Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, rocked by party wrangling and a contentious leadership review, dismisses speculation he could call a snap election as part of a last-ditch effort to retain control.
“I am committing to the date of the legislative elections at the end of May 2023 unequivocally, period,” Kenney said on Friday.
“This kind of speculation, I don’t know (where it comes from).
“I think sometimes political hacks have fun making up rumors like that. I never heard anyone at UCP discuss this as an option.
Kenney noted that his United Conservative Party government recently passed legislation further narrowing the three-month election window to a specific day – the last Monday in May – to ensure that voting day is not tailored to favor the party that chooses it.
According to the law, the next election will take place on May 29, 2023.
“I gave no consideration to a, quote-unquote, ‘snap election,'” Kenney said.
“I think that would be stupid. It would break a promise, but we’re also cooking on gas here in terms of Alberta’s economic recovery and I want to keep my eye on the ball.
Despite such fixed-date legislation, governments are still free to call elections under the fluidity of a parliamentary system that must take the brunt of caucus defections and votes of no confidence. Leaders can also call them if they feel they need a mandate for major change, as former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice did when he called for a vote. anticipated in 2015 on a new vision of the economy.
Kenney’s comments came amid reports and speculation about how he will mend open rifts within his party if he wins the crucial party leadership review vote.
Party members have been sending out ballots over the past month, checking yes or no whether they approve of Kenney’s work as leader and premier.
Voting is over and party volunteers are now sorting through envelopes to ensure that everyone who mailed in a form is eligible to vote. On Wednesday, the votes will be counted and the results announced.
If Kenney fails to secure 50% plus one support, he must resign and a leadership contest will be held. Kenney said he even considers a one-vote majority a mandate to stay.
Kenney’s opponent and UCP backbench MP Brian Jean, who co-founded the party with Kenney in 2017, said that was not enough.
Jean, in a video posted to his Facebook page on Friday, said Conservative leaders in Alberta and the country have respected and know they need high numbers in leadership reviews – 80% support or more – to have the confidence of the party.
“The Prime Minister knows all of this, which is why I believe he will not try to hold power with a few,” Jean said.
“If he can’t get a survival number, he’ll leave. If he can’t get a number that shows he has the moral authority to lead our party and all of our political life, he will leave.
“It’s the honorable and decent thing to do.”
Kenney said if he wins, he expects disgruntled people in his caucus to line up behind him or suffer the consequences.
One such option would be for Kenney to call a snap election, forcing party members to rally around him. The move would also leave dissidents in the caucus writhing in the wind, only to run as independents in the election with little time to organize a challenge against him.
The leadership exam itself is under a cloud. It was changed by the party executive at the last minute from an in-person vote of 15,000 to a postal vote of 59,000 members. Kenney’s critics said the change was made to boost his chances, while the party said it was not.
According to correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press, Elections Alberta is investigating possible illegal bulk purchases of party memberships.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 13, 2022.