Jason Kenney survives caucus meeting with leadership review to come

Calgary

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney faced down a caucus revolt on Wednesday, as factions within his United Conservative Party coalesced in opposition to his leadership — but a reckoning has been put off to another day.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney faced down a caucus revolt on Wednesday.(Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney faced down a caucus revolt on Wednesday, as factions within his United Conservative Party coalesced in opposition to his leadership — but a reckoning has been put off to another day.

MLA Searle Turton says there was no confidence vote at the meeting, but there will be news on a leadership review shortly.

He said the focus of the discussion was on the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

"I mean, obviously it's a brute and bashing group of MLAs, but that's what caucus is for, having those frank conversations, and I'm thankful that we had that ability," he said.

"Most of caucus spoke up and, like I said, our focus is on the province, COVID-19, making sure that families and communities are protected."

He said caucus is more united than when they entered the room earlier Wednesday.

Calls for resignation

Kenney is facing open threats to his leadership within the UCP, with MLAs and the vice-president of policy, Joel Mullan, openly calling for his resignation.

Some in the caucus are angry that Kenney introduced vaccine passports in an effort to stem the tide of the crushing fourth wave of COVID-19, while others say the government waited too long to take action.

The province has the highest active case counts in the country by a wide margin, with hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) straining under the pressure.

Alberta Health Services said on Wednesday that the province's ICUs are at 87 per cent of capacity, including added surge beds. Triage of care kicks in at 90 per cent of capacity.

Wednesday's meeting comes the day after Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro resigned and swapped his portfolio with Jason Copping to become the minister of labour and immigration.

Critics said the swap was an attempt by the premier to deflect criticism as threats mounted against him.

Constituencies consider moving up leadership review

A leadership review is already scheduled for the fall of 2022, but even before the caucus meeting Wednesday, some UCP constituency associations were considering passing motions to move up the date, according to media reports.

Speaking on the Wednesday morning, Mullan said the UCP remained a grassroots party and he hoped any decisions on a leadership review would be left to the constituencies rather than have it handed down from caucus.

Despite the controversies and conflict, Turton said the caucus meeting was productive.

"I think there's always going to be differences of opinion, and when it comes to many of the issues before us, that's what makes for healthy, robust debates."

With files from Elise von Scheel

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