Edmonton

'Positive' reception for Kenney at UCP AGM not accurate, MLA says

Opposition politicians are dismissing claims by Premier Jason Kenney that United Conservative members are united behind his leadership after the party’s annual general meeting over the weekend. 

Premier claims he received 'support and encouragement' from delegates at annual general meeting

Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen is still a UCP member even though he was removed from the governing party's caucus last spring. (Dave Bajer/CBC News)

Opposition politicians are dismissing claims by Premier Jason Kenney that United Conservative members are united behind his leadership after the party's annual general meeting over the weekend. 

Both NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and independent MLA Todd Loewen dismissed the AGM as political theatre staged by staff and allies whose convention fees were paid by pro-Kenney political action committees. 

Loewen, the MLA for Central Peace-Notley, attended the AGM as he is still a member of the UCP. Loewen was kicked out of the UCP caucus last spring after publicly calling for Kenney to resign. 

Loewen said Kenney's characterization of the weekend is inaccurate as it doesn't reflect what members were actually saying. 

"Behind closed doors there were lots of discussions, a lot of people asking, 'OK, how can we get get the premier out of here?'" he said.   

The party says 1,600 delegates attended the event at a resort on Tsuut'ina territory just outside Calgary. It was the UCP's first in-person convention since December 2019 and a test of Kenney's popularity. The premier's approval ratings have plummeted over the past year. In addition to Loewen, several other current and past UCP MLAs have publicly called for Kenney to resign. 

Kenney on Sunday told reporters he was humbled and gratified by favourable reception to his keynote address on Saturday. He said received "constant support and encouragement" in several hundred one-on-one interactions with delegates 

'72 hours of theatre'

Notley said people at the convention didn't spend time discussing what Albertans are concerned about. Instead, she claimed, most of the government's efforts were focused on "throwing their leader a party." 

"The real world is back in play on Monday morning, and I hope they enjoyed their little bit of, you know, 24 hours, 72 hours of theater," Notley told reporters at the Alberta legislature. 

"But the rest of Alberta actually has legitimate issues they want their government to address."

Last week, Kenney didn't deny third-party advertisers were involved with funding convention fees. He said it was normal practice for youth delegates to get financial assistance.

In Monday's question period, Kenney deflected questions from Edmonton South NDP MLA Thomas Dang about a letter obtained by Postmedia columnist Don Braid. The letter from an anonymous executive suggested they were hoping to trade delegate support for favours from Kenney's cabinet. 

Dang told the house this letter is proof of bribery of government officials and asked Kenney if the government sent the letter to the RCMP.

Kenney did not answer Dang's questions, but instead responded with attacks on a motion passed by the youth wing of the NDP on the weekend in support of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in its fight over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

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