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Whether or not Jason Kenney wins or loses on May 18, the UCP continues to be headed for a showdown


There is one clear winner within the Alberta premier’s UCP occasion management overview: Rachel Notley’s NDP

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EDMONTON — Jason Kenney is completed — or not. He’s the one hope the United Conservative Party has at re-election — or their biggest legal responsibility. It all is dependent upon who you ask concerning the former Harper cupboard minister turned Alberta premier.

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On May 18, the ​United Conservative Party — and Albertans — will discover out if Kenney retains his job as occasion chief when the outcomes of a management overview are made public after roughly one month of mail-in voting.

Whatever the result, the query that’s looming over the occasion is whether or not the UCP can defeat Rachel Notley’s New Democrats within the 2023 election.

“Everything comes down to the election, basically a year from now,” mentioned Zane Novak, with Take Back Alberta, a committee created to eliminate Kenney. “If the UCP doesn’t have its act together, we believe that their chances of success are very slim. And we feel that with Jason Kenney at the helm that their chances of success are almost impossible.”

Brock Harrison, who’s operating communications for Kenney’s management overview staff, mentioned ​unity is essential forward of an election.

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“There’s a ton of work to do and you’re seeing, the NDP, they’re already doing it,” mentioned Harrison. “And we’ve been hamstrung by this leadership review.”

We’ve been hamstrung by this management overview

Brock Harrison

When Kenney united Alberta’s proper again in 2017 and gained the 2019 common election, he did so on a large wave of assist. But the premier has had a tough few years — so much has modified since April 16, 2019, when Kenney declared that “help is on the way and hope is on the horizon.”

For months, polls have mirrored Kenney’s unpopularity amongst UCP voters and Albertans at giant. In April, polling from ThinkHQ discovered that simply 29 per cent of Albertans accredited of Kenney’s job efficiency. It additionally confirmed 61 per cent of present United Conservatives need Kenney gone, and 45 per cent say they’d be much less prone to vote United Conservative within the 2023 election if Kenney’s main the occasion.

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​Many who need Kenney gone have expressed a deep anger over the way in which the United Conservatives dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There had already started to be a lot of frustration,” mentioned Novak. “The whole thing just came to a flashpoint — accelerated — when it became the mandates, the pandemic and how he handled it.”

On April 9, when the occasion kicked off the management overview with a particular common assembly, Kenney addressed those that disliked his COVID-19 method instantly, saying the occasion risked wanting within the “rear view mirror” and ending up in a divisive management contest.

“It will drive a wedge right down the middle of our party from which we may never again recover, and there’s only one person who wins from that, and her name is Rachel Notley,” Kenney mentioned.

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There are different selections which have pissed off the occasion’s base. For instance, Kenney’s unite the correct marketing campaign had promised to respect grassroots decision-making, however way back to 2018 Kenney mentioned, “I hold the pen on the platform.”

Over the previous yr, the occasion has been riven by infighting, a lot of it public. In September 2021, leaks from caucus urged a putsch was imminent. At the November annual common assembly, anti-Kenney members tried to take over the occasion’s board. None of this was profitable; Team Kenney has held its floor.

But will it on May 18?

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The management vote is occurring by mail — itself an argument. Ballots had been due in to Deloitte, which has been employed as an unbiased overseer and supervisor, on May 11. On May 18, the occasion will reconvene its particular common assembly to announce the outcomes.

When the occasion first determined in December to carry a management overview, the plan was for in-person voting in Red Deer on April 9. But on March 23, the occasion introduced a change: More than 15,000 individuals had registered to return vote, paying a charge to take action, and the occasion mentioned, merely, they may not handle that quantity of in-person voting.

Instead, ballots had been mailed out to the almost 60,000 occasion members. This has sapped a number of the confidence within the course of. Brian Jean, the previous Wildrose occasion chief, who misplaced in 2017 to Kenney within the race to guide the United Conservatives, mentioned in a March assertion that “a rushed mail-in ballot is a formula for fraud and cheating.” (Jean, who not too long ago gained a byelection to return to provincial politics, has been open about his want to see Kenney gone — and that he’d like to exchange him.)

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UCP’s Brian Jean said the  mail-in ballot is a formula for fraud and cheating.
UCP’s Brian Jean mentioned the  mail-in poll is a system for fraud and dishonest. Photo by Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia

The anti-Kenney aspect argues the prolonged timeline for the vote allowed Kenney to do a lap across the province, selling the gasoline tax lower that got here into impact April 1 and the upcoming rebates for dwelling heating prices.

“On and on and on he uses our tax dollars to make himself look like a hero and detract, deflect, smoke and mirrors away from the mail-in ballot,” mentioned Novak.

Cynthia Moore, the occasion’s president, advised the Calgary Herald she’s “absolutely convinced” the vote can be truthful and trustworthy. “The premier was not involved at all in the decision-making,” Moore mentioned.

