A UCP member of Premier Jason Kenney’s Fair Deal panel is calling for all communication between his office and panel members to be released to the public. The Western Standard revealed Thursday, a Freedom of Information request for all communications came back with 138 redacted pages.

The redacted pages came in response to a formal request from independence activist C.W. Alexander.

While the request came back with email template thank-you letters from Kenney to panel members, other, more in-depth pages were completely blacked out. The government cited “cabinet confidentiality” as its grounds for the mass redaction.

But Friday, rebel MLA Drew Barnes call for all pages to be publicly released.

“We have politicians and bureaucrats hiding behind FOIP requests,” said Barnes, refusing to speculate what may be in the redacted pages.

Barnes said the Wildrose party in 2012 tried to bring in a bill that would have reversed the onus on government secrecy.

“If a government wanted something kept secret, they would have to go to the privacy commissioner to make the case why it should be,” Barnes said in an interview with the Western Standard.

Barnes himself tried to bring in a private member’s bill that would see each MLA receive two free FOIPs but that bill was defeated on second reading.

“Not only in this case, but every case, it’s time for Albertans to be able to get the information they want,” said Barnes.

This is just the latest run-in Barnes has had with Kenney and his government.

One came on the heels of a dissenting report from Barnes, who was a member of the premier’s Fair Deal Panel. That dissenting report included calling for an independence vote if Alberta was unable to secure a fair deal within confederation, prompting the NDP to demand that Barnes be thrown out of the UCP Caucus.

Alexander requested “all emails, letters, notes and/or memorandum to or from the Premier of Alberta, and the Deputy Ministers of Executive Council to and from the members of the Alberta Fair Deal Panel from Nov. 1, 2019 to June 14, 2020.”

Government FOIP Coordinator Suzanne Sutherland replied: “Executive Council has decided to grant you access to part of the records you requested. The records contain some information that was withheld from disclosure in accordance with proper FOIP procedures.”

The released papers only include a letter from panel chair Oryssia Lennie to Kenney on May 5, informing him the panel’s report was finished, and thank-you letters.

But more than 138 other pages were blacked out entirely.

The Fair Deal Panel was established and commissioned by Premier Jason Kenney in November 2019 to look at ways Alberta could get a better deal within confederation.

The panel conducted the bulk of its public hearings and received the most input from experts and interest groups during the months of December, January and early February.

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