Brian Jean claims victory in race to represent UCP in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche byelection
Party has not publicly announced the winner of weekend vote
Brian Jean, the former leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party, says he's won the nomination to represent the United Conservative Party in an upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche byelection.
The party has not publicly revealed the results of the ballots, but in a Facebook post Sunday evening, Jean thanked members of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche for the "very good result." A spokesperson for Jean also told CBC News that he beat out Joshua Gogo to win the nomination.
Jean, who announced last month his plan to return to provincial politics, has called for Premier Jason Kenney to step down as UCP leader.
"Albertans are looking for hope and change and the UCP members in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche voted for renewal this weekend," Jean said in the Facebook post Sunday.
Vitor Marciano, a spokesperson for Jean, told CBC News the party called the two candidates to give them the results Sunday evening, with Jean receiving 68 per cent of the vote, or roughly 529 votes to 250 for Gogo.
Jean announced last month his plan to return to provincial politics by seeking the UCP nomination to fill the vacancy left by former MLA Laila Goodridge, who was elected as a member of Parliament in September.
At the time, Kenney said he welcomed Jean seeking the nomination and would endorse him "100 per cent" if party members chose him as the UCP's candidate.
In person voting took place in Fort McMurray on Saturday and closed at 5 p.m. Sunday in Lac La Biche.
Kenney will face a leadership review on April 9 in Red Deer, the party has confirmed, when a vote will be held on whether Kenney should remain at the helm of the party.
Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, said the nomination results bring to an end what had been a good month for Kenney.
In November, the party held its annual general meeting, where Kenney escaped unscathed, telling reporters he felt more confident in his leadership than he has for a "very long time." And last week, Bill 81, the Election Statutes Amendment Act, was passed, ending the $2-million cap on election campaign spending.
"He had a drama-less AGM, he got Bill 81 through ... he got positive fiscal news with a deficit that seems to be dropping because of high oil prices," Bratt said.
"But I think that nice bump that he had came to an end today because you've got a high profile opponent winning a nomination explicitly against Jason Kenney."
Jean said on Facebook that he will now travel the province "trying to get the UCP enthusiasm in every part of the province up to the same level as Fort McMurray."
Jean apologized early in the race after a post on his social media page highlighted the ethnicity of his political opponent to represent the UCP in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche constituency.
Though a date for the byelection has not been set, the Alberta New Democratic Party has already picked teacher Ariana Mancini to carry the party's flag.
"Mr. Jean has made it clear, even this evening, that he is running because of his rivalry with Jason Kenney," Mancini said in a news release Sunday night, congratulating Jean on the nomination.
"I am running for the people of Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche. UCP MLAs haven't delivered for our region. I am focused on job creation, improving public healthcare, protecting public education, protecting our community from flood and fire, and ensuring we have reliable EMS."
Paul Hinman, leader of the Wildrose Independence Party, used his Twitter account Saturday to announce that he will also be a candidate in the upcoming byelection in Fort McMurray-Lac Lac Biche.
We’re fast approaching the most important by-election in Alberta history, and I will be running for the Wildrose nomination here in Fort McMurray - Lac La Biche.<br><br>Fort McMurray can send a strong message to Edmonton and Ottawa that Alberta is going to battle hard for its future. <a href="https://t.co/0OKUbEcgdK">pic.twitter.com/0OKUbEcgdK</a>—@PaulHinmanWIPA