Kenney backbencher delivers a blunt warning of ignoring partisan concerns

A United Conservative-backed MP is delivering a blunt warning to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney that his party has problems and needs to heed the growing concerns of its members.

“We have a meeting that I think is frustrated, and constituents that are frustrated, and of course membership,” Peter Guthrie said Tuesday in an interview.

“I want only what is best for the future of the party and what is best for the province and Albertans.

“I do feel like it can be (turned on), but we’re 19 months ahead of the next election, and we need to start listening and paying attention to the signs we see and hear.”

“Humility and faith cannot be mere words”

On Monday, Guthrie delivered the same message to Kenney, reading aloud in a caucus letter warning that the party’s electoral fortunes are slipping over the abyss.

“Public opinion continues to decline and we may be at a point where this party cannot be saved,” the letter reads.

“Winning the favor of Albertans should be our priority.

“Humility and faith cannot be mere words.”

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie. (Facebook)

Guthrie declined to describe Kenney’s reaction to his comments other than saying, “Obviously, the prime minister has defended his position.”

Kenney’s office declined to comment.

Guthrie, in his letter, issued special concerns about a move within the party to advance the date for a leadership review vote to determine whether Kenney still has their trust.

If Kenney gets less than 50 percent support in such a review, he’s gone.

Guidance vote set for early April 2022

The leadership vote is set for early April at the 2022 annual general meeting in Edmonton.

However, 22 constituency associations sent a letter to the party executive this week, noting that they represent the required 25 per cent of boards needed for the vote to go up to take place at a special meeting before March 1st.

They say an earlier vote would allow all members to vote at home and not have to travel to Edmonton in April to vote.

They also acknowledge that for some of them, the move is driven by unhappiness over Kenney’s leadership.

The UCP executive said they are now discussing the letter on an increase in the leadership vote.

Guthrie noted that a resolution coming ahead of the annual UCP general meeting this weekend in Calgary aims to change regulations to raise the threshold for such a motion to 29 constituency associations out of 22.

The rationale is that 22 is too small a number to trigger such a potentially consistent vote.

Guthrie said a late motion to move the threshold sends a relevant signal from a party that claims to celebrate popular participation.

“It will look bad if they change it,” Guthrie said.

“If you move the target posts from 22 to 29 CA, I don’t think the party’s grassroots will appreciate that.”

Rising discontent

Kenney declined to comment on an accelerated leadership review, saying the issue depends on the party.

The prime minister has encountered growing discontent in his party and party in recent months linked mainly to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases increased in the fall, pushing hospital capacity to the brink after Kenney lifted almost all health restrictions and announced the pandemic was over.

UCP fundraising lagged behind that of the Opposition NDP and Kenney’s approval numbers were in free fall.

He also met calls from a number of caucuses to resign.

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