UCP leadership review ballots ready to be counted Wednesday

The results are set to be livestreamed at some point between 4 pm and 6 pm Wednesday

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The ballots in the contentious vote on whether Premier Jason Kenney should keep his job are ready to be counted on Wednesday.

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In a release Tuesday, the United Conservative Party said volunteers had completed the verification stage of its leadership review process, meaning voter packages were checked to confirm names match with the voters list and provided ID.

The sealed ballot envelopes that were part of the voter packages will be securely stored by Deloitte Canada until Wednesday when those envelopes will be opened by volunteers and the ballots counted in front of Deloitte staff and scrutineers, the party said.

The results are set to be live streamed at some point between 4 pm and 6 pm Wednesday.

Kenney is slated to speak to supporters from Calgary’s Spruce Meadows at some point that evening after the numbers are public.

He needs just a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one to technically qualify to keep his job though past premiers have lost their jobs after getting much higher numbers. Both Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford were out after receiving 77 per cent support.

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Kenney has said he doesn’t need that level of support to survive, arguing that the pool of voters has been diluted by thousands of angry members bent on destruction.

“This is a totally different dynamic,” Kenney said Monday.

“People who are saying (I have) to get, say, 90 per cent or something (similar) really aren’t appreciating the different context of this.”

Kenney has faced heavy criticism from within his own party and caucus who suggest that he is an overly-controlling leader whose deep unpopularity across Alberta will hand the NDP a win in the next election.

The leadership review process itself has also been contentious. What was supposed to be one day of in-person voting in Red Deer was moved to mail-in ballots after more than 15,000 people registered to show up. That led to allegations that the changes were being made to improve Kenney’s odds, something the party has denied. There are also reports that Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of bulk vote buying.

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The party said Tuesday that it “worked diligently to maintain the security of the vote.”

“Deloitte was hired to act as an independent adviser and impartial observer. They continue to work with the party to ensure that the monitoring and verification processes follow all rules and procedures, while also safeguarding the security of the ballots,” the party’s statement said.

“Scrutineers from all sides have participated in the verification process at every step. The verification stage was also livestreamed for Albertans to watch online 24-7.”

Party spokesperson Dave Prisco would not say how many ballots had been cast, saying those numbers could not be released until the process is complete.

If Kenney does not earn a majority, he will resign and caucuses will have to elect an interim leader while a leadership race is organized.

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Either way, the next time all UCP MLAs will see the premier face-to-face is at a caucus meeting scheduled for Thursday morning in Calgary. Kenney has said that if he survives the leadership review he expects caucus members to fall in line and respect the party’s choice for unity.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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