Alberta Premier Jason Kenney facing party leadership review next year

·3 min read
Questions about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's leadership have swirled in recent weeks, and the executive board of the United Conservative Party now says it will hold a leadership review next year. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press - image credit)
Questions about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's leadership have swirled in recent weeks, and the executive board of the United Conservative Party now says it will hold a leadership review next year. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press - image credit)

The executive board of Alberta's United Conservative Party said it will hold a leadership review next year, according to an email sent Friday night to party constituency presidents.

"We reviewed the advice, and passed a resolution that a leadership review is to be held at our AGM in 2022," the email from UCP President Ryan Becker read.

CBC News obtained a copy of the email, and has reached out to Premier Jason Kenney's office for comment.

The email explained that during the last annual general meeting in October, members identified there were no rules in place for leadership reviews. In 2020, party members then passed a resolution to hold regular reviews of the party leader at one out of every three AGMs, but a process to finalize the details was yet to be set out.

"As a board, we spent the past few months receiving legal advice and consulting with our [constituency associations] and members regarding our responsibility for when a leadership review needs to be held," the email said. It then announced the plan for a review in 2022.

"We believe this keeps us fully compliant with our bylaws, and strengthens membership engagement with our party," the email said.

The note ended with praise for Kenney for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of oil prices.

"We have a clear path to brighter days just around the corner and I'm confident in the vision Jason has laid out to us to get there," it said.

Next year's AGM is expected to be held in October, which would place it six months before the provincial election.

"No governing party will topple their leader, or even voice large discontent, that close to an election," Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, wrote on Twitter.

"Plus it quiets critics who were demanding a review."

Timing around review

Questions about Kenney's leadership have swirled in recent weeks, with several constituency presidents saying their boards were upset enough that they talked about forcing a leadership review.

Despite a few vocal board members, the majority of constituency presidents said it was the wrong timing for a leadership review. They cited concerns about the pandemic, a lack of an obvious successor to Kenney and a quickening timeline to the next election, which is scheduled for spring 2023.

Under a UCP resolution passed in October, a review cannot be held in an election year. The party executive could also vote to hold a review at any time. Or, if enough constituency associations banded together, they could vote to review the premier's leadership.

Kenney has not been subjected to a leadership review since taking the helm of the party in 2017. In the event of a vote, he would need at least 50 per cent to remain leader — although many Alberta conservative leaders have placed the vote threshold much higher.

In 2006, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said he wanted 75 per cent support to remain leader. He received 55 per cent and later resigned.

Amid the discontent, Kenney has held more frequent meetings and calls with the grassroots members of the party across the province to get their feedback. Many constituency presidents told CBC News they've had more access to the premier in 2021 than ever before.

His approval rating currently sits at 39 per cent according to a recent poll from the Angus Reid Institute, declining steadily since the 2019 election.