Brian Jean was back in the Alberta Legislature Thursday but there was no warm greeting from his party leader and man he’s trying to replace: Premier Jason Kenney.
“I got a tweet the other day, but I haven’t talked to him in years,” said the United Conservative Party MLA-elect for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.
After winning a byelection up north Tuesday, Jean was introduced by Speaker Nathan Cooper Thursday and received a loud applause from MLAs.
For months, Jean has been urging the premier to resign, and he’s openly campaigning to defeat Kenney in a leadership review in Red Deer on April 9.
“I am excited to see the result. I know when people go behind the doors behind that booth, they are going to make the right decision for Alberta,” he told reporters.
A spokesperson for Jean confirmed that 8,500 people had registered to vote in that review, and that number was expected to grow.
Kenney’s campaign, meanwhile, is issuing “urgent” requests for volunteers to help phone potential supporters in an effort to save the premier’s job, according to two recent emails obtained by CTV News Edmonton.
“We urgently need as many people as possible (40+) to call all day…We need each volunteer to work the full time slot, not just a couple of hours,” wrote Christopher Thresher, who is also chief of staff for minister Kaycee Madu.
“Please tell everyone how critical this is. The membership cutoff is midnight on Saturday. That’s why this push is on,” Thresher wrote.
Jean said that government staff members being urged to help Kenney was “inappropriate.”
“I will not tolerate any form of corruption at all in any party that I am involved with or have any ability to lead,” he said.
JEAN HOLDS EVENT IN EDMONTON
Jean wasted no time after his bylection win, holding a campaign-style event in Edmonton Wednesday night to encourage anti-Kenney leadership votes.
A spokesperson for his camp said several UCP MLAs attended, despite the fact that Kenney called a debate in the legislature at the same time.
“If Kenney does win and is able to lead the party into the next election, we are likely to see some consequences for these MLAs,” said Lisa Young, a political science professor based in Calgary.
Young believes the leaked emails from Kenney’s camp show some desperation from a premier who has been struggling in polls for months.
“This is unusual, and I think it does speak to some anxiety,” she said.
In February, the premier appointed Pam Livingston to run his leadership review effort. She took a break from serving as his chief of staff to do that.
“There will be an effort, obviously by many of the folks involved in these (convoy) protests, who perhaps have never been involved in a party before, to show up at that special general meeting and to use it as a platform for their anger over COVID measures,” Kenney said at the time.
KENNEY: ‘A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT’
The head of a grassroots campaign aimed at taking down the premier claimed Thursday that Kenney’s campaign is in disarray.
“It’s honestly a little bit insulting, that I thought those people could compete with who we have running it on our side,” said David Parker of Take Back Alberta.
Parker was on Kenney’s side in 2017 as a leadership campaign organizer. He said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the premier will be defeated in Red Deer.
“He is definitely not a fearful man, and that is why he is a formidable opponent.”
Another former Kenney staffer referred to the leaked emails in an opinion piece he wrote for the CBC on Thursday.
“A campaign without volunteers is a campaign circling the drain,” wrote Blaise Boehmer. He was Kenney’s director of communications, but recently left the government.
If Kenney thinks he might lose, he might call a snap general election or a leadership race, Boehmer wrote.
“I never got the sense that Kenney would allow his fate to be decided by factors he cannot control. It was never a question of whether or not we would win; it was always how much we would win by.”
Jean is expected to be sworn in as MLA early next month.
CTV News Edmonton reached out to the premier’s office for comment on this story.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski and The Canadian Press
The Canadian News
Canada’s largets news curation site with over 20+ agency partners