Brian Jean was sworn in at the Alberta legislature Thursday morning as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
Jean won the byelection for the United Conservative Party in the northern Alberta riding last month.
However, the win was far from a victory for the leader of the party, Premier Jason Kenney. Jean is dedicated to ousting Kenney from the province’s top job.
“This time it’s all about renewing the UCP and giving a voice to the members and Albertans to make sure that we put them in charge of this party and Alberta,” Jean said Thursday.
“We know that we have some very serious issues — the most important being the NDP in the election is going to get an overwhelming majority if we keep the same leader.”
Jean added he has not spoken directly to Kenney in about four years.
“I’m not here for the premier. Let’s be clear. I’m here for the people of Alberta.”
Ultimately, Jean said he would like to become the next premier of Alberta, but said “that’s not why I’m here today.”
“I’m here today to make sure we renew the UCP.”
University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young said there is inevitably going to be a moment of reckoning.
“I don’t know when it’s going to happen but certainly, I really don’t see how an MLA who is openly critical of the party leader and who is actively trying to have the party leader ousted, can sit in the caucus long-term.”
Young believes the premier may be waiting for the results of the leadership review to address the issue. One way or another, Young said Kenney is going to have to confront the issue sooner than later.
“Otherwise, the party is going to have to spend the next year, as it’s moving into an election, dealing with ongoing internal caucus division,” she explained.
“If the leadership review doesn’t put an end to the internal caucus division, really, the party can’t afford to have this continue long-term.”
The swearing-in ceremony comes just days ahead of the start of a leadership vote which will determine if Kenney has the support of his party.
Kenney’s leadership review will be conducted via mail-in ballot. The April 9 special general meeting was moved to an online meeting rather than an in-person meeting originally scheduled in Red Deer.
More than 15,000 people have registered to participate in the SGM and leadership vote.
Returned ballot envelopes must be received by the auditor for the UCP by 5 p.m. on May 11. The results of the leadership vote are expected to be released on May 18.
Global News has reached out to the premier’s office for comment on this story and will update it when a response is received.