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Brian Jean targets Jason Kenney, rallying member votes for UCP leadership after byelection victory


Brian Jean is one step closer towards achieving his goal of dethroning Premier Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP after a commanding byelection victory Tuesday night.

The former Wildrose Party Leader won the riding of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, receiving roughly 60 per cent of the vote.

Jean didn’t mince words in his victory speech, noting immediately that he was coming after Kenney in the upcoming UCP leadership review in Red Deer on April 9.

“Jason, I hope you see what’s coming and I hope you do the right thing. I know in your heart of hearts, you know what the right thing to do is, and you know that the UCP cannot win in one year unless you’re gone,” Jean said.

“We ran on the message board Jason Kenney needs to be replaced. The right thing to do is for him to resign.”

Jean, who also sat as a former member of parliament for the federal Conservatives and worked as a Fort McMurray businessman and lawyer is continuing to rally as many UCP members as possible against Kenney.

The byelection victory came as no surprise to UCP members like Mark Fiselier, who is the acting president of the party’s Calgary-Varsity Constituency Association.

He said it’s no secret that Jean wants to be leader, but worries he hurt the party’s chances of future success if he claims the top job.


“This could be really detrimental for the party if Jean wins because you only have a year and a bit until the next provincial election. If someone else wins, they’re going to have to pick a new team of advisors, a new cabinet, potentially new staff members,” Fiselier said.

“It’s going to be a huge distraction from the getting the good message out there on all the work the UCP has done over the past three years.”

Other political scientists like Melanee Thomas with the University of Calgary added that it was odd to see Jean given the nomination to run for a seat in the first place.

“I have never seen a byelection like this with respect to how easily a leadership rival was given a candidacy, that is outstanding,” she said.

Thomas noted that a new leader could just further divide the party and send the wrong message to voters in the next provincial election.

“The party is really struggling with the ‘extent of the tent’ and whether or not everybody who's in the tent actually can get along well. So I think it will be interesting to see whether or not the internal processes inside the party can actually mitigate those differences in such a way that the party actually ends up presenting the united front.”


Kenney took to Twitter late Tuesday evening to offer his congratulations to Jean.

In his tweet he said, “Thank you to all of the candidates and their volunteers for their commitment to democracy, and to local voters for participating in the electoral process.”

Kenney had previously said earlier Tuesday that he was rooting for the UCP to win the byelection, but did not name Jean directly.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said it will be interesting to see how the pair interact with one another in-person.

Jean had previously lost the UCP leadership vote to Kenney in 2017 and later resigned as an MLA in 2018.

Bratt said that same situation could play out with another Kenney victory.

“If Kenney wins the leadership review, I think he will take steps to remove Brian Jean from caucus. And if Kenney doesn’t win the review, then, you know, he may be stepping down and then Brian Jean is by himself in caucus. So there’s still a lot more drama in Alberta politics to come.”

Bratt added however that the party itself is still facing an identity issue beyond that of its leader over the best approach on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It used to be that what bonded the UCP together was the animosity and dislike for the NDP and Rachel Notley and the realization they had to get together to remove her from power. Now, they seem to be united – or at least enough of them are united – on removing Jason Kenney. Fine, you do that. Then where do you go?” he asked.

The Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche byelection was triggered when UCP MLA Laila Goodridge resigned to run for a federal seat.

NDP candidate Ariana Mancini finished second to Jean on Tuesday with 17 per cent of the vote, while Wildrose Independence Parry leader Paul Hinman finished third with roughly 11 per cent.

-- with files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski & Sean Amato Top Stories

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