EDITORS NOTE: Story updated at 1:54 pm MST with discussion of this story in the UCP Caucus
The UCP caucus is currently holding an emergency meeting to discuss a series of leaks, with several sensitive discussions finding their way to publication in the Western Standard in recent months. The leak of this story took place while the meeting to discuss the leaks is currently underway.
Two MLAs that spoke on condition of anonymity told the Western Standard Kenney called the emergency meeting with no formal agenda presented in advance, but the meeting is currently focused on finding and potentially punishing the sources.
A significant number of UCP MLAs have been unnamed sources in recent Western Standard news stories, including three MLAs who said Kenney – when discussing attendees of the rogue rodeo in Bowden – told them, “If they are our base, I want a new base.”
MLAs were told attendance at the hastily called meeting was “mandatory.”
At 1:52 pm MST, the Western Standard also learned that this news story is being discussed in the caucus meeting.
The drama started around midnight Thursday morning when Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership was dealt another serious blow as the first MLA in his own caucus called for him to step down.
Todd Loewen, UCP MLA for Central Peace-Notley in northwest Alberta, published a scathing letter around midnight in the first minutes of May 13, saying Kenney refuses to listen to the public and to caucus members, that his leadership has failed, and UCP supports have abandoned Kenney specifically.
Loewen used the letter to inform Kenney he was immediately stepping down as chairman of the UCP caucus.
The letter takes direct aim at Kenney’s caucus management, premiership, and leadership over the party.
“I no longer believe caucus can function properly; meetings have been cancelled without members’ consent, significant decisions of government have been made without notice to members, and our input as elected members is rarely considered,” wrote Loewen. “Additionally, I feel it is best to resign this position [caucus chairman] to be able to speak freely.
“The government’s response to a hostile federal government has been perceived as weak and ineffective. Albertans have lost trust in the leadership of our government and are no longer willing to extend to us any benefit of the doubt on most issues.”
Loewen’s remarks also took direct aim at Kenney’s personal leadership.
“The caucus dysfunction we are presently experiencing is a direct result of your leadership. The people of Alberta have lost trust in this government because you have not brought needed balance and reason to the discussion. Albertans and our UCP party members deserve better,” he wrote.
“I thank you for your service, but I am asking that you resign so that we can begin to put the province back together again.”
The letter comes as Kenney’s leadership is already on the ropes. More than a dozen UCP constituency associations have already passed special resolutions demanding a leadership review, however, Kenney poured cold water on the idea, pushing the vote to just six months before the next election.
Growing caucus tension also bubbled to the surface when 17 UCP MLAs signed an open letter condemning Kenney for putting Alberta back under a third lockdown. Kenney’s dismissal of the letter led to a series of leaks from the UCP caucus, with several MLAs telling the Western Standard the premier threatened them with an early election if they did not have confidence in his leadership.
Soon after the rogue rodeo in Bowden, Alta. to protest the third lockdown, UCP MLAs told the Western Standard Kenney said in reference to the attendees, ““If they are our base, I want a new base.”
Kenney denied the story as “fake news” and said that the comments were only referring to people making death threats against him, but UCP MLAs told the Western Standard Kenney was “lying.”
This story will be updated as the caucus meeting continues.
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard