UCP board denies grassroots’ demands for earlier leadership vote on Kenney

The United Conservative Party executive has rejected the call from a quarter of their constituency associations to move up the date for a leadership review of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. 

In a letter sent Wednesday night by new president Cynthia Moore to members, the party confirmed a one-day special general meeting will be held on April 9 in Red Deer to vote on whether Kenney should remain at the helm of the party.

“Your provincial board of directors has listened to grassroots’ feedback and charted a new path forward for next year’s leadership review,” reads the letter, which was obtained by CBC News.

“The board is reducing barriers to entry while upholding our bylaws and traditions.”

In November, the presidents of a quarter of the UCP constituency associations in the province — 22 of 87 — signed a letter to the executive stating their members had successfully passed a motion that would compel the party to hold an early leadership vote.

According to the UCP bylaws, if a quarter or more of associations pass an identical motion, they can demand a special meeting to deal with the matter contained in the motion — in this case, a leadership review.

In the November letter, the 22 constituency association presidents demanded a vote before March 1 at a special general meeting, or SGM.

They also asked that the process be overseen by an independent auditor to “ensure the security of the voting system and one member, one vote.”

The party indicated that not all of the 22 motions they received satisfied the requirements of the bylaws. In addition, while constituency associations can demand a leadership review, the bylaws do not grant them unilateral power over the date or specifics of that review, the party said.

“Despite the party not having received the required resolutions, the board has heard from the membership that they want this matter dealt with and have called an SGM this spring. A SGM at a time and place which strikes a reasonable balance based on grassroots feedback,” Dave Prisco, the party’s director of communications, said in an email.

The meeting on April 9 will solely deal with the leadership review, and policy or governance issues will be pushed to an annual general meeting in the fall of 2022.

“This will allow us to significantly reduce registration costs, and by having it in Red Deer, we are putting it in a central location,” Moore wrote in her email. 

Anger at lack of mention of independent oversight

Her response makes no mention of that second request for independent oversight, which angered some of the motion’s signatories. 

“The whole point of our motion was to allow one member, one vote, not just members in attendance at an SGM or AGM, which would eliminate the vote of those who are not able to attend. April is when crop farmers are active and others would not attend due to travel distance and expense,” reads an email sent to Moore and all constituency presidents, written by one of the presidents whose associations passed the motion.

“Your plan to hold a leadership review on April 9 is not listening to the grassroots.”

CBC obtained a copy of the email but isn’t naming the person who passed it along because they were not authorized to share internal party matters.

Kenney ‘more confident’ of support after AGM

The constituency presidents presented their motion just days before party members met in Calgary for their AGM in November. The weekend proceeded without major incident, which Kenney counted as a victory.

“I know some of you guys were hoping for a fight yesterday, but it didn’t happen,” Kenney said to reporters as the meeting was wrapping up. “I think it was an incredible expression of unity. I feel more confident about my leadership today than frankly I have in a very long time.”

A leadership review was already scheduled for the special one-day meeting in April, after previous pressure from the constituency associations prompted the UCP board to move it up from next fall’s AGM.

The fall 2022 AGM will be held in Edmonton.

As well, the RCMP has an ongoing investigation into voting irregularities from the 2017 UCP leadership race that saw Kenney prevail over his chief rival, Brian Jean, after Alberta’s Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties merged.

The legitimacy of the 2017 race has been called into question after irregularities with member’s PIN numbers for voting and allegations that another candidate was engaging in a “kamikaze” campaign to propel Kenney to the leader’s seat. 

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