Alberta premier ‘happy to be held accountable’ as splinters form in UCP caucus

EDMONTON –

The leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party and government insists he has caucus confidence, but now isn’t the time to prove it.

Jason Kenney acknowledged on Tuesday the party has had to “grapple” with some internal division over COVID-19 public health measures – not so much, however, Kenney said, that he’s lost his colleagues’ confidence.

“To open this up for some big political argument at this moment would be grossly irresponsible. Our entire team needs to be focused on one thing and one thing only right now, which is beating this fourth wave of COVID and ensuring we are prepared for whatever may come in the COVID era,” the politician told reporters after a provincial COVID-19 update and cabinet shuffle in which Alberta’s health minister was replaced.

The comments came a day before Wednesday’s caucus meeting, during which the party is expected to discuss holding a vote of confidence in Kenney.

Over the weekend, the party’s vice president of policy confirmed to CTV News he had called for a leader performance review. Joel Mullan also told media outlets he had personally lost confidence in Kenney since Alberta implemented a proof-of-vaccine system.

The United Conservative splinters are older than Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program, however, and date back to Kenney’s handling of MLAs who left the country while international travel wasn’t advised, his own flouting of public health orders during a Sky Palace dinner, and criticism over the past year his government acted too strictly, lightly or – as COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations peak – late.

“I believe I have the confidence of the members of my party, our caucus, and of our party board,” Kenney told reporters on Tuesday.

The premier pointed to the UCP’s leadership review mechanism, which would otherwise see his performance evaluated by his peers at the party’s 2022 annual general meeting.

“I’m happy to be held accountable to the members of my party,” Kenney said. He suggested a premature review would be seen as a “self-indulgent political sideshow.”

“There will be a leadership review in due course. We cannot allow politics, including internal politics, to distract us from the essential task of doing the right things.”

With files from CTV News Calgary ​

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