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UCP MLAs call on Jason Kenney to resign as leadership vote dispute becomes a 'circus'


There were new demands Thursday for resignations within the United Conservative Party, including from two MLAs who want Premier Jason Kenney to quit immediately.

"The gracious thing to do would be to step down and support a new leader," said UCP MLA Jason Stephan.

The Red Deer-South representative called recent changes to the premier's leadership review a "disaster" and said that the situation had become a "circus."

He was joined at a noon protest on the steps of the legislature by fellow UCP MLAs Angela Pitt, Dave Hanson, Richard Gotfried and Peter Guthrie.

Former UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen were also there, as were the presidents of six UCP constituency associations.

The gathering was sparked by a Tuesday announcement from UCP president Cynthia Moore, which said the April 9 review will now be done by mail-in ballot instead of in-person voting in Red Deer.

The deadline to become a member and vote was Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

"We don't change the rules of the game after deadlines. That's not fair," Stephan said.

Guthrie also called on Kenney to resign, although he'd be fine with the premier running for UCP leader again.


"I'm a UCP MLA but I'm just here standing up for my constituents and for my members," Guthrie explained when asked why he doesn't quit the party.

The Airdrie-Cochrane leader went on to call Alberta's political environment "toxic" and said he was fooled by Kenney posing as an "everyman" in a blue pickup truck.

Now the premier is acting like an "Ottawa elite," Guthrie charged.

"I supported the premier at the time. I can't look back with regrets, but all I can do now is try to make things right," he told reporters.

The group also wants the UCP board to resign, unless they agree to hold Kenney's review vote in Red Deer, under rules similar to what was originally planned.

"They have betrayed the rules and they have betrayed UCP members. Betrayal leads to distrust and you have shaken Albertans trust in the UCP," said Rob Smith from Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

Smith said the group was speaking for thousands of UCP members and "up to three or four dozen" constituency associations that are unhappy with Kenney and the board's changes.

"We just want honesty. We want this vote, that is to take place on the leadership review, to be fair. That's all we're asking for, nothing else," said Kevin Wilson from Airdrie-Cochrane


Kenney's camp welcomed the new voting logistics on Wednesday, and rejected claims from UCP MLA-elect Brian Jean that the premier's supporters were breaking any election laws.

"It’s important that all members have a safe and secure way to vote, free from potential harassment and intimidation, and a mail-in ballot provides that opportunity," spokesperson Harrison Fleming wrote in a statement.

Several other UCP MLAs declined to repeat the calls for Kenney's resignation on their way into the legislature Thursday.

"I support this premier. I support this government. I'm going in this room to vote on the first balanced budget in eight years," UCP minister Tyler Shandro said.

"I'm supportive of the government. I'm supportive of the premier. And I'm happy to go in and pass a budget," UCP minister Travis Toews said minutes later.

Kenney has previously dismissed some people who are unhappy with his leadership as "extremists," many of whom are upset over COVID-19 restrictions.

"There are people with extreme views, who we screened out as candidates in the last election, who are angry about that," Kenney said on March 2.

"I think the broad mainstream of Albertan conservatives want us to continue in getting the job done, keeping our commitments, building a strong province and being focused on a strong Alberta economy."

Stephan took issue with those statements at Thursday's protest.

"Labelling entire groups by the actions of a few is not right. That just creates division and contention. I don't want any more of that," he said.


Kenney said during a town hall in Athabasca, Alta., Thursday, that he would accept the results of the leadership vote. He did not take questions from a CTV News Edmonton reporter.

Loewen and Barnes were both kicked out of caucus for speaking out against Kenney.

Stephan called Loewen a "great man" Thursday and said it'll be up to his fellow MLAs if he is also kicked out of the UCP.

A political strategist said Thursday that the UCP is unlikely to get through this fight without a major splinter of MLAs.

The traditional Wildrose and Progressive Conservative sides are still ideologically opposed and always will be, believes Stephen Carter from Decide Campaigns.

The former chief of staff for Alison Redford explained that the vast majority of governments would kick out Stephan and Guthrie and any other MLAs that publicly called for the leader to quit.

"One of the rules is, when you're in a caucus, you support the leader and you support the party. The UCP, from day one, has been breaking that rule," he said.

The NDP invited unhappy UCP MLAs to join them in voting non-confidence on the budget Thursday, but all 48 government members who were in the house voted to approve it, including Stephan.

All nine NDP MLAs in attendance voted against.

 With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski Top Stories

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