After more than a year of frustration with Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership, the United Conservative Party constituency board in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills has voted 27 to 1 in favour of launching a leadership review.
“We just feel like there is a disconnect from voters and grassroots, we feel that there is actually a disconnect within caucus and cabinet,” Rob Smith, the president of the constituency association, told Global News.
The motion seeks to hold the review no later than March 1, 2022, but Smith said ideally it would be held as soon as the UCP’s annual general meeting, which is scheduled to be held in November. The UCP constitution says a review would be triggered if 22 constituency associations across the province request one, and Smith said he knows other boards are discussing similar motions.
“Hopefully this time we’ll hit the 22 that is required.”
The board first considered the motion last winter, driven by a number of concerns with the premier’s leadership, ranging from what Smith called a lack of consultation on the curriculum redesign, to the handling of the relationship between the government and Alberta’s doctors and nurses.
Seeking cost savings, the UCP government unilaterally cancelled the master agreement with doctors just as the pandemic was hitting the province. The government has also been seeking wage cuts for nurses. Its most recent offer removed a request for a three per cent across the board wage rollback as the two sides head to mediation, but nurses could be in a position to hold a strike vote in a matter of weeks.
The conversation resumed in July, a month after pictures surfaced of Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon enjoying a meal together on the SkyPalace rooftop patio while pandemic restrictions were still in place.
“A level of entitlement that my constituency association could not stand,” Smith said.
“Some of our board members, who were not as critical of Premier Kenney up to that point, absolutely felt as if that was the final straw.”
The UCP did not respond to a request for comment, while the premier’s office said Kenney is not concerned with partisan politics right now as he is focused on leading Alberta through the critical situation being driven by the fourth wave of COVID-19.