Jason Kenney steps down after 51.4 per cent approval in leadership review
Jason Kenney steps down after 51.4 per cent approval in leadership review
Jason Kenney quit as leader of his party Wednesday night after receiving a slight majority of support in his United Conservative Party leadership review.
"While 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader," Kenney told a crowd gathered at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.
"I'm sorry, but friends, I truly believe that we need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us, and a large number of our members have asked for an opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election."
The party announced the results at 6:30 p.m. during a virtual address streamed on the UCP website and Kenney made his speech immediately after.
Before leaving the stage, Kenney congratulated his party on a balanced budget and said he delivered on 90 per cent of his promises as premier.
There were gasps in the rooms when Kenney resigned and Finance Minister Travis Toews told CTV News Calgary he was "surprised."
Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver confirmed the UCP will have a caucus meeting on Thursday and more about the future of the party could be announced afterwards.
"We knew it could be close and it could be controversial," said Conrad Van Hierden, a constituency association president. "I respect Jason's decision. We need to unite as a party and we need to find a leader that can do that cause right now we're divided."
"Honestly, I was shocked," said member Tarick Khan, although he applauded Kenney's resignation. "To fight against Notley, this was the best decision."
Exactly 34,298 members voted, party officials said, in a mail-in ballot process that began on April 9 as part of a virtual Special General Meeting.
Ballots were sent to nearly 60,000 eligible party members with the simple question: “Do you approve of the current leader? Yes or No?”
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Rival and UCP MLA Brian Jean thanked Kenney for his public service and "honourable concession."
"In the next several days I expect the party will announce a leadership race, and I intend to put my name forward," his statement said.
"My campaign will demonstrate how we can do things differently, together, to recapture the enthusiastic support of the over one million Albertans who elected us in 2019. I will speak more on these issues in the coming days."
NDP Leader Rachel Notley also thanked Kenney and said she'd have more to say Thursday.
"There are obviously many things about which we don’t agree, but that doesn’t negate the time and sacrifice that goes into taking on the role of premier," she tweeted.
"The work is never easy. The days are long and often difficult, as I’m sure today is. I wish Jason the best."
Some, including Jean and other UCP MLAs, complained about the process and cast doubts about whether or not the vote would be fair.
UCP officials said more than 14,000 people tuned in to a livestream of the vote verification, amid concerns surrounding legitimacy.
Kenney's 2017 leadership victory over Jean is still being probed by the RCMP.
Last week, correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of possible illegal bulk buying of party memberships in Wednesday's vote.
Kenney set his goal at 50 per cent, plus one, to stay on as leader.
According to the party's bylaws, he could have kept the job with a simple majority.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski, CTV News Calgary's Tyson Fedor and The Canadian Press
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