Premier Jason Kenney has announced that he will be not be staying on as United Conservative Party (UCP) leader after he received 51.4 per cent of votes in the party’s leadership review. He is also stepping down as premier.
UCP members voted with mail-in ballots between Apr. 9 and May 11 as part of a special general meeting. Members were asked “Do you approve of the current leader?”, with members given the option to answer yes or no.
Of 34,298 votes cast, 17,638 voted yes and 16,630 voted no, party officials announced Wednesday.
Immediately following the release of the results, Kenney addressed party members live in Calgary.
“The result is not what I hoped for or frankly what I expected, but I have been clear from Day 1 that I will respect the decision of the members in this leadership review and I expect all members of our party to do just that,” said Kenney.
“Friends, while 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader. That is why tonight I have informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party.
“I'm sorry friends but I truly believe that we need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us. A large number of our members have asked for an opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election.”
Kenney also said, “It’s clear that the past two years were deeply divisive for our province, our party and our caucus, but it is my fervent hope that in the months to come we all move on past the division of COVID.”
Kenney said he has recommended to the provincial (UCP) board that it “schedule a leadership election in a timely fashion.”
Within the crowd were Ministers Tyler Shandro and Prasad Panda as well as MLAs Devin Dreeshen and RJ Sigurdson.
Shandro was seen exiting the room in tears, while the crowd chanted "Jason, Jason!"
An impromptu statement was made by Minister Whitney Issik to media later in the evening. Minister Ric McIver joined alongside others but the group refused to answer questions.
However, as McIver left he could be heard saying he was "surprised."
A caucus meeting is expected tomorrow.
Danielle Smith issued a statement immediately following Kenney’s remarks.
“I would like to thank Premier Jason Kenney for his commitment to public service and for his historic contribution to uniting the right in Alberta,” said Smith.
“The result we have witnessed today is a truly grassroots resolution. The membership of the United Conservative Party is hungry for a leader that will be responsive and fight for the interests of Alberta.”
Kenney lead the UCP a majority election win in 2019. The next provincial election is slated for May 2023.
~ with files from Lauryn Heintz