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'He has lost': Kenney critic warns his UCP constituency won't accept premier win in review

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The ballots are in and tension is building within the United Conservative Party ahead of Wednesday's revelation of the result of Jason Kenney's leadership review.

Last week, UCP MLA Brian Jean demanded that the premier get far more votes than the simple 50 per cent plus one that's mandated in the party's bylaws.

Kenney affirmed that's also the bar he's set for himself to stay on as premier and party leader.

On Tuesday, a UCP constituency official warned he and others won't agree to a victory by Kenney of any sort.

"We will not believe that result. We will not accept it, but we won't even believe it, because our own polling here within our constituency is 72 per cent against Premier Kenney," Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills president Rob Smith told CTV News Edmonton.

Smith has been critical of Kenney and the voting process for months. He will not stop fighting against the premier, and said he's speaking on behalf of "thousands of Albertans" who are certain that Kenney will lose to the NDP in the next election, if he stays on.

“The results of tomorrow don’t matter. Our minds are made up, and I am sorry, but they don’t involve you,” he said of his message to the premier's office.

KENNEY DEFENDS LOW BAR

Kenney has promised to respect the result of the vote, and he defended the goal he set by claiming that the UCP pool of voters has been diluted by thousands of angry members bent on destruction.

“People who are saying (I have) to get, say, 90 per cent or something really aren't appreciating the different context of this,” he said Monday in Washington, D.C.

Former conservative premiers Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford separately received 77 per cent in their leadership reviews. Each resigned months later.

But the premier claims the "dynamics" of his review are different, saying that "thousands" of new members have signed up to vote against him because of controversial COVID-19 policies.

“I don't expect many of those people to stick around. They came into this vote to destabilize the government, and that cohort typically has never before been involved in a mainstream centre-right party,” Kenney explained.

UCP REFUSES TO GIVE INTERVIEW, TOUR OF AUDIT OFFICE

The UCP hired accounting firm Deloitte to oversee its leadership mail-in ballot. A live stream of the audit process was launched online.

CTV News Edmonton made multiple requests for a tour of that site and an interview about the process, but UCP officials declined.

Jean, Smith and others, including sitting MLAs, have publicly complained about the decision to do mail-in balloting after an event in Red Deer was cancelled.

A local political scientist said the livestream is not likely to calm concerns that people were signed up, and subsequently voted, without their knowledge.

"Something is better than nothing, but the problem rests with things that could have occurred previous to those ballots even being sent out," said Lori Williams at Mount Royal University.

She agrees with Smith that many UCP supporters will not trust a Kenney victory.

Kenney's 2017 leadership victory over Jean is still being probed by the RCMP and correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of possible illegal bulk buying of party memberships in Wednesday's vote.

"The Battle of Alberta might go on for seven games when it comes to hockey, but it will go on much longer when it comes to the UCP, and to Alberta politics," Williams predicted.

The UCP is expected to release results of the vote between 4 and 6 p.m. MT on Wednesday and Kenney is expected to make a speech in Calgary afterwards.

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

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