After months of political turmoil, Prime Minister Jason Kenney will learn the results of his leadership review later today.
Kenney faces unparalleled judgment over his 25-year political career. It could end his term as premier of Alberta, jeopardize the future of the party he co-founded in 2017 and plunge the province into 12 months of political chaos ahead of the May 2023 provincial election.
The United Conservative Party will announce the results of Kenney’s leadership review between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. MT via a live stream from Spruce Meadows in Calgary. Eligible party members voted by mail between April 9 and May 11.
The review comes after months of political unrest from rank and file members, UCP constituency associations and Kenney’s own UCP MPs.
Kenney has faced low poll numbers with most public polls over the past 18 months, suggesting the Rachel Notley-led NDP could regain a majority government next year. Voices within the UCP say the party must find a new leader to prevent this from happening.
Political observers believe Wednesday’s result will settle nothing and will only create more unrest. Kenney further confused the issue by stating that he would accept a result of 50% plus one.
Brian Jean, UCP MP for Fort McMurray-Lac la Biche and Kenney’s main rival, said Kenney must step down if he does not win a strong membership mandate.
“He can get over 50% plus one,” Jean said. “But you can’t wield the powers of a party leader without big numbers. You need that big number to get that moral authority to lead.”
Kenney believes the no is driven by Albertans who opposed public health restrictions enacted by his government, such as face coverings and vaccine passports to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The party changed its original plan for a one-day in-person vote in Red Deer on April 9 to a mail-in vote, fearing 15,000 new members would overwhelm the location chosen for the event. Many believed that the majority of these new members had registered to vote against Kenney.
Kenney has expressed confidence that he will survive his exam. After appearing before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in Washington on Tuesday, he said concerns about COVID were waning.
“I think most of the splits in my party have come from COVID politics, and that’s understandable,” he said. “But I think it’s now in the rearview mirror.
“We lead Canada in economic growth, and I think most members of my party just want to move forward into the future.”
There are still questions about the integrity of the vote, despite the party’s transparency efforts, which included the services of auditing and consulting firm Deloitte to collect ballots and a live broadcast from the room where volunteers validated the identification and eligibility of members.
Jared Wesley, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, said criticism of the party’s late decision to move to a mail-in ballot and the RCMP’s ongoing investigation into the UCP leadership race in 2017 damaged people’s trust in the process.
“I don’t think it’s the actual outcome that matters,” Wesley said. “There will be critics who will not believe the outcome, regardless of the outcome.”
Kenney is expected to deliver a speech after the result is announced, but will not take questions from the media. Kenney said dissident UCP MPs would have to line up or leave the caucus if he wins the review.