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'Complete rubbish': Kenney denies early election speculation as NDP readies team

Premier Jason Kenney insisted Wednesday that Albertans will not be headed to the polls early, as Rachel Notley revealed that her NDP plans to have all its candidates ready by September.

"We feel quite concerned that these (UCP) folks are likely to go early with an election, so we're moving quickly to be ready," Notley told reporters.

She followed that up by grilling Kenney in the house about whether or not he will honour the UCP's fixed election date of May 29, 2023. The government could still change that if Kenney wanted to.

"I'm glad to see the NDP Leader is eager for an election. She'll have to wait though, because it will be in May of 2023, per our commitment to hold a legislated election date," Kenney said.

Postmedia reported Monday that an early vote is "reasonable speculation" based on sources.

The premier has been under fire from conservative MLAs both inside and outside of his caucus for months, and a local political scientist has also said an early election is possible.

On Tuesday, a United Conservative Party MLA publicly accused Kenney and other government staff of using "bullying and intimidation" tactics against critics.

Notley expanded on that by saying the threat of an early election is also on the table.

"His claim that they'll respect the May date is encouraging, but that's not the same tune the premier sings behind closed doors," she said in the legislature.

"Inside UCP caucus meetings, the premier threatens to call an early election just to intimidate his own members into staying silent."


"That is complete rubbish," Kenney responded.

"I pointed out publicly that in our Westminster Parliamentary democracy, if the government loses confidence, there is an election. This government is not going to lose confidence."

Kenney said last week that perhaps he's been "far too tolerant of public expressions of opposition" within his caucus. He called for unity and an end to the party's "soap opera."

One of the MLAs Kenney kicked out of the UCP for criticising him also wasn't buying the premier's words.

"We can't trust anything he says and I think Albertans have lost that trust too…What we see is a premier who is desperate and will do anything to keep his position, so I wouldn’t rule out anything," Todd Loewen told CTV News Edmonton Thursday.

Kenney wanting to wipe his party clean of dissenting MLAs by calling an early vote makes some sense to a local pollster and political commentator, but she doesn't see it as likely.

"This rumour of an early election has been running around for a long time," Janet Brown explained.

"Maybe he just wants to pull the plug and go to an early election and just eliminate people from his team that he doesn't like and just start over…I would be very surprised if Jason Kenney would take that risk."

Brown said she'll take Kenney at his word about the election, but she understands why some Albertans won't.

"One of the reasons that Jason Kenney is in as much trouble right now is because sometimes he takes back the things that he says, right? A lot of voters are mad at him right now because he said very definitively, 'No vaccine passport,' and then we got something that he didn't call a vaccine passport, " Brown recalls.


Notley was also asked who will be running for her party in Edmonton-South after MLA Thomas Dang was removed from her caucus amid an RCMP investigation.

The NDP Leader said the party hasn't decided who will be nominated in that riding, but announced that Dang will not be the candidate if the investigation is still ongoing.

"I don't believe that someone who is under active criminal investigation should be sitting in a caucus. I believe that for our caucus, I believe that for the UCP caucus," Notley stated.

Kenney's UCP leadership review by mail-in ballot started on April 9. The results are expected on May 18.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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