Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, buffeted by party infighting and a contentious leadership review, is rejecting speculation he may call an early election as part of a last-ditch effort to maintain control.
“I commit to the legislated election date in late May of 2023 unequivocally, period, full stop,” Kenney said Friday.
“That kind of speculation, I don’t know (where it comes from).
“I think that sometimes political hacks entertain themselves by inventing rumours like that. I have never heard anybody in the UCP discuss that as even an option.”
Kenney noted his United Conservative Party government recently passed legislation further narrowing the mandated three-month election window to a specific day — the last Monday in May – to ensure the voting day is not tailored to favour the party that gets to pick it.
Under the law, the next election is to be May 29, 2023.
“I have given zero consideration to a, quote, ‘snap election,’” said Kenney.
“I think it would be dumb. It would break a promise, but also we’re cooking with gas here in terms of Alberta’s economic recovery and I want to keep our eye on the ball.”
Despite such fixed-date legislation, governments are still free to call elections under the fluidity of a parliamentary system that must roll with the shocks of caucus defections and non-confidence votes. Leaders can also call them if they feel they need a mandate for major change, as former Alberta premier Jim Prentice did when he called an early vote in 2015 on a new vision for the economy.
Kenney’s comments came amid reports and speculation on how he will repair the open fractures within his party if he wins the crucial party leadership review vote.
Party members have been mailing in ballots for the last month, checking yes or no on whether they approve of Kenney’s job as leader and premier.
Voting is complete and party volunteers are now sorting through the envelopes to ensure everyone who mailed in a form is eligible to vote. On Wednesday, the votes will be counted and the results announced.
If Kenney fails to get support of 50 per cent plus one, he must quit and a leadership race would be held. Kenney has said he considers even a one-vote majority a mandate to stay.
Kenney opponent and UCP backbencher Brian Jean, who co-founded the party with Kenney in 2017, said that is not enough.
Jean, in a video posted on his Facebook page Friday, said conservative leaders in Alberta and nationally have abided by and know they need a high number at leadership reviews — 80 per cent support or more — to have party confidence.
“The premier knows all of this, which is why I believe that he will not attempt to keep power with a low number,” said Jean.
“If he cannot get a survivable number, he will leave. If he cannot get a number that shows that he has the moral authority to run our party and all our political lives, he will leave.
“It’s the honourable and decent thing to do.”
Kenney has said if wins, he expects the malcontents in his caucus to get in line behind him or face consequences.
One such option would be for Kenney to call a snap election, forcing party members to rally around him. The move would also leave caucus dissidents twisting in the wind, to run as Independents in the election with little time to organize a challenge against him.
The leadership review itself is under a cloud. It was altered by the party’s executive at the last minute from an in-person vote of 15,000 to a mail-in ballot of all 59,000 members. Kenney’s critics have said the change was made to bolster his chances, while the party said that is not so.
According to correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press, Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of possible illegal bulk buying of party memberships.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2022.
Canada stays undefeated at world juniors with 6-3 win over Finland
By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Edmonton
Ridly Greig was a little banged up after helping Canada to a big win at the world junior hockey championship on Monday.
Not only did the Ottawa Senators’ prospect score and contribute an assist in the 6-3 victory over Finland, he blocked some big shots when the Canadians ran into third-period penalty trouble.
“Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to do anything for the boys or kind of get some momentum, I’m going to do it,” Greig said. “Whether it’s stand in front of a slap shot, I’m going to do it.”
Special teams were the difference maker on Monday, with the Canadians going 2-for-2 on the power play while Finland was 1-for-5.
The Finns got their second stretch of five-on-three hockey with less than five minutes left on the clock when William Dufour joined Ethan del Mastro in the penalty box.
Finland pulled goalie Leevi Merilainen just as del Mastro’s penalty expired and, with the extra man, Roby Jarventie put a puck in off the glove of Canadian goalie Dylan Garand to make it 5-3.
Dufour sealed the score at 6-3 with an empty-net strike 18:13 into the third.
The Finns had a prime opportunity to eat into Canada’s lead with a minute-long two-man advantage midway through the final period.
Donovan Sebrango was sent to the box for high-sticking and less than a minute later, teammate Will Cuylee was tossed from the game for a knee-on-knee hit.
Canada weathered being down two men, then chewed through the four remaining minutes of the major penalty without conceding a goal.
“I thought our penalty kill was elite today, so many guys blocking shots. And that’s a great sign for a team that’s trying to win something,” said Canada’s captain Mason McTavish, who had a goal and two assists in the win.
“Finland, they’re a great team. I think they were 3-0 coming into this, their power play is ridiculous. So the fact that our PK stood up there with one of the best power plays in the tournament is huge for us.”
Connor Bedard scored and contributed an assist for Canada (4-0-0), while Dufour, Brennan Othmann and Tyson Foerester also found the back of the net. Olen Zellweger tallied three assists.
Joakim Kemell scored and contributed an assist for Finland (3-1-0) and Samuel Helenius rounded out the scoring.
Canada’s Garand made 22 saves and Merilainen stopped 31 of 36 shots for the Finns.
The result was an important one for Canada, who finished the preliminary round atop Group A. They’ll face Group B’s Switzerland (1-3-0) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Switzerland clinched its spot in the quarterfinals earlier on Monday with a 3-2 win over Austria (0-0-4).
