UCP not at risk of crumbling due to Jean and ‘internal political games’: Kenney

EDMONTON –

Alberta’s premier responded Monday to an allegation that he froze Brian Jean out of the United Conservative Party, calling the former Wildrose leader’s version of events “not accurate.”

Jason Kenney also denied that his party is “in trouble” as he continues to face waves of criticism from prominent conservatives.

On Friday, Jean released a video alleging Kenney didn’t talk to him at all after Jean lost the UCP leadership vote in 2017.

“Between the weekend that Jason Kenney won the leadership and my leaving the legislature four months later, we had no phone conversations, no in-person conversations, no text or emails,” Jean said.

“Jason obviously wanted me out and I obliged him.”

But Kenney says that’s not what happened. The premier claims he called Jean the day after the vote to offer him a “senior role” in the then-opposition UCP.

“(Jean) said he wanted to think about it. He texted me, I believe, the next day, and said that he had decided he wanted to take a bit of time to step back, reflect on his future, and my reply was, ‘I respect that completely,'” the premier said.

“We did everything we could to invite him to take a meaningful leadership role.”

Jean has been calling for Kenney to resign since June, and on Nov. 3 he declared his intention to run for the UCP in an upcoming byelection.

Political experts believe Jean’s re-emergence sets that stage for a UCP leadership fight, and Jean has said he’d take the job.

“Something must be done or Rachel Notley will win the next election with an overwhelming majority. That will be bad for Alberta,” Jean wrote in his comeback statement.

Kenney faces a leadership review at the party’s AGM April 8-9, 2022, in Edmonton, and the premier has recently polled as low as 22 per cent.

‘I’M NOT GOING TO BE DISTRACTED’: KENNEY

On Tuesday, the premier was asked why he’d let Jean back into the party, after MLA Todd Loewen was kicked out in May after calling on Kenney to resign.

MLA Leela Aheer has also recently demanded that Kenney quit, but she’s still in the UCP.

Kenney refused Tuesday to explain why the situations were handled differently.

“I can’t reveal the details of caucus discussions or the full context of various decisions that are made, but you know, I can say that the overwhelming majority of the government caucus is focused on doing the people’s business,” he said.

When asked if the UCP is in trouble, the premier repeatedly said he was focused on governing, and he would not be distracted by “internal political games.”

“Mr. Jean’s been trying to destabilize our party for going on three years now. I regard that as a distraction. We are focused on doing the people’s business right now,” he said.

A date for the Fort McMurray byelection has not been set, but it must be held by mid-February 2022.

Jean declined an interview with CTV News Edmonton last week.

    

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