Jean sat down for his first broadcast interview in some time — and the first since he announced last week he will be seeking the UCP seat in the Fort McMurray/Lac La Biche byelection — with 630 CHED Mornings with Daryl McIntyre.
“Something must be done,” Jean said.
“If there isn’t change, Rachel Notley will win an overwhelming majority and her second term will be much worse for Alberta than her first term.”
The former Wildrose Party leader has been openly critical of Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership of the province and the UCP, saying there are people in the legislature now who want change, but haven’t been able to make it happen.
He’s also called on the premier to step down — something he says he still stands by.
“If (Kenney) values this concept of uniting Albertans, which I think is so important going forward, then he must recognize that he is not the person to lead the UCP to success going forward,” Jean said.
Kenney and Jean have gone head-to-head before, competing to be leader of the UCP in 2017 after bringing together the now-defunct Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties. Kenney won 61.1 per cent of the vote, to Brian Jean’s 31.1 per cent.
“When that happens, you have to put things behind you and try to get out of the way,” Jean said Tuesday. “And I got out of the way because Jason Kenney wanted me to leave.
“Now it’s very clear that he can’t take this party and the movement to the next level,” Jean said.
“He will not be successful in winning the hearts and minds of Albertans, and it’s very clear to me that he has to step aside.”
In early 2018, Jean announced he was leaving politics to spend time with his family. He says the decision was compounded by the fact that Kenney didn’t speak to him for several months after the leadership race.
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“Can you imagine your boss not talking to you for four or five months?” Jean said.
“I wasn’t going to make a difference in that environment for the people that I represent, for my constituents.”
When asked about the allegation he stopped speaking to Jean, Kenney said it was inaccurate, saying he spoke to Jean the day after the leadership election.
“(I) invited him to consider any position he might…be interested in in the shadow cabinet or in the legislature in the official opposition,” Kenney said at a news conference Tuesday. “I said he was a critical member of the team, wanted him fully involved in a senior role — a front bench role — in the party in the caucus.”
Kenney says Jean texted shortly after that conversation saying he wanted to take a bit of time to step back and reflect on his future.
“My reply was I respect that completely,” Kenney said.
That was the last time Kenney says he heard from Jean until he called “a few months later” and was informed Jean was leaving his MLA seat.
As for Jean’s claims Kenney is not the right person to lead the UCP, the premier said Jean has been “trying to destabilize our party for going on three years now.”
“I’m happy to be, for this government to be judged by our results,” Kenney said. “I’m not going to be distracted by somebody trying to settle scores with internal political games.”
Trouble in the UCP
Jean’s move comes on the heels of news the Alberta NDP continues to raise more money from its supporters than the UCP has from theirs.
“That tells you all you need to know in politics,” Jean said.
“If you can’t raise money and you can’t keep members, you can’t win.”
Kenney also continues to face criticism from members of his party for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some have criticized him for doing too little and too late to address this summer’s onslaught of coronavirus hospitalizations in the province, while others say he has infringed on people’s individual rights with his public health measures, such as the vaccine passport program introduced in September.
According to the president of the UCP, Kenney will face a leadership review in the spring.
If successful in winning the UCP nomination, Jean will enter any subsequent leadership race that may be triggered.
“I believe that Albertans need somebody like me to stand up and be that catalyst for change,” Jean said. “Whether I’m successful as leader of the UCP, and ultimately premier, is not the important part right now.
“If Jason Kenney goes forward as the leader of the UCP, we will lose. And Rachel Notley with Justin Trudeau will reshape our province into something that we will not recognize.”
The Fort McMurray seat was left vacant when Laila Goodridge successfully ran for the Conservative Party of Canada in this summer’s federal election.