Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan speaks during a town hall event at the Baymont by Wyndham Red Deer hotel Thursday evening. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff )

Stephan: Kenney’s leadership review is a circus

Alberta’s legislature begins with a daily prayer asking leaders to “never lead the province wrongly through love of power”.

Our political system does require reform, concentrating too much power in the hands of the Premier.

Other than elections, leadership reviews are vital checks and balances against autocratic ambitions. It is a serious matter to meddle with the few checks and balances for the public that remain.

The UCP leadership review has become a spectacle and a circus.

Fundamentally moving goalposts, after deadlines, destroys trust and integrity of process. It provides opportunities to cheat.

The party executive first chose a process that suppressed member participation. Many grassroots members and CA boards raised concerns about this, which the executive ignored and rejected.

Many are concluding the leader was losing his vote, under his preferred rules, so he metaphorically grabbed the ball and ran away.

Many are concluding these fundamental changes in process, after deadlines, seek to manipulate the outcome of the vote.

Many do not trust this new process has not, or will not, be rigged.

Last week I stood in the legislature and said:

“Some politicians label those who agree with them as the mainstream; while those who disagree with them as fringe minorities, extremists, or threats undermining stability.”

Kenney is doing what he condemned Trudeau for doing.

“Some politicians say of course we can have unity – if only you would agree with me!

That is not unity. That is ridiculous.

We are governed by laws, not by individuals, and our paramount loyalties are to principles, not office holders.”

Kenney says those who vote to change him as leader undermine unity and stability.

That is self-serving. “Stability” was also used by Trudeau as a self-serving excuse to justify his pact with the NDP.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney or there will be divisions in the party!

They are too late – divisions are upon us and sometimes this leader has increased, rather than decreased, them.

We have seen too much dividing, too much labelling, sometimes change in leadership is required to heal, to unite and move forward.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney, we cannot risk the NDP getting back in!

Albertans are tired of politicians using fear as a tool.

Conservative policies, regardless of the leader, increase economic prosperity. With oil over $100, a conservative government budget would be balanced, with or without Kenney.

The ends do not justify the means and so this leader does not enjoy the trust of most Albertans. This recent development only amplifies and reinforces those feelings.

Kenney is less popular than the party. Is it in the best interests of our party, our province, to go into an election hoping to win, in spite of the leader? Isn’t that too much to risk, as we cannot risk the NDP getting back in!

Some politicians say vote for Kenney, we need him to get Alberta a fair deal! What has he accomplished so far? If he is not fair, where his moral authority to demand Ottawa to be fair?

With Trudeau forming an axis with the NDP, we do need to prepare ourselves for the real possibility of further hostile, targeted attacks that harm Alberta businesses and families.

The Premier of Alberta needs to be respected and trusted by Albertans to fearlessly defend our interests. The current Premier does not have that.

Some politicians say vote for Kenney or you get someone worse!

More fear. To assume that any one person is the only one who could be the leader of our party is a false assumption.

There are many honest and principled Alberta men and women who would be great leaders of our party.

Politics should not be a career. It is a special opportunity to serve and having contributed one’s experiences and talents, one should step aside and allow others to do the same.

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.

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.

“Dividing and labelling others only produces contention and destroys trust.

That is not leadership.”

This is true.

“Great leaders lead in love and inspire the best in those they serve.”

This is what we need.

Jason Stephan is an MLA for Red Deer-South.