Jason Kenney wins UCP leadership race


Local reaction was mixed after Jason Kenney was elected as the first leader of the new United Conservative Party.

Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, beat Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer on the first ballot with 61 per cent of the vote.

Jean finished second with 32 per cent and Schweitzer finished in third place with 7 per cent. The results were announced Saturday.

Kenney is the first leader of the UCP party that was formed in July after the Progressive Conservative party and the Wildrose Party voted to merge.

The former president of the St. Albert Wildrose Constituency Association, Malcolm Parker, said he was expecting the result to be closer between Kenney and Jean.

Parker, who is a member of the St. Albert UCP Constituency Association board said that he is interested to see the policy direction the new party will head in.

“It will be interesting to see how the policies shape up now because that is the next step in what has to be done. It will be interesting see how the Wildrose input compared to the PC input,” Parker said.

Stephen Khan, former PC MLA for St. Albert called the new party “Wildrose 2.0” and said that there are very few progressives under the UCP banner.

Khan said that Schweitzer, who was the more progressive of the three candidates, finishing in last place showed that the party has migrated farther to the right.

“It’s a clear demonstration that there isn’t a progressive presence in the UCP,” Khan said.

Khan said he still has his old PC membership, which gives him membership in the UCP. He is now a member of the Alberta Party.

“I believe that the overwhelming majority of Albertans are centrists and moderates. I think the more discussions I have with like-minded people the more it seems that the Alberta Party is home for centrists in Alberta,” Khan said.

Jeff Wedman, the president of the St. Albert UCP Constituency Association, said that it seemed inevitable that Kenney would win the leadership race.

“From where I was sitting the writing was on the wall a long time ago,” Wedman said.

Wedman said that he thought that any of the three candidates would have made for a good leader.

“There wasn’t a bad candidate. It was good because there were competing views of conservativism because conservatism isn’t any one ideology. It’s a spectrum within the broad movement,” Wedman said.

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken, who supported Brian Jean in the race, said that he was initially disappointed that Jean didn’t win.

“I felt Brian was ready to lead the party into strong unity and a strong vision for Albertans. I recognize that all members are entitled to their judgment and I believe that the wisdom of many is far greater than the wisdom of a few and I’m 100 per cent behind that,” van Dijken said.

The UCP caucus started fall session together for the first time on Monday and van Dijken said that they are still adjusting to working with each other but he is looking forward to working with the new team. Van Dijken was named infrastructure critic for the UCP on Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to working together with the UCP members and the UCP caucus,” van Dijken said.



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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.