United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is stepping down after only 51.4 per cent of party members supported him in a leadership review vote.
Of the 34,298 votes cast, 17,638 voted in favour of Kenney’s leadership and 16,660 voted against.
“The result is not what I hoped for or frankly what I expected,” said Kenney, in Calgary shortly after the results were announced.
A leadership race would have been triggered automatically if Kenney failed to get 50 per cent of the vote.
“While 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader.
“And that is why tonight I have informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party,” said Kenney to groans from the crowd of supporters.
“I’m sorry, but friends, but I truly believe we need to move forward. We need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us and a large number of our members have asked for the opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election.”
Kenney said he recommended that the provincial board schedule a leadership election in a “timely fashion.”
“Friends, it was clear that the past two years were deeply divisive for our province, our party and our caucus.”
However, he said he is “incredibly proud” of the work his team has done.
“Together, we reunited the free enterprise movement in Alberta politics and we won the largest electoral mandate in our province’s history.
“We inherited profound fiscal and economic challenges and then we went through three once-in-a century crises — the largest public health crisis in a century, the largest collapse of the world economy in nearly a century, and the first time ever we experienced negative oil prices,” he said.
“Despite all of that, we got the job done, delivering on nearly 90 per cent of our election commitments.”
Alberta is leading the nation in economic recovery and his party balanced the budget for the first time in 14 years, he added.
Kenney pointed to last week’s court victory over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “no more pipelines law” and his efforts in Washington on Tuesday to sell U.S. political leaders on the benefits of Alberta oil as evidence of his party getting the job done.
“But clearly, a large number of our members want to clear the air with a leadership election and I fully respect their decision and I fully encourage all members to do the same.
“While we have our internal differences we must remember the shared values that unite us as conservatives and we must always remember the promise of Alberta, this great land of opportunity where dreams come true and anyone can achieve their God-given potential.”