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Jason Kenney to stay in PC leadership race after complaint tossed

Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney announces he will be seeking the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. .
Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney announces he will be seeking the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

EDMONTON – The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta has dismissed a call to have leadership candidate Jason Kenney turfed from the race.

Party member Jeffrey Rath accused Kenney in a formal complaint of actively undermining the party to make it an easy takeover target.

READ MORE: Alberta PC member wants Jason Kenney disqualified from PC leadership race

The party’s leadership election committee has ruled Kenney’s platform does not harm the PC brand and that the future of the party is up to its members.

“The party takes all complaints seriously and after reviewing the complaint submitted by Mr. Rath, we believed that there was no violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethics,” said PC Alberta President Katherine O’Neill in a release.

“I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the party’s sole agenda during this leadership election is to ensure a fair, open, honest and transparent election.”

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Kenney said he was glad the committee dismissed the complaint.

“Thank-you to the thousands of Albertans who expressed support for democracy in the face of this effort to quash the leadership election,” Kenney said in a post on social media.

READ MORE: Elections Alberta says if PCs and Wildrose decide to merge, it won’t be easy

Last week, Rath said Kenney was violating the party’s constitution and the leadership contest’s code of ethics, which forbids candidates from doing anything that harms or brings into disrepute the party or its brand.

He said Kenney appears to be planning to either destroy the party and create a one in its place or leave the party in such a state that the right can unite under the Opposition Wildrose party.

Rath was volunteering for one of Kenney’s leadership rivals, legislature member Richard Starke, but said he filed the complaint on his own.

READ MORE: Unite the right poll: Albertans prefer Brian Jean to Jason Kenney as leader

Starke, along with candidate Byron Nelson, is running to rejuvenate the PCs as a stand-alone party to take on Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP in the next election.

Starke has said he would entertain a joint working relationship with the Wildrose, but has not said what that would look like.

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Kenney has promised that, should he win the delegate vote on March 18, he will seek to dissolve the party and join it with the Wildrose to form a conservative coalition he believes is critical to avoid vote splitting.

READ MORE: Alberta PC candidate Jason Kenney says ‘it’s been awkward’ to try to unite the right

Provincial rules forbid parties from merging. They must first disband and surrender their finances.

The party also said it is concerned about how Rath made his complaint.

“The committee also noted its concern over the public nature of the complaint and will be reminding all campaigns to engage in a more respectful discourse,” the party said in a release.