Finland was disappointed with Monday’s result, said head coach Antti Pennanen.
“It was OK but it wasn’t enough. And we were angry after the game, that’s for sure,” he said.
A big goal early in the third whittled the Finns’ deficit to 5-2.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Topi Niemela fired a shot from the point and Kemell tipped it in from the slot for his third goal of the tournament.
Canada called for a coach’s challenge, arguing that the puck had gone off the netting before falling back to the ice ahead of the goal.
“The guys on the ice are generally the ones who can tell you what’s going on,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “My players were 100 per cent sure it went in (to the net). So you trust your players.”
After an extended video review, officials determined the goal was good. The Canadians did not receive a delay-of-game penalty because officials said the review was “inconclusive.”
The Canadians dominated the middle frame, outshooting the Finns 20-5 and taking a 5-1 lead.
McTavish gave his country its second power-play goal of the game 16:17 into the period after Finland’s Rubin Rafkin was called for interference.
Zellweger sent the Anaheim Ducks’ prospect a pass from inside the blue line and McTavish uncorked a one-timer that flew over Merilainen’s shoulder stick side.
Thirty-one seconds into the second, Canada went up 4-1 after the Finnish goalie bobbled a shot by Joshua Roy.
Greig slid in on one knee to put the rebound in the back of the net with his third goal of the tournament.
Canada went into the first intermission up 3-1 after a late Finland goal.
A knot of players battled for the puck behind the Canadian net and Finland’s Kalle Vasisanen came up with it. He sent a pass to Helenius at the high hash marks and the L.A. Kings’ prospect got a shot up and over Garland’s shoulder with 57 seconds left in the period.
Bedard put away his third goal of the tournament in memorable fashion 17:19 into the first.
Canada was penned in its own zone for an extended period, but the 17-year-old phenom showed no signs of exhaustion when he collected a cross-ice pass from McTavish at the blue line and sped into the faceoff circle.
He then ripped a blistering shot past Merilainen, pinging the puck off the inside of the crossbar to make it 3-0.
A power-play strike boosted Canada’s lead to 2-0 midway through the opening frame after Helenius was called for slashing.
Greig’s shot ricocheted off Merilainen’s pad but Foerester was in position to poke the rebound in from the top of the crease as he slid past the net.
Finland got off to a strong start, outshooting the host nation 4-0 across the first five minutes of the game.
It was Canada that opened the scoring, though, 6:21 into the first.
Defenceman Zellweger fired a long bomb from inside the blue line and Othmann batted it in past Merilainen.
The play was reviewed for a potential high stick but the goal — Othmann’s second of the tournament — was determined to be good after officials reviewed the video.
The preliminary round wrapped Monday night with Group B’s Sweden (3-1-0) registering a 4-2 victory over Germany (2-2-0).
Sweden will battle Latvia (1-2-1) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday while Germany will face Finland.
The reigning champion Americans (4-0-0) also went undefeated in round-robin action and will play Czechia (1-2-1), the country commonly known as the Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals are scheduled for Friday and the medal games will go Saturday.
NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). … Canada outscored its opponents 27-7 in the preliminary round. … The 2022 tournament is being played in August after the original event was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.
Premier Jason Kenney kicks off campaign to attract skilled workers to Alberta
CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney kicked off a campaign to lure skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver as he doubled down on his criticism of a so-called Alberta sovereignty act pitched by one of the candidates running to replace him.
Kenney held a news conference Monday to announce the United Conservative government’s plans to start recruiting workers to Alberta as the provincial economy grows.
“Alberta is back in a big way, but one of the biggest challenges to sustaining that amazing growth is having enough people who are filling the jobs that are being created,” he said.
“As far as problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.”
The campaign comes after Kenney called a key platform promise of one of the candidates to succeed him as leader and premier “nuts.”
Candidate Danielle Smith has said if she wins the leadership, she would bring a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest.
Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.
Kenney said he’s certain that even if the legislature passed the law, the lieutenant-governor would refuse to give it royal assent and Alberta would become a “laughingstock.”
Smith chastised Kenney in a statement Sunday for “interference” in the leadership contest, saying his comments were “ill-informed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of UCP members that support this important initiative.”
“If elected to replace him as leader and premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP Caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles,” Smith said in her statement.
Kenney said Monday that he’s not interfering in the leadership campaign, but restating his position on an important public policy issue.
“This government was elected on a commitment to create jobs, grow the economy and get pipelines built,” he said. “This so-called sovereignty act would be a body blow to all three of those things.
“It would massively drive away investment, it would cause people to leave the province, businesses not to come here just when our economy is experiencing fantastic economic investment.”
Kenney said it could also hurt the campaign to attract people to the province.
“Here we are launching a campaign for Canadians to move to another part of Canada,” he said. “If Alberta were to decide effectively to launch a separatist project, I think that would automatically exclude a lot of Canadians.
“To the contrary, instead of being able to attract people, we would start hemorrhaging people.”
He said that’s not theoretical because of what happened in Quebec in 1976 when René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois were elected on a separatist platform.
“Quebec overnight began to hemorrhage people, money and investment,” Kenney said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.
Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
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