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.
Running Reins Ranch in Red Deer County picks up $250,000 grant from province
Running Reins Ranch partners with members of the local Indigenous community to set-up teepee accommodations and host regular cultural programming for guests.
Tourism investment fuels growth in rural Alberta
Alberta’s government continues to support regional tourism opportunities across the province, generating jobs and new tourism destinations for locals and visitors alike.
Ahead of World Tourism Day 2023, Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow visited Running Reins Ranch to see first-hand how tourism investment grants are making a difference in the lives of Albertans.
“Alberta’s government is proud to invest in growing visitor destinations like Running Reins Ranch that celebrate the richness and diversity of Alberta’s rural destinations and provide a sustainable tourism experience for visitors to enjoy.”
As part of the Tourism Investment Program, Running Reins Ranch received a $250,000 grant from Travel Alberta.
“Our investment will support the building of additional unique accommodations at the ranch that will triple their capacity, emphasize their year-round offerings and create five new full-time jobs. This investment in Running Reins Ranch is a perfect example of how Travel Alberta is driving tourism growth in rural communities across the province.”
Running Reins is located east of Innisfail, offering cabin and teepee accommodations and a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors looking to combine the beauty of the Prairies with farm experiences for a one-of-a-kind getaway.
Right to Left: Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow, Owners of Running Reins Ranch Terry and Janice Scott, and team member Grace Finlan.
“This funding is a game-changer for us and our business. We are excited to bring our vision to life and provide visitors with unforgettable experiences while supporting the economic growth of the surrounding community.”
Tourism is Alberta’s No. 1 service export sector. In 2019, Alberta welcomed 34.6 million visitors, generating $10.1 billion in expenditures and supporting more than 80,000 full-time jobs. The Tourism Investment Program is Travel Alberta’s commitment to investing $15 million annually with communities and operators to develop the province’s tourism sector. Developing Alberta’s rural and agri-tourism sector is an essential component of the government’s efforts to grow Alberta’s tourism economy to more than $20 billion by 2035.
- In 2022-23, Travel Alberta funded 166 projects across 73 communities – about 75 per cent of the projects and 70 per cent of the funding were in smaller urban and rural areas of the province.
- In December 2022, Alberta’s government released its Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan, with supporting initiatives that demonstrate the government’s commitment to building healthy and prosperous communities across rural Alberta and Indigenous communities.
Company at centre of E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares faces licensing charges
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks to the media about an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Colette Derworiz in Calgary
The company that runs a commercial kitchen at the centre of an E. coli outbreak that has infected hundreds at numerous Calgary daycares has been charged with operating without a business licence.
The City of Calgary announced Wednesday that Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors face a total of 12 charges under municipal business bylaws and face a total fine of up to $120,000.
The company declined to comment on the charges in an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Mark Joffe said the number of cases has plateaued at 351, and tests and interviews indicate the cause of the outbreak was meat loaf and vegan loaf.
He said there are also 37 confirmed secondary cases and four children remain in hospital.
Fueling Minds provided meals to six of its own daycares that were affected by the outbreak, which was declared Sept. 4, and also to five separate daycares.
The city alleges Fueling Minds did not have the proper licence to serve those other five.
Joffe said the investigation into the cause of the outbreak included interviews with hundreds of parents and daycare staffers and the testing of 44 food samples.
“We believe that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals that were served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to these infections,” said Joffe.
“Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before this outbreak was identified.
“While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how.”
The company’s statement said the “exact source of the infections has not yet been identified” and it continues to work with Alberta Health Services on its ongoing investigation.
Joffe said the province is to hire a third party to verify its work and findings.
Premier Danielle Smith said former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson would lead a panel to investigate what went wrong and make recommendations on how to make commercially prepared food safer in daycares.
Smith said the panel does not have a set timeline, but she expects to hear from him monthly and would implement interim recommendations if necessary rather than wait for the final report.
“Mr. Hanson will be joined by Alberta parents, childcare operators, food service operators, and food safety and public health experts,” said Smith.
“The panel will be examining all aspects of this tragic situation, large and small, as well as taking a full broader look at the legislation and regulations that govern food safety in our province.”
Smith said she met with parents of affected children, and a policy change they suggested was posting kitchen health inspection reports in a daycare rather than just online.
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Searle Turton, minister for children and family services, are already reviewing food handling in commercial daycare kitchens.
The kitchen remains closed and in recent months has been flagged for numerous health violations, including food transportation concerns.
Diana Batten, the Opposition NDP critic for childcare and child and family services, said Wednesday’s developments were a good start to getting answers.
“This will really help some of the families I’m speaking with,” she told reporters.
“However, it brings up or illustrates there’s a lot of problems inside the system. We heard Premier Smith talk about how we should trust now that the system is safe. Why? We continue to identify more concerns.”
Batten said a panel isn’t going to help solve those problems.
“It’s just spending more money and, honestly, putting a Band-Aid on what is honestly a huge public health crisis.”
The province has promised parents affected by the closures in the original 11 daycares a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to cover off financial hardship. Those facilities were closed Sept. 4 but have since reopened.
Eight more daycares faced closures or partial closures in the days that followed as secondary cases were identified.
Smith said last week that the compensation program would only be available to parents of the 11 daycares at the root of the outbreak.
Turton, however, confirmed parents affected by the later closures would also be eligible for the one-time payments, and that was the plan all along.
“The program hasn’t expanded,” said Turton.
“It’s important to note that just more daycares since the original announcement have actually become eligible for those payments.”
— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 27, 2023.
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