Jason Kenney launches UCP leadership campaign with criticism of PM, Alberta NDP

Jason Kenney announced his bid to become leader of the new United Conservative Party in Edmonton on Saturday, making him the third candidate to enter the race.

Kenney is the third candidate to enter the race to lead the new United Conservative Party

Jason Kenney has entered the race to become the new leader of the United Conservative Party. He's the third candidate to seek the top job. (Richard Marion/Radio-Canada)

Jason Kenney announced his bid to become leader of the new United Conservative Party in Edmonton on Saturday, making him the third candidate to enter the race.

Kenney, holding a "special announcement" at the Italian Culture Society Saturday morning, told his hundreds of supporters that he was ready to lead the UCP — 16 minutes into his speech.

The UCP is a newly formed party consisting of two previous conservative entities, the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives.

Kenney joins former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer as declared candidates in the race, where members are set to vote on Oct. 28.

Platform hidden in criticisms of current government

In his speech, Kenney shared some insight into his platform, but it was under the veil of criticisms of his government adversaries.

Kenney started his speech by playing up Albertan pride — while taking aim at the federal Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Justin Trudeau says that Canada, quote, 'has no national identity.' And he seems to think that Canada 150 is all about apologizing for our past," Kenney said while his supporters booed.

"I think he could not be more wrong," he followed, to cheering.

Kenney was flanked by a diverse group of supporters. (Marie-Pier Mercier/Radio-Canada)

"I'm sorry, Justin, but I'm not distracted by the socks and selfies."

He took jabs at Trudeau and the Alberta NDP on subjects like Alberta's climbing provincial debt and what he called a "backroom deal" between the NDP and Trudeau on the carbon tax, calling it "all economic pain and no environmental gain."

Kenney promoted the idea that Alberta is "under assault" by the current NDP government relying on "the failed theories of socialism."

He hopes to reignite economic prosperity by re-establishing international interest in Alberta oil, as well as rewrite the educational social studies curriculum, which the province is currently reworking, to focus less on political correctness and colonialism and more on Canada's military and Confederation history.

'Consistent, conservative conviction'

After announcing his intentions to run for the leadership, Kenney then turned to his record, first as a federal MP and immigration minister and then as leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party. He noted his part in uniting the PCs and Wildrose to form the UCP.

"I resigned my seat in Parliament and put 80,000 clicks on my Dodge pickup, travelling to over 700 events in every corner of the province," he said.

Kenney's campaign also collected donations for his upcoming bid to become the leader of the UCP. (Richard Marion/Radio-Canada)

"The critics scoffed. They said it couldn't be done," Kenney said of the united right. "But I always had faith in this as the can-do province… we figure out how to overcome obstacles and we Albertans, we just get 'er done!"

He then spoke about why he's the right fit for the leadership job. "We need a leader with consistent, conservative conviction," he said. "I know that I have those clear convictions."

Kenney did not take questions from reporters during the announcement.

With files from Roberta Bell