A United Conservative MP is delivering a strong warning to Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney that his party is in trouble and must heed the growing concerns of its members.
“We have a caucus that I think is frustrated, and voters that are frustrated, and of course the membership,” Peter Guthrie said in an interview Tuesday. “I just want the best for the future of the game and the best for the province and the people of Alberta.
“I feel like you can (turn around), but we are 19 months away from the next election, and we must begin to listen and pay attention to the signals that we are seeing and hearing.”
On Monday, Guthrie delivered the same message to Kenney, reading aloud at the caucus a letter warning that the party’s electoral fortunes were sliding into the abyss.
“Public opinion continues to decline and it is possible that we are at a point where this party cannot be saved,” the letter reads.
“Regaining the favor of Albertans should be our priority.
“Humility and confidence cannot be mere words.”
Guthrie declined to describe Kenney’s reaction to his comments, except to say, “Obviously, the prime minister defended his position.”
Kenney’s office declined to comment.
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Guthrie, in his letter, conveyed particular concerns about a move within the party to advance the date of a leadership review vote to determine whether Kenney still has his confidence.
If Kenney gets less than 50 percent support in such a review, he’s out.
The leaders’ vote is scheduled for early April at the 2022 annual general meeting in Edmonton.
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However, 22 constituencies’ associations sent a letter to the party executive this week, noting that they represent the required 25 percent of the boards needed for the vote to move to a special meeting before March 1.
They say an earlier vote would allow all members to vote at home and not have to travel to Edmonton in April to cast their vote.
They also acknowledge that for some of them, the movement is fueled by unhappiness over Kenney’s leadership.
The UCP executive said they are now discussing the letter on the advancement of the leadership vote.
Guthrie noted that a resolution to be tabled before the UCP’s annual general meeting this weekend in Calgary seeks to amend the bylaws to raise the threshold for such a motion to 29 constituencies out of 22.
The reason is that 22 is too small a number to trigger such a potentially large vote.
Guthrie said a late motion to move the threshold sends a troubling signal from a party claiming to celebrate grassroots participation.
“It will look bad if they change it,” Guthrie said.
“If you move the goal posts from CA 22 to 29, I don’t think the rank and file is going to appreciate it.”
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Kenney has declined to comment on an expedited leadership review, saying the issue is up to the party.
The prime minister has faced growing discontent in his group and party in recent months, mainly related to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cases spiked in the fall, pushing the hospital’s capacity to the limit after Kenney lifted nearly all health restrictions and announced that the pandemic was over.
UCP’s fundraising has lagged that of the NDP Opposition and Kenney’s approval numbers have been in free fall.
He has also faced calls from some caucus members to resign.
© 2021 The Canadian Press