Jason Kenney says he will not run in upcoming UCP leadership race

Jason Kenney says he will not run for United Conservative Party leadership, effectively putting an expiration on his time as Premier of Alberta.

Kenney won a majority vote in UCP leadership review, but said he would resign

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney received 51.4 per cent support from the party in a leadership vote, then announced he will be resigning. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)

Jason Kenney says he will not run for United Conservative Party leadership, effectively putting an expiration on his time as Premier of Alberta.

The UCP released the results of its leadership review Wednesday. Despite Kenney narrowly winning a majority, with 51.4 per cent voting in favour, he announced he'd be stepping down.

Questions have swirled in the days since, including whether he would run in the ensuing UCP leadership election. But during his provincewide radio show Saturday morning on 630 CHED and 770 CHQR, Kenney confirmed he would not run again for party leader.

"When you're in a position like me, you have to make a judgment call," Kenney said.

"It was clear to me that I legally could have carried on, with the support of the majority of people who voted. But it would likely invite yet more distraction and division."

For the leadership review, party members were asked: "Do you approve of the current leader?"

There were 34,298 members who mailed in ballots by the May 11 deadline, with 17,638 voting yes and 16,660 voting no. 

Kenney had previously suggested he would accept a result of 50 per cent plus one — for or against him.

He corrected the record while on air Saturday, however, saying that he never stated he would actually stay if he won.

Kenney was surprised when he saw the close results, he added.

"It was never my expectation to be in this job for a long time," Kenney said.

A party leader who publicly announces their intention to resign must immediately deliver a written notice to the party secretary, the UCP governance manual states. Although, if a letter is not received within five business days, the resignation is accepted as given and a leadership election will start.

On Thursday, Kenney tweeted a photo of a letter stating his intention to resign as UCP leader to party secretary Janis Nett, copying party president Cynthia Moore.

Now, the UCP must create a leadership election committee to establish how the leadership race will be conducted.

The policy lists a number of eligibility criteria for candidates, including that they must have been a party member for at least six months — although that could be waived — and they must submit a nomination petition with at least 500 signatures from party members.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, noted that Saturday's radio show was the first time Kenney took questions since announcing his resignation, and speculation swirled about whether he would run again.

"He put that to bed today," Bratt told CBC News.

"I expect there are a lot of people who will spend this long weekend self-reflecting on whether they want to run for leadership of the party."

Brian Jean, the former Wildrose Party leader and current UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac la Biche, has previously stated his desire to run for party leadership. Jean confirmed Wednesday, after Kenney announced his resignation, that he intends to do so.

Danielle Smith, also a former Wildrose Party leader, has also previously expressed interest in the role and is planning a campaign.

Other possible contenders include Kenney cabinet ministers Travis Toews, Doug Schweitzer, Sonya Savage, Jason Nixon and Rajan Sawhney.

The door is never fully closed on one's political career, however, Bratt said. He pointed to Jean, who left politics after losing the 2017 UCP leadership race to Kenney, but is now back in.

Kenney will remain Alberta's premier until a new party leader is elected and sworn into office.

There is no timeline yet for the leadership race.


Nicholas Frew is a CBC Saskatchewan reporter based in Regina, who specializes in producing data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Alberta. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.