Growing division within the UCP could spark a leadership review: political scientist
With many political watchers saying division is growing within United Conservative Party circles, some feel a leadership review could be on the way for Premier Jason Kenney.
“I think there is a pretty common sense in the party that they do not want Premier Kenney to lead the party into the next election,” said Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary.
Following sweeping restrictions including rules around a proof of vaccination document announced by Kenney last week – the premier has received criticism from Calgary UCP MLA Richard Gotfried, saying the province did not act soon enough to implement new measures.
In addition, two former UCP backbenchers, sitting as independents have called for his outright resignation.
“There is deep division, it appears, inside the UCP caucus about what should be done about the COVID-19 situation,” said Young.
“Premier (Alison) Redford stepped down, but the caucus did not have the kinds of fundamental internal divisions that the UCP caucus has.”
Young believes if the UCP caucus was to vote on a no-confidence motion of Kenney’s leadership, it could cause further damage to the UCP brand.
“I think strategically for the party, they are far better leaving the premier in charge for the next number of months,” said Young.
“Let the premier take the fall for the situation we are in and then move forward with a new leader who can try and put things together, once the issue that is pulling the caucus apart has been resolved.”
Young suggests even if the premier loses a no-confidence vote that doesn't mean he's out immediately. Kenney could either continue to govern, step down, or recall the legislature, triggering a potential early provincial election.
“The premier might say, 'The caucus has no authority for me to step down as party leader,'” said Young.
“'I am premier and I will continue. We are in the middle of a crisis situation. This is no time to change government. I will simply continue,' and this buys him some time, until he has to bring the legislature back.”
A leadership review can be launched if at least 22 of the constituency ridings across Alberta call for one, or the party executive votes to hold one at anytime. Leadership reviews cannot take place in an election year, which is currently scheduled for 2023.
According to reports first from the Western Standard and then Postmedia, a board executive member has called for an early leadership review of Kenney.
CTV confirmed the details with that member, Joel Mullan, vice-president of policy, but he declined to comment further.
However, CTV has been told there is considerable agitation internally to press for an early leadership review. The party has not yet responded to our requests for comment.
United Conservative Party and Premier Jason Kenney’s office have been contacted for comment, but have not responded so far.