Today, the United Conservative Party released results of its leadership review of Premier Jason Kenney who received a 51.4% endorsement from members. With 60,000 members, the party reported a 57.2% (34,298 votes) turnout among voters. With 51.4% of the vote, Kenney announced he will be stepping down as leader to allow the party to vote for who can unite them together.
During his remarks, Kenney talked about the importance of the party being united as they move forward. Later in his speech he spoke to what the UCP had accomplished under his leadership, such as balancing the budget and advocating for Alberta energy. He also spoke to his recent visit in Washington where he advocated to the U.S. Senate for a better partnership with Canada for Canadian energy.
In the coming days, the UCP will need to decide who their interim leader will be until the completion of a leadership race. It will be critical for the party to take this as an opportunity to unite and enter 2023 stronger as the various camps fight for leadership.
The leadership review was an oddity compared to any leadership review in the province’s history where there was an organized “NO” campaign within the party and declared candidates for leadership out in the open, a point Kenney and his advisors took pains to highlight.
The Premier has stated that he would step aside if he received less than 50% support from the membership of the party. With such tight margins, Kenney likely felt the continued internal battles of caucus would not be worth the fight and risk to party unity. This likely means the imminent start to a leadership race in the province for the members to select a new leader to bring the party into the 2023 election. This also eliminates almost all speculation about a fall general election campaign.
Kenney’s harshest critics have been arguing for weeks that Kenney should step aside with a mandate less than 80%, most prominently UCP Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean. Jean, who lost to Kenney in the 2017 leadership race, will now likely remain part of caucus and run for leadership of the party. Several other caucus members have been harsh critics of Kenney and called for his resignation in recent months. Danielle Smith is also likely to run for leader.
Jean’s camp lobbed several unproven allegations of wrongdoing when it comes to membership sales by Kenney’s leadership review campaign team before the vote cut off for the leadership review. These allegations will likely quiet with these results. The Canadian Press had previously reported that Elections Alberta is looking under the hood with the UCP to make sure everything was above board, but this may not move forward with the Premier’s resignation.
The UCP still have an uphill climb in the provincial horse race in several recently released public opinion polls. The NDP numbers benefit from a massive lead in Edmonton, but Calgary has tightened up significantly, with polls showing UCP has an edge. The government is likely to have an internal reset of its priorities to decide on the path to the next election and how to once again win the confidence of Albertans.