Jason Kenney-UCP Leadership Convention

Jason Kenney at the UCP Leadership Convention, October 2017 (photo credit: CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told a closed-door UCP caucus meeting on Sunday “I want a new base” as he slammed the rogue anti-lockdown rodeo in Bowden, the Western Standard has learned

Kenney used the Sunday virtual caucus meeting to rail against the ‘No More Lockdowns Rodeo’, which attracted approximately 4,000-5,000 attendees over the weekend.

Three UCP MLAs, who spoke to the Western Standard on the condition of anonymity, said another MLA spoke up and reminded Kenney that the people who went to the rodeo werethe “base” of the UCP’s support.

“If they are our base, I want a new base,” Kenney told the meeting, according to the three MLAs.

One of the MLAs speaking to the Western Standard said that it was “unbecoming” of the leader who united the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties into their “promised, big blue tent”.

A poll last month showed a stunning 75% of Albertans are opposed to Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including much of the UCP’s voter base opposed to continued lockdowns. The premier has been fighting a caucus revolt against the lockdowns, and a growing movement from rank-and-file members to force an early leadership review.

Last April, Kenney had the support of 80% of Albertans in his handling of COVID-19.

Another UCP MLA told the Western Standard “Kenney believes only a small minority of Albertans take issue with this [lockdowns and other restrictions]”.

On social media on Sunday, Kenney called the rodeo “disturbing.”

“It is disturbing to see large numbers of people gathering this weekend at Bowden in flagrant violation of COVID-19 public health measures,” Kenney said on his Facebook page.

“We are all sick of this. We all want it to end. Thousands of Albertans are following the rules, sacrificing travel and social gatherings to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Not only are gatherings like this a threat to public health, they are a slap in the face to everybody who is observing the rules to keep themselves and their fellow Albertans safe.

“On a personal note, I’m angered and saddened to see so many people selfishly put themselves ahead of others. Rodeo celebrates Alberta’s Western heritage, a key part of which is our community spirit and looking out for others, especially the vulnerable. That’s the opposite of what these folks are doing.”

On Monday, Kenney said that tougher lockdowns and restrictions were coming, driven by Albertans not complying with existing orders.

According to polls, Kenney’s UCP has already begun to see its base shedding support to the Wildrose Independence Party, founded as a merger of the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta in June of 2020.

UCP fundraising numbers have also fallen off a cliff, raising just $521,589,86 in the first quarter, half that of the NDP.

The rodeo in Bowden quickly became a flashpoint in Alberta, with progressive media personalities and both NDP and UCP politicians condemning it as large segments of the UCP base rallied to it.

The organizer of the rodeo, Ty Northcott comes from a historic rodeo family and opened up his own livestock ranch in the late ’80s.

But the three Alberta COVID-19 lockdowns have hit his business hard, leaving him with only 50% of his normal stock because the costs of wintering and feeding them depleted his bank account.

He decided to hold the rodeo as a protest to the Kenney government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Northcott, on Sunday afternoon, told the crowd the event was such as success he will hold another one July 1.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief

Dave Naylor is News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief of the Western Standard based in the Calgary Headquarters. He served as City Editor of the Calgary Sun & covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years.

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