Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shocked many Wednesday evening when he announced his intention to step down as the leader of the United Conservative Party.
The decision came after Kenney received 51.4 per cent support in his leadership review vote. While it was enough by party rules to remain at the helm, Kenney said that was not adequate support to continue on as party leader.
“The result is not what I hoped for or frankly what I expected,” Kenney said Wednesday at the Spruce Meadows equestrian centre before a crowd that included several cabinet ministers.
“That is why tonight I’ve informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party.”
Political reaction to the move came in swift, from the prime minister, federal party leaders, as well as fellow and past premiers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Kenney for his contributions.
“Through the challenges of the past two years and decades of public service, you’ve been a voice for Alberta and Albertans, and I wish you all the best in the years ahead,” he said on Twitter.
“Obviously I want to recognize that Jason Kenney served his community, served his provinces, his country for many, many years. I wish him the very best in whatever next steps he takes on,” Trudeau added Thursday morning in Ottawa.
Interim federal Conservative Leader Candice Bergen thanked her friend for his many years of service to both Canada and Alberta.
“Whether at the federal level as a Minister of the Crown or as the Premier of Alberta, you have inspired and engaged so many.”
“Thank you to my friend Premier Jason Kenney for everything you have done to unite Alberta conservative voters into a new party, defeat a destructive NDP government and lead Alberta through a very challenging time,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan wished Kenney all the best.
“This job is never easy and I want to thank him for his public service to Albertans and Canadians.”
“Jason Kenney, my friend, the people of this province owe you a debt of gratitude,” said former federal Conservative leader Rona Ambrose. “You took a province economically ravaged by the NDP and turned it into a thriving place to live and work again. Because of you less kids will leave our home for jobs somewhere else. I’m so proud of you.”
Tim Uppal, Conservative MP for Edmonton Mill Woods, said no one works harder than Kenney.
“Thank you for your unwavering commitment and service to Alberta and Canada.”
Former B.C. premier Christy Clark said she was sad to see Kenney step down and thanked him for his work.
“Under his leadership, Alberta found a way through dark times and is now better positioned to thrive than any other province,” she said. “You always tried to do the right thing not just the popular one. Canada is a better country because of it.”
Liberal MP for Edmonton Centre and Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault admitted he and Kenney have not always agreed, but thanked him for his service.
“There has never been any doubt of his commitment to Albertans,” he said Thursday. “Right from the beginning when I became minister for Alberta, we sat down and agreed that we would work hard to find common ground and I think if you look at some of our record over the past months, we did just that.”
Boissonnault went on to say he is sensing a “disturbing trend” in Conservative politics across the country.
“The Conservative movement in this country is heading to a dark place and I find that very troubling and at a time when, we are in Alberta, trying to recover from a downturn in oil, now it’s getting better, but we have real issues in Alberta and we need real leadership and so I really do think that it’s time for the moderates in Conservative movements in this country to step up and ask themselves where is this train going,” he said.
“If we can’t have one of the major parties in this country being able to hold the centre, what does it say about where that party is heading? And disinformation and misinformation is part of that and we have leaders in this country that know they shouldn’t be sharing disinformation and yet they press retweet anyway and that’s not right.”
Kenney’s press secretary, Justin Brattinga, said Kenney is to remain as party leader until an interim leader is chosen. A caucus meeting is to be held Thursday.
Kenney said he’s asked the party to expedite a leadership vote.
— with files from The Canadian Press