Alberta Politics

A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s good news week ahead of this weekend’s United Conservative Party annual general meeting was largely overshadowed by a slow motion rebellion in his party.

While the Premier wanted to talk about childcare and the economy, a disgruntled group of UCP constituency presidents announced Monday morning that they had convinced 22 constituency associations to pass identical motions calling for a review of Kenney’s leadership to be moved before March 1, 2022.

The leadership review had been pushed to April 2022 from fall 2022 after Kenney averted a caucus revolt over the summer.

a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.
a map of the United Conservative Party constituency associations that have passed motions calling for a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership before March 1, 2022.

According to recent polling, Kenney is the least popular Premier in Canada, sitting at 22 per cent approval among Albertans, and his party has floundered in the polls and fundraising for the past year.

Rachel Notley would be Premier once again if an election were held today, which will surely be a future on the minds of many UCP activists this weekend.

Kenney’s fumbling response to the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, but so to is his cabinet’s decision to wage a multi-front war against everyone from Alberta’s parks, nurses and teachers while trying to open the Rocky Mountains up to open-pit coal mining.

A party that famously promised “Jobs, Economy and Pipelines” in the 2019 election has delivered everything but.

When the business of the meeting begins, special resolutions will only be able to be brought to the floor of the AGM by Kenney and one resolution being introduced by the Kenney-friendly UCP association in Edmonton-North West would increase the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an early leadership review from 1/4 of 87 to 1/3 of 87.

A list of of the 22 constituency associations who passed the motion calling for an early review shows that this is largely a rural revolt against Kenney’s leadership, likely from the unruly rural Wildrose-side of the party, which has never been satisfied to subjugate itself to to the kind of centralized leadership that the Premier would have been comfortable with in Ottawa.

The first signatory of the letter from the 22 was a name that would be quite familiar to Kenney – Jack Redekop – the current president of the Calgary-Fish Creek UCP and former president of Kenney’s won former federal electoral district association in Calgary-Midnapore.

One of the common criticisms of Kenney is that he has become detached from the party’s organization and local leadership since his election as Premier in 2019. Wildrosers who don’t like a centralized party leadership are unhappy, as are former Progressive Conservatives, who might be accustomed to more attention and access to their leadership.

The two groups have also discovered that all the things they disliked about each others politics when they were two parties are still there, except now they are in the same party.

The revolt hasn’t been limited to the party membership.

Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer, UCP MLA Chestermere-Strathmore
Jason Kenney and former UCP deputy leader Leela Aheer in happier time (source: YouTube)

Four MLAs – Chestemere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt, and Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried – have either publicly called for Kenney to resign or have openly criticized his leadership. And while most of their colleagues have avoided making public comments about Kenney’s leadership, the unhappiness among UCP MLAs and their staff is palpable.

There has been a steady stream of high-profile political staffers leaving their positions in the UCP government for jobs in the private sector. This past month saw the departure of press secretary Blaise Boehmer, who levelled some pretty heavy criticisms against Kenney, and UCP Caucus executive director Brittany Baltimore, who both recently took jobs with government relations companies.

Guthrie levelled allegations to the UCP Caucus this week that Political Action Committees supporting Kenney were paying the delegate fees of supporters in order to stack the votes in favour of the Premier during the AGM.

Peter Guthrie MLA Airdrie-Cochrane UCP Communism
Peter Guthrie

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in his most recent column that a private company was organizing to send delegates in order to curry favour with UCP cabinet ministers if Kenney survives his leadership challenges.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen , who was kicked out of the UCP Caucus earlier this year for calling on Kenney to resign, and Edmonton-South NDP MLA Thomas Dang wrote letters to the Chief Elections Officer asking his office to investigate the allegations.

Albertans, and UCP members, are angry at Kenney, but aside from former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean who is running for the UCP nomination in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election, there is no obvious heir apparent inside the UCP for his opponents to rally around.

Cynthia Moore has been acclaimed as President and Sonia Kont acclaimed as Vice President of Fundraising, but there are races for the Secretary and Vice President of Communications positions.

Central Peace-Notley UCP President Samantha Steinke, who has publicly called for an early leadership review, is challenging incumbent Ruven Rajoo for VP Communications. Red Deer-South constituency President Janis Nett and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo President Vicki Kozmak-LeFrense are running for the Secretary position, which was made vacant when former Secretary Cathy Smith resigned earlier this year.

A number of candidates are contesting regional director positions, including Sundre-resident Heidi Overguard, who was appointed by the UCP government to the Board of Directors of Alberta Health Services in Nov. 2019.

Meanwhile, UCP members will be lining up at the microphone to debate policies about cancel culture, private health care, private schools, and hydrogen, among other issues. The CBC reported that Kenney’s office instructed staffers to vote down policies “introducing a provincial sales tax, relocalizing 911 dispatch, a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal backstop.”

This weekend’s convention will be a much different affair from the party’s last in-person annual general meeting after it’s big win in the 2019 election.

