Braid: UCP is heading for a rough convention; MLA challenges Kenney

This goes beyond the fact that MLAs are encouraged to speak out their opinion on politics. Those MLAs fear the collapse of their party under Kenney’s leadership

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MLA Peter Guthrie stood up at a UCP meeting on Monday and read a letter from Prime Minister Jason Kenney.

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The prime minister listened. His reaction is not recorded – there is still a lasting bit of confidence in this group – but he was certainly furious.

The letter began to leak a few hours later. Guthrie, the MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane, tells me he knew it would be published. He sent the text to the prime minister and all the members of the meeting.

Why do it? For starters, Guthrie said Tuesday, he believes UCP party members are “treated more like an opposition party” than an essential part of the government.

His letter accuses the party and the prime minister’s office of meddling in local affairs, taking over rides and even improperly funding the congressional fees of Kenney loyalists from PAC funds.

“They do this to help you keep the UCP board with the intent of overseeing the (leadership) review process,” Guthrie said.

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“This may not be illegal, but it is certainly unethical.”

He demands an independent investigation immediately “to hold any culprits accountable.

“And if you’re an accomplice, then prime minister you have to retire here and now.”

It was not until Tuesday afternoon that Guthrie heard a word from the prime minister’s office about whether he would be disciplined.

Also Chestermere-Strathmore MP Leela Aheer, who recently said the prime minister was aware of internal harassment allegations and should resign.

Ever since the caucus voted to oust two critical MLAs, Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes, everyone seems free to say anything.

This goes beyond the fact that MLAs are encouraged to speak out their opinion on politics. Those MLAs fear the collapse of their party under Kenney’s leadership.

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Guthrie and other MLAs are angry about a rule for the threatening UCP weekend convention that says only the prime minister can bring new businesses to the floor.

Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie.
Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie. Photo by Patrick Gibson /Postmedia

Then there is the contentious resolution of the Edmonton Northwest riding, where the president, Dave Prisco, is the paid communications director for the party.

It requires raising from 22 to 29 the number of identical riding resolutions necessary for early guidance review.

“The bar is too low and opens the party to problems of a small minority of CA (constituency association) boards,” says the rationale of the riding.

Late Tuesday afternoon, both the prime minister’s office and the party began mounting defenses. They have been here for a long time. Dealing with this rebellion in silence clearly does not work.

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First, the prime minister’s office has denied any wrongdoing by people employed in Kenney’s legislative operation, acknowledging that they are often politically active.

“People who happen to work in parliament are often involved in party politics, and that applies to every party and government,” Christine Myatt, director of the government’s prime minister, said in a statement.

“However, party political functions are removed to overtime (i.e. not during the day while working for the taxpayers).”

On that highly controversial motion to change rules to force a special meeting, a source familiar with the Edmonton Northwest motion says it was written last spring when Kenney’s leadership was not such a hot affair. It was then checked by supporters for ranking at this weekend’s convention.

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At the time, a revision appeared set for the 2022 annual meeting. The riding board had no intention of influencing the congress.

As far as Kenney is concerned the only person allowed to bring a new resolution, a party statement says that “falling” new business has never been allowed. However, there is no explanation as to why Kenney has that power.

The party also says that “financial assistance to pay the costs of participating in a political congress is not unusual.

“CAs can choose to provide financial assistance to local members. We know the NDP encourages sponsorship to their conventions and, because of their rules and history, it is likely to be done by unions.”

There is no mention of Guthrie’s allegations of PAC funding.

Without compromise – agreeing to a leadership review early next year, for example – the party is going to a tense and angry congress this weekend.

But so far, it seems the prime minister would rather fight than bend.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

Twitter: @DonBraid

Facebook: Don Braid’s Politics

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