Jason Kenney to remain Alberta premier until new UCP leader chosen by party

Kenney keeping job for now

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is staying in his job for now.

United Conservative Party caucus chair Nathan Neudorf says members have decided that Kenney should stay on until a new leader is chosen.

Kenney announced yesterday that he would be stepping down for the good of the party after receiving 51 per cent support in a leadership review.

Neudorf says the timing of a leadership vote is yet to be determined.

Kenney did not speak with reporters following a caucus meeting in Calgary today.

But he tweeted out his resignation letter to the UCP, which says he will step down once a new leader is elected.

Neudorf says the caucus had a "vigorous discussion and debate about the future of our party and our government."

“We agreed that we must remain united, focused on the best interests of Albertans, and committed to doing the job Albertans elected us to do," he said in a statement Thursday.

“In that spirit, we have affirmed Premier Jason Kenney’s continued leadership of our caucus and government until such time as a new leader is chosen."

Some of Kenney’s caucus critics called for him to step down immediately to help heal the divisions wracking the party.

“The healing process can’t start until Jason Kenney leaves. He knows that. We know that and we need to start the renewal process of the UCP," UCP backbencher Brian Jean said earlier before heading into the meeting.

“Jason Kenney knows parliamentary tradition,” added Jean, a former leader of the Wildrose Party, which merged with Kenney’s Progressive Conservatives to form the UCP in 2017.

Leela Aheer, who was kicked out of Kenney’s cabinet last year after criticizing him on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, said on her way into the meeting that it was a "beautiful moment" for the party.

“The truth is that the only thing I’ve ever wanted was to have an opportunity to be able to prove to people who we are and to end the corruption and the cronyism and to be able to start a new day with hope for Alberta."

She said the caucus should appoint an interim leader.

“You need a team player who is going to bring folks together, because there’s obviously been a lot of division," Aheer said.

Kenney announced Wednesday night he would be stepping down after receiving 51.4 per cent of just over 34,000 ballots cast. The total was enough to technically stay in the top job, but Kenney said it was not enough to maintain the confidence and quell disharmony in the ranks.

He has said anger from party and caucus members over decisions he made to limit personal liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic ignited the anger against him and led to open criticism of his leadership and ultimately the underwhelming vote of support.

Opponents in caucus have said the dissatisfaction was not just over COVID-19 policies, but also over Kenney's management style, which they deemed to be top-down, dismissive and undemocratic. They said Kenney had not done enough to gain a better deal for Alberta with the federal government on shared programs.

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