Premier Jason Kenney has announced his intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party after receiving a slim majority of support from UCP members.
“Friends, while 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of the majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader and that is why tonight I have informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party,” an emotional Kenney said this evening, while people gasped in the background.
On May 18, the UCP held a special general meeting to reveal results from the leadership vote. The event was live-streamed and showed Kenney had received 51.4 per cent support from the people who had voted in the review.
Kenney was clearly disappointed with the results as he spoke about the numbers while he was live-streamed from Calgary.
“The result is not what I hoped for or, frankly, what I expected,” he said.
Kenney said he has made it clear he would respect the decision of the members in the leadership review, and he also said he expected all members to do the same, but he said he believes the party needs to move forward united.
“We need to put the past behind us and our members — a large number of our members — have asked for an opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election. And I've recommended therefore that the provincial board schedule a leadership election in a timely fashion,” he said.
The leadership review kicked off on April 9. The review was initially slated to take place in Red Deer for an in-person vote. However, due to a near doubling in membership in response to the vote, the party decided to move to a mail-in ballot.
Eligible members were mailed their ballots and had until May 11 to return ballot envelopes to the auditor for the UCP.
Cynthia Moore, president of the UCP and chair of the special general meeting, said a record number of members participated in the review
“I would suggest that no process in Alberta's history has had more discussion, more input, or more scrutiny than this review of our leader,” she said.
The verification process of the ballots was observed by constituency association scrutineers, returning officers, and Deloitte, which “was appointed to monitor the mail and voting process and verify the leadership review results.”
The process of verification was also live-streamed. Moore said more than 14,000 Albertans tuned in to the live-streamed process.
“Over 200 party volunteers gave of their time to carry out the ID verification, and the count scrutineers from constituencies across the province and from both sides of this issue are in the room at all times to observe. We couldn't have done it without these remarkable folks,” she said.
Rick Orman, the chief returning officer, gave the results from the vote. He said the question from the leadership review as selection rules set out was, “Do you approve of the current leader?”
Orman said members were given the option to vote yes or no.
Of the 34,298 votes cast, there were 17,638 yes votes (51.4 per cent) and 16,660 no votes (48.6 per cent).
Kenney thanked all those who participated in the vote.
“Friends, it's clear that the past two years were deeply divisive for our province, our party, and our caucus, but it is my fervent hope that in the months to come, we all move on, past the division of COVID,” he said.
Kenney said as disappointed as he was in the results, he was incredibly proud of the work his team had done.
“Together we re-united the free enterprise movement in Alberta politics, and we won the largest electoral mandate in our province’s history. We inherited profound fiscal and economic challenges.
“And then we went through three once-in-a-century crises: the largest public health crisis in a century; the largest collapse of the world economy in nearly a century; and [for] the first time ever, we experienced negative oil prices,” he said.
Kenney said despite that, they were able to deliver on 90 per cent of their election commitments and they balanced the budget for the first time in 14 years.
“By the way, did you hear last week? We won an historic victory against Justin Trudeau's no more pipelines law,” he said.
Kenney told the audience to remember the shared values that united them as conservatives.
“And now, let's get on with the real show tonight. The Battle of Alberta. As Darryl Sutter said yesterday, it's bringing our province together. It's the best thing ever. I couldn't agree more.”