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Balloting complete in UCP leadership review of Premier Jason Kenney

Click to play video: 'UCP leadership review ballots due next Wednesday' UCP leadership review ballots due next Wednesday
WATCH ABOVE: (From May 4, 2022) There's one week left until the mail-in UCP leadership review ballots are due back. Tom Vernon reports. – May 4, 2022

Volunteers began checking voter identification Thursday in a mail-in leadership review of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and, if so inclined, the public could watch a livestream of the work on the United Conservative Party website.

“Volunteers are verifying that each ballot package received meets the requirements. If it is, then the sealed ballot secrecy envelope is placed in the ballot box for (future) counting,” party spokesman Dave Prisco said in a statement.

“This entire process is being overseen by the returning officer, scrutineers and (third-party audit firm) Deloitte Canada.”

READ MORE: UCP says report of member receiving 2 leadership vote ballots ‘not a concern’

Prisco said ballots are to be counted and the results announced via livestream next Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'UCP says report of member receiving 2 leadership vote ballots ‘not a concern’' UCP says report of member receiving 2 leadership vote ballots ‘not a concern’
UCP says report of member receiving 2 leadership vote ballots ‘not a concern’ – Apr 30, 2022

Ballots were sent out a month ago to almost 60,000 eligible party members. The question is simple: “Do you approve of the current leader? Yes or No?”

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The vote has been under a cloud.

Correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of possible illegal bulk buying of party memberships.

Elections Alberta, as per legislation, cannot confirm whether an investigation is ongoing. The party has said it has not been informed of any such review.

READ MORE: MLA Brian Jean says 8 credit cards allegedly bought thousands of UCP memberships

Click to play video: 'Brian Jean raises concerns over the payments for 4,600 UCP memberships' Brian Jean raises concerns over the payments for 4,600 UCP memberships
Brian Jean raises concerns over the payments for 4,600 UCP memberships – May 9, 2022

It has been a winding path to get to this point.

The review was delayed by a year and then pushed up to an in-person vote in Red Deer, Alta., on April 9 after fierce demands from almost two dozen constituency associations.

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The expected 3,000 or so expected voters ballooned to 15,000. The party executive, citing a difficulty of logistics, announced the vote would be expanded to all 59,000-plus members and balloting done by mail.

Click to play video: 'Pollster predictions for UCP leadership review' Pollster predictions for UCP leadership review
Pollster predictions for UCP leadership review – Apr 10, 2022

Kenney opponents say the change was made because the large in-person voter rolls indicated Kenney was going to lose.

The board has denied that.

Kenney won the party’s inaugural leadership review in 2017 in a race marred by allegations of collusion and voting irregularities. A multi-year RCMP investigation into allegations of criminal voter identity fraud continues.

READ MORE: Kenney interviewed by RCMP in criminal probe tied to 2017 UCP leadership race

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Jason Kenney says he was interviewed by RCMP in criminal probe tied to 2017 UCP leadership race – Mar 28, 2022

The fallout from that review, coupled with suspicion over last-minute changes to this vote, has led to concerns over whether it will be conducted fairly. UCP president Cynthia Moore has said she is confident everything will be handled above board.

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Kenney said as recently as this week that he is confident he will stay in the top job and that most of the party wants to move forward united.

The leadership review has become the cudgel that disgruntled party members and backbenchers have used to try to take Kenney to task for what they say are failures in leadership, sluggish fundraising and lagging poll numbers that suggest the door is wide open for an NDP win in next spring’s election.

Members also criticized Kenney for COVID-19 pandemic health restrictions they deemed needlessly excessive.

Kenney and his staff have publicly crossed swords with several backbench caucus members who say he promised leadership driven by grassroots advice, but has delivered a tight-fisted, top-down administration that has ignored most input except for a small group of advisers.

Kenney in turn has characterized his opponents as extremists, hate pedlars, lunatics and kooks seeking to oust him. He has suggested that, by doing so, they risk pulling out the centre pole of his big-tent conservative party and reducing it to a rump of anger ripe for destruction.

READ MORE: Kenney seriously considered leaving his post before deciding to fight for his job: audio recording

Kenney needs 50 per cent, plus one, to stay on. If he doesn’t, he has promised to quit — as per the rules — so a race could begin to pick a new leader.

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If he wins, he has said, malcontents on his backbench will be expected to fall in line or face yet-to-be named consequences.

Click to play video: 'Why all Albertans should be paying attention to the UCP leadership review' Why all Albertans should be paying attention to the UCP leadership review
Why all Albertans should be paying attention to the UCP leadership review – Apr 10, 2022

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