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Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.

To say that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has not had a good year would be a wild understatement.

He has faced internal dissent among his United Conservative Party caucus and cabinet over COVID-19 restrictions essentially since the beginning of the pandemic. He started 2021 struggling to contain public outrage after a long list of caucus members went on international Christmas vacations despite travel advisories to stay home.

His caucus forced two MLAs out of the party to sit as independents in May after openly challenging the premier. More recently, he has had pressure from his own party to resign or face a leadership review, now scheduled for the spring.

And he has been under fire for his government’s handling of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic after cases and hospital admissions spiralled out of control and forced much of the health care system to shut down. Mr. Kenney lifted all restrictions over the summer and – prematurely, as it turns out – declared Alberta “open for good” as he and his staff mocked anyone who suggested otherwise.

The pile-on of bad news continued last week, when a lawsuit filed by a former UCP political staffer surfaced that alleged a “poisoned” work environment and accused the premier’s office of failing to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously. Also included in the lawsuit were allegations related to Devin Dreeshen, who until Friday was Mr. Kenney’s agriculture minister. (The sexual-harassment allegations did not involve the agriculture minister.)

Mr. Dreeshen resigned following a report by the CBC that cited unidentified staff describing a booze-filled atmosphere in his office, including code words to prevent others from walking into his office once the alcohol started flowing. Mr. Dreeshen said he was resigning to focus on his personal health as he acknowledged that his “personal conduct with regards to alcohol has become an issue for the government as a whole.”

Mr. Kenney accepted Mr. Dreeshen’s resignation, though he also made it clear that he doesn’t think drinking at the legislature is off limits – as long as people don’t go overboard. The premier said politics is a “social activity” and he acknowledged that he also has had a drink or two in Mr. Dreeshen’s office.

“But people should be mature and responsible in terms of consuming alcohol, especially in any kind of a workplace environment,” he said.

While Mr. Dreeshen is no longer in cabinet, he remains an MLA in the UCP caucus.

The turmoil comes just two weeks before the party’s annual meeting, in which Mr. Kenney will face a party that appears divided over his future as leader and premier. He recently quelled a rebellion by agreeing to a leadership review this spring, although some party members want him to step aside now.

Brian Jean, the former leader of the now-defunct Wildrose Party and Mr. Kenney’s main rival in 2017 to lead the United Conservative Party, announced this week that he is seeking the UCP nomination for the by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. The seat opened up when Laila Goodridge left provincial politics and successfully ran as a Conservative candidate in the federal election.

Mr. Kenney said he would approve Mr. Jean’s candidacy if he secured the nomination, but he reminded UCP members that the former Wildrose leader recently mused about leading other parties. He also questioned his “reliability,” given that he did not finish his terms as an MP or MLA.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.