The United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) held a leadership review of Premier Jason Kenney and got possibly the worst-case scenario.
The good news for the 18th premier of Alberta was that he won a majority. The bad news: He won a mere 51 percent. Shortly after hearing the result, Kenney read the room and decided to step down as UCP leader.
“The result is not what I hoped for or frankly what I expected,” Kenney said on Wednesday evening, despite months of polls showing he was in trouble. Reporters present at the speech said that staffers and supporters cried as Kenney announced his resignation.
The party will hold a leadership vote with the winner assuming the position of premier. The next provincial election is slated for May 2023.
It’s not just his own party that doesn’t really like Kenney. The premier’s approval rating recently dropped to below 30 percent and his party was tailing the left-leaning NDP, their main rival, by over 12 points.
Before the results were announced UCP Party President Cynthia Moore took to the stage and attempted to hammer home the idea that this vote wasn’t rigged. This was needed because many questioned the vote's legitimacy as the UCP membership (which you need to vote) more than doubled going into the review and Kenney has been accused of electoral trickery before.
The 53-year-old has been portrayed by those to the right of him (which is a large part of his party) as a weak leader—a leader who, among other things, has a tyrannical bent for public health restrictions during the pandemic.
Kenney had a relatively difficult time keeping his members of the legislative assembly in line as several travelled overseas during the 2020 Christmas break at the height of the pandemic after telling Albertans they couldn’t leave home. The MLAs fought fiercely among themselves and Kenney had several revolts from within the party—primarily over lockdown restrictions.
It wasn't that long ago that Kenney came to the province as a saviour to Albertan right-wing partisans who had suffered their first defeat since 1971. Kenney merged the Progressive Conservatives with the harder-right Wildrose party to form the United Conservative Party (UCP) and was quickly elected as the new party's leader. Kenney defeated NDP Premier Rachel Notely in 2019 and has sat as premier since.
He did not make it a full term until his party turned on him.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.