New UCP leader Jason Kenney will seek legislature seat in Calgary by-election

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New UCP leader Jason Kenney will seek legislature seat in Calgary by-election
WATCH ABOVE: The newly elected leader of the United Conservative Party isn’t wasting any time trying to get a seat in the Alberta Legislature. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a former PC MLA is resigning his seat to clear the way for Jason Kenney – Oct 29, 2017

Newly elected United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney will be seeking a seat in the Alberta Legislature in the riding of Calgary-Lougheed.

Kenney made the announcement in Calgary on Sunday after long time MLA Dave Rodney said he would be retiring.

Kenney predicts a by-election will be held before the end of the year but he says dealing with his fledgling party will be the more substantial job.

“I have no intention of micro managing the operations of our strong caucus. We have a great team of MLAs who can hold the government to account,” Kenney said.

WATCH: Jason Kenney to lead United Conservative Party into next election

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Jason Kenney to lead United Conservative Party into next election

“I think the bigger task for me right now is helping to continue building our party outside the legislature.

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“It’s much more important that I get out there and work with our party to continue building our membership and to launch our democratic policy development process.”

READ MORE: Jason Kenney wins United Conservative Party leadership

Kenney said Rodney approached him about this idea several months ago but they only confirmed the plan in the last 72 hours.

“I wasn’t in a rush to do so because I did think there would be a lot of heavy lifting to do outside the legislature,” Kenney said.

“With Dave’s willingness to come forward with this consequential decision, I think I have an obligation to pursue that seat as quickly as can be as leader of the opposition.”

The decision by the new UCP leader has political observers predicting Kenney will have a lot on his plate.

“This is a brand new party and there are going to be a lot of birthing problems,” Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said. “Kenney has to make outreaches to the 40 per cent of members who voted against him. He has to make outreaches to those who didn’t vote at all. He also needs to develop more extensive policy than just repeal and replace everything that the NDP has done.”

The question now is what happens to the conservatives who don’t feel comfortable with Kenney at the helm of the UCP.

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WATCH: Jason Kenney elected leader of United Conservative Party of Alberta

Calgary South-East MLA Rick Fraser left the party in September to sit as an independent. He was the second former Progressive Conservative MLA to step away from the party. Just after the PC-Wildrose unification was voted on in July, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke announced he would not be joining the newly created party.

Fraser says much will come down to the UPC’s policy convention next year.

“You have to moderate yourself. That is the only way you are able to govern. Whether you’re the NDP or the hard right, whatever that might look like, you have to moderate yourself because generally that’s what Albertans are, they are moderates,” Fraser said.

“I think Jason is talking about a 20 per cent cut to the budget. In my opinion, that’s not the way I would go about it. But again, that will be determined by his membership.”

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READ MORE: Jason Kenney addresses United Conservative Party of Alberta after leadership win

As for how Kenney’s leadership win plays out for the NDP, quite well according to Bratt.

“I think the NDP, of all the candidates, would prefer Jason Kenney. That sounds a bit counter-factual because he is the best and strongest and most dangerous politician against them. On the other hand they feel that he is more divisive on social issues and they can go after that in a lot more detail than they could with Brian Jean or Doug Schweitzer,” Bratt said.

What does all this mean for Albertans in the 2019 election? Likely a polarized vote, leaving many to wonder if a strong centrist party will have enough time to gain momentum.

Alberta Together is a political action party led by former PC party president Katherine O’Neill. She is predicting to see a centre option emerge but says time is of the essence.

“It’s very healthy for a democracy to have choice and that when people go to the polls in 2019 they get to vote ‘for’ something. That they’re not afraid that they are just voting against something to stop something. Our movement if we can do anything else to help facilitate that conversation and get people moving,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill says Doug Schweitzer’s 7.3 per cent result in the leadership race is proof that there were few progressives voting.

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“A lot of the progressives have already left the party. They didn’t wait for yesterday. They are long gone.”

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