillier posted a photo of Adolf Hitler on Twitter, likening Ontario’s month-long shutdown of the province in response to a third wave of COVID-19 to the Third Reich.
“Given a recent tweet by the founder of this group, Randy Hillier, we can no longer be affiliated with someone who trivializes the horrific history of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany,” Pitt wrote in a letter, co-signed by Barnes, sent to the group on Friday.
“It is fair to debate decisions made during the pandemic. But comparing the actions of democratically elected governments today to a regime that deliberately murdered millions of innocents is truly beyond the pale.”
Pitt and Barnes signed on to the coalition in February, criticizing their party’s continued restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Hillier is one of the founding members of the End the Lockdown Caucus, alongside firebrand conservatives including Derek Sloan, an Ontario MP and former conservative leadership candidate, and Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada.
After being ejected from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus in 2019, Hillier has publicly criticized his government’s COVID-19 measures and defied public-health orders.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called Hillier’s tweet “vile,” saying while there is room for debate on how to best handle the pandemic, the invocation of Hitler was unacceptable.
“Equating the public health measures of democratically elected & accountable governments to the genocidal antisemitism of the Nazi Third Reich is odious. And bonkers,” Kenney said on Twitter.
Despite her departure from the End the Lockdowns group, Pitt wrote that she and Barnes would continue to represent their constituents by speaking out against COVID-19 lockdowns on behalf of businesses such as gyms and dance studios.
“We will continue to stand against lockdowns and are grateful that Alberta has never experienced a full lockdown. We still stand for open, honest debate around COVID-19 restrictions,” Pitt wrote in the letter, provided to Postmedia by the UCP Caucus.
Kenney has defended the decision by Pitt and Barnes to join the group, saying he supports the rights of his caucus members to “speak their minds.”
Though Alberta has introduced sharp restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 on multiple occasions, the province has never entered a lockdown or enacted curfews or stay-at-home orders.
Pitt and Barnes asked for their names to be removed from the End the Lockdown Caucus website and promotion material. As of Friday evening, the pair were still listed online as members of the coalition.