It would have been “physically impossible” to host an in-person leadership review in Red Deer next month, says Premier Jason Kenney.
Last week, UCP president Cynthia Moore announced the leadership vote, which was originally scheduled to take place at a Special General Meeting at the Cambridge Red Deer Hotel and Conference Centre, will instead go to mail-in ballots.
“We’d have people standing outside for hours on end, perhaps in snowy weather … with protestors shouting at them from all sides,” Kenney said during a press conference Monday.
“It would have been a disaster and everybody knows that.”
Kenney said he attended 16 public events between Wednesday and Sunday, including about 13 UCP-member events.
“I just heard overwhelming positivity, optimism about the future, support for the government and its direction, for my leadership and for the decision to have a mail-in ballot,” said Kenney.
“I know there’s always going to be some disagreement and some grumbling. That goes with the terrain. That’s fine and I respect different views for sure. But the party board had to make a tough decision. They couldn’t go ahead with trying to jam 20,000-plus people through a hotel ballroom on a Saturday afternoon.”
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan joined three other UCP MLAs, two former MLAs and six constituency association presidents gathered on the steps of the Alberta Legislature last Thursday to speak out against the decision to nix the in-person vote.
Stephan, as well as Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, called for Kenney’s resignation.
“The premier’s leadership, and now his unprecedented efforts to full out campaign and control the results of his own review have become a circus, a distraction, and a liability to the province and the party,” Stephan said in a statement last Thursday.
“Confidence is lost, and for the good of the party, for the province, the premier should be gracious, resign and support a positive leadership race for a new leader to unite the party and the province.”
Kenney said he isn’t surprised there are people with “divergent views” within the party.
“That’s been the case for some time,” said Kenney.
“At the end of the day, our members will speak to the future of our party through this secure democratic ballot and I look forward to that and will respect the outcome of that vote. I hope everybody does.”