Former Alberta Opposition leader quits months after losing bid to lead new party

FORT MCMURRAY — The former leader of Alberta’s Opposition is quitting the legislature, months after losing a bid to lead the province’s new United Conservative Party.

Brian Jean said in a statement that now is an important time to “draw closer” to his family as well as finally rebuild his home, which was destroyed in a massive wildfire that hit Fort McMurray in 2016.

Jean was leader of the Wildrose party in the 2015 election that saw the NDP win power after more than 40 years of Progressive Conservative rule.

His right-of-centre party merged last year with the PCs under then Tory leader and former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney to form the UCP, but Jean lost to Kenney to become leader of the new party.

“Last fall, I was proud to run for the leadership of our United Conservative Party and was incredibly touched by the support I received,” Jean said in the news release.

“Our members set out a clear direction for our party, and I would like to wish Jason Kenney and the rest of my UCP colleagues the very best as they prepare for the next election.”

Before provincial politics, Jean was a lawyer and businessman who later became a Conservative MP representing the former constituency of Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

Kenney issued his own news release thanking Jean for his contributions to the conservative cause, especially as Leader of the Opposition and as a member of the legislature.

“Today, the conservative movement in Alberta is resurgent, thanks in large part to Brian’s courageous and principled decision to put our province ahead of any political party by pursuing the path of unity,” Kenney stated.

After Kenney defeated Jean in the leadership contest in October, Jean was not given a critic portfolio, which Jean said was his wish.

At that time, Jean said he wanted to focus on his family and his constituents in Fort McMurray-Conklin. He also said he wanted to see what direction the United Conservatives would take at their founding policy convention in the spring before deciding whether to run in the next election in 2019.

Jean won the leadership of Wildrose just weeks before the 2015 election, assuming the helm at a tumultuous time for his family and for the party.

His 24-year-old son, Michael, died of lymphoma during the Wildrose leadership race. In the preceding months, the party’s former leader Danielle Smith and 10 more of its legislature members had crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives under its new leader, Jim Prentice.

That left Wildrose with only five members in the legislature, and many wrote the party off. While they didn’t win the election, they captured 21 seats to remain the official Opposition.

Both Wildrose and the PCs later voted to merge, but Jean didn’t come close to getting the support of Kenney, who received nearly twice as many votes to lead the new party.

“Three years ago, I entered provincial politics because I believed Albertans deserved better from their government — whether it was an unresponsive health care system, irresponsible spending, or suffering from a decline in democracy,” Jean said in his statement.

“We needed to set a bold new direction for conservative politics in this province and I’m proud that during my time as leader of Wildrose and as a member of the United Conservative Party, these policies are closer to coming to reality than ever before.”

Just Posted

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

Fundraiser to help keep kids warm in Blackfalds

Community Warmth Fall Fundraiser

Piper Creek Foundation gets a new name

Red Deer subsidized housing program for seniors

Reveen returns to Red Deer

Presented by Friends of Red Deer Regional Hospital

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read