Kenney will surely be focused on rallying the party to give him one more chance ahead of next spring’s review, but don’t expect to hear many of the celebratory rallying cries we heard two years ago. The party no longer feels like it is united and it is certainly not the one big conservative happy family that Kenney helped establish in 2017.

The UCP AGM starts at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary on Friday, Nov. 19 and will wrap up on Sunday, Nov. 21.

6 replies on “A look at this weekend’s UCP AGM as the formerly One-Big-Happy-Conservative-Family gathers for its first in-person convention since 2019”

There seems to be quite an air of desperation here. So what does Kenney do now? Sell out to some corporate interests to try maintain control over his party AGM? Funnel money raised from PAC’s to pay convention fees of loyal delegates and hope most of the disgruntled ones don’t show up? Is all of this even legal? Surely, it is not ethical.

Even if this is all successful, it will tarnish his reputation further particularly within his own party. Perhaps this is a plan for survival, but really only in the short term, not in the long long term.

I am fairly certain Kenney will dance right up to the illegality line but not cross it; I suspect he is quite aware of what happened to B.C’s Bill Vander Zalm when that line is crossed.

I think Kenney will still be leader & premier after their AGM.

Will the UCP government survive in say, the next 4 months after this AGM? Frankly, it depends on how dirty Kenney plays at the AGM.

Right now the UCP has a 20 seat majority, which is also the number of constituency associations represented by angry with Kenney UCP mla’s.

Bottom line, by the next provincial election, which could be late as 2025 (5 year term max, 4 years is just convention), the UCP stench will still be present. Kenney is delusional if he thinks he can win it.

The Unethical Corrupt Party is incapable of doing anything that benefits Alberta and its citizens. More of the most pricey shenanigans, throwing billions of dollars away, not dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic properly, and racking up a debt that Alberta has never seen before. Basically, making a mockery of what the true conservative, Peter Lougheed did for Alberta. Haven’t Albertans had enough of these pretend conservatives and Reformers?

In no scenario would a true conservative voter re-elect Comrade Notley…they may split the vote in voting for other centre or right of centre parties, and thereby allow another reign of terror through authoritarian wokism by the loons on the left.
If there is a leadership review and I will vote for an alternative candidate for UCP leadership, but never would I, nor anyone I know who “survived” the AntiOil, AntiAlberta Stasi rule of the NDP vote for them. Leave the NDP vote to the poor brainwashed post secondary socialist students and theGovt employee pools and Lou Arab and Rachel’s bribe buddies…..No true Albertan could or should vote for such n awful party guided by such divisive, UN-inclusive policies, even if Kenney is the only other candidate.

Jane King: The pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP are just so peachy, with all their very costly shenanigans, that end up costing Albertans billions of dollars, their abysmal record on creating jobs, and their very poor leadership on the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta.
– $10 billion gone in corporate tax cuts, and absolutely zero jobs to show for it.
– $7.5 billion lost on a false assumption that Donald Trump would remain the president of the USA. A pipeline that is kaiboshed.
– $4 billion in pension money is gone. That’s people’s pension money. Can’t trust the head honcho of the UCP, since he was a member of team Stephen Harper, and $35 billion of people’s life savings just vanished, in the income trust shenanigan.
– Next to $2 billion of Peter Lougheed’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund is now gone.
– $1.6 billion has been lost, because of the inability of the UCP to understand basic accounting principles.
– Various UCP MLAs were jet setting to various parts of the globe, and we didn’t see any benefit from these things. Not one benefit.
– The UCP has created more panels, that are lined with their pretend conservative and Reformer pals, and the outcome is already determined. Pretending to listen, at a great price.
– The UCP tries to engage in lawsuits, and they know they will get defeated, yet we end up paying for these.
– The War Room wastes millions of dollars, and has no value to it. A UCP candidate, who couldn’t make the cut as an MLA, gets $195,000 per year to operate it.
– Steve Allan, another UCP associate, gets $290,000 per year, for a report that was constantly procrastinated on, had nothing to show for it, and in the end came up with nothing. This also wasted millions of dollars, including from cost overruns.
– The UCP bulked up their staff for their MLAs, and this has cost us lots of money.
– So many pretend conservative and Reformer pals of the UCP get quite hefty annual salaries for dud posts. Nothing they do has any merit or substance.
There are so many other things the Unethical Corrupt Party has done wrong. This would include a rather suspect rise to power, and making Alberta have the worst ever debt in its history, which is something like $125 billion and rapidly escalating. The pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP are trying to mimick their hero, a Liberal turned Reformer, Ralph Klein, by bribing voters with $100. Ralph Klein, who also did many very costly shenanigans, and destroyed the legacy of the true conservative, Peter Lougheed, bribed voters, with those two $160 cheques, 20 years ago, and with the $400 Ralph Bucks. Albertans lives aren’t better off with the Unethical Corrupt Party in power. The elderly, anyone scraping by on AISH, our youngsters in school, including post secondary institutions, those who teach, and anyone in the medical field. The environment is also being disrespected. The Unethical Corrupt Party has to be punted from power, before they do anymore damage.

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