Kenney’s opponents argue that the in-person voting favoured those that had been mad sufficient to purchase a move to the particular assembly and take time from their lives to drive to Red Deer — ie., their camp. A wider membership vote reaches these with much less fiery bellies, or older members as a substitute of recent, agitated ones, and which will favour Kenney.

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“If people are now saying, well, ‘Jason’s more popular, a vote of the broader membership advantages Jason,’ well, so be it,” mentioned Harrison. “If the allegation is that that Jason is more popular with grassroots members, then I guess, you know, guilty as charged.”

There are three fundamental situations earlier than the occasion: Kenney wins massive, Kenney wins small or Kenney loses. All lead into the election query.

Kenney has mentioned that he’ll step apart if he loses the management overview. If that occurs, the occasion would enter a management race to seek out somebody to guide the occasion in opposition to the Notley NDP subsequent yr.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley. Photo by David Bloom
Alberta NDP chief Rachel Notley. Photo by David Bloom Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

“A new leader means the party, potentially, can go in an infinite number of directions,” mentioned Matt Solberg, with New West Public Affairs. “And if there is a new leader coming, it’d be at least six months before that can be presented to voters. And now you’re getting pretty close to that election redzone.”

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The different two situations are extra sophisticated, as a result of it’s not clear what threshold Kenney may want to succeed in in an effort to retain the assist of his caucus.

In November 2009, Ed Stelmach gained the boldness of the Progressive Conservatives — a UCP precursor — with 77 per cent assist. He was gone two years later. Then, in November 2013, Alison Redford gained with the very same proportion — she was passed by March 2014. In each cases, there have been questions on their management of the occasion.

“For a long time, the minimum bar was 77 per cent. Now, if Jason Kenney got 77 per cent in this vote, I would say that’s winning big and I think a lot of folks would agree with me on that,” mentioned Solberg.

Harrison argued the context for these critiques was completely totally different, as a result of it’s an enormous pool of voters.

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“This should not in any way be compared to a leadership review where 2,000 party faithful file into a hotel ballroom, pay their fee to go to an event and render their verdict on the leader,” mentioned Harrison. “So I think the result, whatever it is, has to be interpreted in that context.”

Kenney has been reluctant to place a quantity on the edge he’s hoping to succeed in. In a latest interview with the National Post, he mentioned he wouldn’t give an “arbitrary figure,” and famous the UCP structure units 50 plus one as the edge that must be cleared.

Fifty plus one, mentioned Vitor Marciano, a long-time conservative strategist, spokesman for Brian Jean and vocal Kenney critic, is “not a survivable number.”

Kenney’s opponents are completely satisfied the premier isn’t going to win massive. there aren’t any exit polls, no method of figuring out who has voted and who hasn’t.

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“We’re all flying a little blind,” mentioned Harrison.

Marciano mentioned the maths merely isn’t on Kenney’s aspect, with so lots of the occasion’s members in rural areas.

“If he actually legitimately got a really big number, the MLAs would fall into line, but it’s not going to happen. That’s just not available to him.”

Kenney’s supporters imagine there’s massive assist for his management, thanks largely to the balanced funds, new funding and the tip of COVID-19 measures.

“They’re not the ones holding press conferences on the steps of the (legislature) and making wild allegations that aren’t true and phoning journalists complaining about things. They’re the ones who are living their lives,” mentioned Harrison.

If he wins small, then it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to occur.

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If he wins in that 51 to 60 bracket, even 65, I imagine that the occasion will implode

Zane Novak, Take Back Alberta

“If he wins in that 51 to 60 bracket, even 65, I believe that the party will implode,” mentioned Novak. Even past continued internecine combating, Novak urged in a yr’s time, conservative voters may merely keep dwelling, moderately than vote for Kenney.

But, mentioned Solberg, on the finish of the day, there’s an election subsequent yr, and members of the legislature — to not point out the occasion trustworthy — have to consider what’s going to give them a shot at successful.

“If he comes in around, say 65 per cent, for most of the MLAs that have been rabble rousing, I think they would look at that number and say, ‘You know, that’s a pretty solid demonstration of support,’” mentioned Solberg.

Kenney has mentioned he’ll go away if he loses, with no fuss. The identical commonplace ought to apply if he wins, mentioned Harrison.

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“He’ll respect the results if it doesn’t go his way. But by the same token, if it does go his way, he expects the same respect to be shown to that result from, certainly, members of his caucus,” mentioned Harrison. “He’ll want to offer some of these folks … a chance to say, ‘look, you may not like me personally, but look, the members have spoken.’”

What will matter past simply the vote is what Kenney does on May 19, there may very well be a shuffling of the deck, and what his caucus does, whether or not the overwhelming majority stand with him, or a big variety of them abandon the UCP to sit down as independents.

“It’s possible that he looks at the crew around him and who is still supporting him on May 19 and says, ‘you know, I may have 51 per cent but I don’t have my caucus, and if I don’t have my caucus, I don’t have the legislature,’” mentioned Solberg.

“At that point, it’s, you know, you step down, or you test the confidence (of the legislature) and you could see an election.”

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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