Party members take sides for, against Kenney at United Conservative meeting
CALGARY — A motion that would have made it more difficult to hold an earlier review of Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership failed to get enough support Friday at the United Conservative Party annual general meeting.
Applause rang out when the motion to raise the number of constituency associations needed to trigger an earlier review didn’t pass with the required 75 per cent or more of the votes. The result was 57 per cent.
Kenney already faces a leadership review in April. Twenty-two UCP constituency associations have signed a letter to the party executive calling for an earlier vote. They represent the required percentage of boards under bylaws to fast-track a review. The motion Friday called for raising that number to 29.
The vote reflected the tension at the event as Kenney deals with rising discontent in his caucus, party and from Albertans.
Planned speeches delivered by Energy Minister Sonya Savage, party executive director Dustin van Vugt and others spoke to the difficulties of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while also celebrating the party’s successes.
Meanwhile, attendees delivered less than subtle messages to show sides for or against Kenney.
Some attendees donned pins that said, “I stand with Jason Kenney” while others wore buttons that said “I’m With Kimmel,” a reference to an ongoing lawsuit against Kenney’s office.
Former UCP staffer Ariella Kimmel alleges the office fostered a “poisoned work environment” and repeatedly failed to address her complaint of sexual harassment involving a staff member. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
United Conservative MLA Leela Aheer, who has dropped from cabinet in July after calling for Kenney to resign, said the formal part of any program focuses on goals and objectives but the “real and honest conversations” are happening outside.
In the lobby of the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, where the meeting is being held this weekend, many people spoke in hushed tones with vocal Kenney dissidents and supporters making rounds among the crowd.
“Any discussions around a leadership review are good,” said Aheer. “Right now, there has never been a better opportunity to rally the forces, unify us and find out who that person is supposed to be.”
Brian Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party and UCP co-founder, said the best outcome of the meeting would be a resignation from Kenney.
“A lot of people, including myself, sacrificed a lot to have this party and to have this party move forward and win the trust, heart and minds of Albertans and it has not been successful,” said Jean.
“We all know what the problem is and we just need to make sure that problem is removed.”
Kenney greeted members on Friday night and is to return Saturday to deliver a keynote address.
Outside of the meeting, dozens of protesters held signs opposing COVID-19 vaccines and Kenney. Police barred anyone from entering the meeting until the situation came under control.
Party members will continue to debate and vote on a series of motions throughout the weekend. Socializing events, youth-focused meetings, a government bear pit session and a fiscal policy forum are also scheduled.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2021.
Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press
Drying conditions return in Alberta, crews see more intense fire activity
A burnt metal sign hangs from a tree, damaged by recent wildfires, in Drayton Valley Alta., on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. As more wildfire evacuees are being allowed to return home in Alberta, provincial officials warn that warm, dry conditions are returning this weekend in some areas.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
As more wildfire evacuees are being allowed to return home in Alberta, provincial officials warn that warm, dry conditions are returning this weekend in some areas.
Melissa Story with Alberta Wildfire says the elevated fire conditions were anticipated and that crews on the ground are seeing more intense fire activity on the perimeters of wildfires.
But she says most fires haven’t grown substantially and she doesn’t believe any have jumped their containment lines.
The number of evacuees as of Saturday afternoon stood at 5,257, down from over 7,200 on Wednesday, following cooler and wetter conditions in the last week.
Nearly 50 wildfires in Alberta’s forest protection area are burning, with 14 of those listed as out-of-control.
Cyndee Evans, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, says the situation remains serious despite recent positive news.
“While we can take heart that more Albertans are starting to return home, we cannot afford to drop our guard. Now is not the time for complacency. Please continue to do your part and help prevent the spread of wildfires and further damage from occurring,” Evans told a news conference Saturday.
Story noted that showers were forecast for some parts of Alberta later Saturday, reducing fire danger, but also cautioned they bring the risk of lightning.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet Saturday that an extension for the deployment of Canadian Armed Forces personnel to assist in firefighting efforts has been approved.
Story said firefighters from New Zealand were welcomed to the province Friday and that nearly 200 firefighters and support staff from Australia would be arriving this weekend.
Alberta remains under a provincewide state of emergency, although some bans on fires, ATVs and off-highway vehicles have been relaxed in recent days.
Parkland County west of Edmonton lifted a state of local emergency on Friday that had been in place since April 29, and downgraded a fire ban to a fire restriction. It said that meant “safe fires in approved fire pits with a screen are allowed and do not require a permit.”
Fires without screens still required permits, however, and open fires in the county are still banned.
The High Level Forest Area wildfire update noted the Pasqua fire located in the community of Fox Lake saw an increase in fire activity after warm and dry weather on Friday, and that temperatures and fire behaviour was expected to pick up on Saturday.
Fox Lake remains evacuated, but residents are being permitted to sign up for tours of the community on Monday to view damage. A statement from the Little Red River Cree Nation said priority will be given to people who have lost their homes.
“Tours will be visual only, as it is still not safe for members to walk around the community or house sites due to hot spots as well as possible toxins and hazards in the areas that have been burned,” said a statement posted online by the First Nation on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2023.
UCP leader Smith says she is ‘delighted’ by endorsements from Harper, Poilievre
United Conservative Party leader Danielle Smith, centre, makes an election campaign announcement in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 26, 2023. Albertans go to the polls on May 29. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
United Conservative leader Danielle Smith says she would aim to lower the level of political polarization in Alberta if her party wins what has been a tight and often bitter election race.
She made her remarks during her last news conference before Albertans go to the polls on Monday.
Smith says she would consult broadly and make decisions based on what she’s heard.
She adds her door is always open to people from all backgrounds and all political persuasions, and she would learn by exchanging ideas.
The UCP leader also says she was delighted to garner endorsements from former prime minister Stephen Harper and federal Conservative Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.
The rival New Democrats have been endorsed by high-profile former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.
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