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Kenney to stay on as leader, premier until new UCP leader chosen

Jason Kenney will stay on as leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) – and as Alberta premier – until a successor is chosen.

Kenney spoke with the media Friday morning, the first time since his 51.4 per cent leadership vote tally and the subsequent announcement he would step down as leader and premier.

The UCP caucus met for several hours Thursday in Calgary, with many observers expecting an interim leader to be chosen. That didn’t happen.

After the meeting, UCP Caucus Chair Nathan Neudorf issued a statement characterizing the debate as vigorous. He said the party must remain united and focused on Albertans.

“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, the timing of which will be determined by the United Conservative Party,” a statement read.

Kenney, speaking inside the McDougall Centre in Calgary Friday, surrounded by cabinet members, said that it’s in the best interest of the party and Albertans that he stays on – for now.  

“Yesterday, the caucus met and confirmed support for this approach,” Kenney said.

“This is a critical time in Alberta’s history, (inaudible) to keep our eye on the ball.”

Kenney did say that the party would confirm details of a leadership race. The premier didn’t answer any questions from the media.

Continued focus on jobs, economy

Kenney then reeled off recent government accomplishments and work they still have ahead.

Kenney has seen his approval rating in Alberta tank since his government’s election in 2019.

In a March 2022 poll by the Angus Reid Institute, Kenney was at 30 per cent approval. That was actually up from 26 per cent. It had hit a low of 22 per cent approval.

There’s also been a rift in the party, widened by continued dissent from MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes, and the election of Brian Jean in Fort McMurray.

These reasons contributed to constituency associations coming together to request an expedited leadership vote in April.

Yesterday, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith said that she’d be joining the leadership race when it’s announced.