A meeting of United Conservative Party constituency association (CA) presidents agreed unanimously to press for an early leadership review of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, multiple sources tell the Western Standard.
On September 13, a regularly scheduled virtual meeting of the CA presidents was held with approximately 32 participants, according to several of the presidents who spoke with the Western Standard on condition of anonymity.
According to the sources, the presidents at the meeting agreed to commence the process of passing a special resolution at their local constituency association boards to initiate a leadership review no later than March 2022.
“Nearly all of them supported the motion for an early leadership review,” one of the sources said. “None of them explicitly spoke against it, and I believe that all of them are onboard right now.”
Another CA president told the Western Standard at the conclusion of the discussion “the individual chairing the meeting asked ‘Is there anyone opposed to an early leadership review prior to March 1?’ And nobody spoke up. It was unanimous.”
Facing a membership revolt earlier in the year, the party’s board announced in March Kenney would only face a leadership review in late 2022, just months before the legislated, fixed election period. Political observers at the time said it was a strategic move to improve Kenney’s chances of surviving the vote.
“The AGM of 2022 is way too late,” said one of the presidents. “We have to act now”.
One source said they recall the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president saying “My board will have no trouble passing this.”
A Western Standard exclusive on September 17 reported the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills constituency association passed the resolution for an early leadership review by a vote of 27-1.
One source who spoke to the Western Standard said: “Some expressed concern we weren’t being told the truth about the previous motion’s passed for an earlier leadership review. We know there had been more than five [CAs] that had passed the earlier motion and sent it in [to the central board.] So we discussed that we would send the new motions to the provincial board and at least two other CAs to ensure they could not lie about what motions they had received.”
The UCP has not answered previous questions from media as to how many constituency associations had passed the first round of leadership review resolutions.
“Many CA presidents who were strongly opposed to an earlier review as recently as the early summer had come around to now back the motion,” said one of the presidents who spoke with the Western Standard.
Another president said “A number of CAs on the call still support Premier Kenney, but were concerned that the push for a leadership review had reached a fever pitch and that it was becoming such a huge distraction from government, and that it was better to just get it over with.”
“I wouldn’t know the breakdown [of those still supportive of the premier], because we didn’t get into that”.
In an exclusive interview with the Western Standard on September 17, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president Robert Smith said, “In talking to people, mainly rural people, it’s fair to say we have no confidence in the premier.”
While the letter was sent on the heels of controversial new COVID-19 lockdown restrictions introduced by Kenney—including the imposition of a vaccine passport—Smith stressed the letter wasn’t as a result of that, but had instead been brewing for months.
But he said those restrictions could help the momentum to reach the mark of 22 ridings needed to spark a leadership review.
Smith said he gets a sense in talking to other constituency association leaders “critical mass of 22 ridings could have been reached now.
“I feel confident in saying that target can now be met. I’m surprised it hasn’t been met before,” he said.
One of the biggest concerns for the board was when the infamous pictures were published of Kenney holding an outdoor dinner on the balcony of the “Sky Palace” in contravention of the government’s own laws, regulations, and guidelines.
“The entitlement and the double standard incensed the board,” said Smith, adding his board members were also disturbed by the government’s handling of the new curriculum for schools.
In another exclusive story, the Western Standard reported on September 18 the province-wide vice-president (policy) of the UCP sent an e-mail requesting an emergency meeting of the party’s central board to discuss an early leadership review.
Joel Mullan e-mailed the party’s board of directors at 8:33 pm MST September 17, under the subject line “Leadership review—request for meeting.”
“In light of events this past week, I believe we should meet and therefore request a meeting,” wrote Mullan, vice-president (policy) of the UCP.
“Specifically, I think we need to carefully consider the option of initiating a leadership review. I believe the future of our party may be at stake.”
The Western Standard spoke to a member of the party’s board of directors who received the e-mail who said—on condition of anonymity—a timely review of Kenney’s leadership has “become inevitable.”
Even earlier this week there were signs of dissension within the UCP Caucus.
During a tense meeting of caucus on September 15, three MLAs told Kenney they had “no confidence” in his continued premiership of the province and leadership of the party, multiple sources told the Western Standard.
Sources inside of the caucus told the Western Standard the emergency meeting saw sharp polarization around the issues of putting the province under another lockdown, a potential mandatory vaccine passport, and firing healthcare workers who did not agree to be vaccinated.
According to the MLAs who attended the caucus meeting, three MLAs openly told Kenney they had “no confidence” in him, and several others implied as much using softer language.
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