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Alberta

Alberta’s Kenney rejects suggestion he’s eyeing early election to quell party strife

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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.

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Alberta

Elks down Tiger-Cats 29-25 for first win of CFL season

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HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.

“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press

 

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Alberta

Calgary Stampede receives $10M from federal government to aid recovery from pandemic

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Calgary – The Calgary Stampede has received more than $10 million from the federal government to help it bounce back after last year’s event was scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report to the city this week showed the Stampede had an operating loss of $8.3 million in 2021.

Last year’s Stampede ran at half capacity because of COVID-19 public health measures and was cancelled all-together the year before.

Daniel Vandal, the federal minister for Prairies Economic Development Canada, says the money aims to support a full-scale Stampede to deliver the “authentic western experience” this year.

He says it would also help to reignite Alberta’s visitor economy.

The 2022 Stampede is set to run from July 8 to 17.

“Festivals large and small were hard hit during the pandemic,” Vandal said in a news release. “They are events where families and friends come together and take in the exciting atmosphere.

“The tourism industry is facing a strong comeback providing quality jobs across the country, showcasing stunning landscapes and offering exciting experiences right here in Alberta.”

The federal government also provided about $1.8 million for four other tourism projects in southern Alberta: Charmed Resorts, Cochrane Tourism Association, Heritage Park and Tourism Calgary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

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