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UCP leadership to be decided by mail-in ballot, Jean accuses Kenney camp of cheating


The battle for the leadership of the United Conservative Party, and the premier's chair in Alberta, reached a boiling point Wednesday, with MLA-elect Brian Jean accusing Jason Kenney's supporters of cheating and breaking the law.

This, after the UCP board decided Tuesday night to change the rules of its upcoming leadership review by cancelling in-person voting in Red Deer in favour of mail-in ballots by all members.

"Make no mistake, a rushed mail-in ballot is a formula for fraud and cheating. The UCP cannot survive another tainted vote," Jean wrote in a Wednesday statement.

He argues UCP leadership votes must be done in person to "prevent fraudulent votes."

Jean then said third-party money was being used to buy memberships for pro-Kenney voters and he called for an investigation by Elections Alberta.

"Throughout the past weekend we heard from organizers in certain communities that Jason Kenney was signing up thousands of members in Edmonton and Calgary who never paid for their memberships. That is unethical. But it is also a violation of Alberta law," he charged.

The former Wildrose Party leader said he'd consult his lawyers and have more to say on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Kenney's campaign denied the allegations and pointed a finger back at Jean's supporters.

"Every member signed up through a campaign event hosted by the Jason Kenney team signed their forms and paid the $10 fee," Harrison Fleming wrote in a statement.

"We would welcome any audit of new members, including those signed up by Brian Jean and the campaign he's involved with, which is on the record offering 'financial support' to bring people to Red Deer."

The last leadership showdown between Kenney and Jean was still being investigated by the RCMP Wednesday, a contest that attracted tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

"It's not about the rules of the review, it's about a lack of trust that UCP Members have with the executive and the premier office," political scientist Duane Bratt told CTV News Edmonton.


More than 15,000 people registered for the in-person vote in Red Deer, and it was expected as many as 20,000 could show up at the Cambridge Hotel on April 9. About 2,800 were at the party’s founding convention in 2018.

UCP president Cynthia Moore said the party should "celebrate" the "intense interest" to vote on the performance of leader Jason Kenney.

"We have responded to the thousands of you who have asked us to make it easy for our grassroots members to participate, by eliminating the registration fee and the need for travel," Moore wrote in a letter to members.

The vote, and how it should be done, was already surrounded by controversy.

Jean has been rallying support for months in an effort to defeat Kenney, and last week a government staffer issued an "urgent" plea for help to save the premier's job.

On Monday, sources told The Canadian Press that the UCP was considering allowing voting over three days, each day in a different city: Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.

On Tuesday, 33 constituency association presidents penned a letter calling for the vote to remain in Red Deer and only there. Those demands were mirrored by Jean who also called the rule changes a "travesty."

"It's changing the foundations upon what the meeting is based, and to do it after the deadline of 11:59 p.m. of Saturday night, it just doesn’t pass the smell test," said Rob Smith, UCP constituency association president for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

"The circus rolls on. If only they put as much effort into governing for Albertans as they did rigging their own votes," independent MLA Todd Loewen wrote on Facebook.

People who paid the $99 registration fee to vote were offered the option of a refund, or to make that money a donation to the party.

Moore said a national auditing firm will be brought in to oversee the vote, and more information will be released "in the days ahead."

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

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