Alberta Premier Jason Kenney scraped out a narrow win in a referendum on his leadership, then surprised almost everyone Wednesday night by stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party.
He announced the news Wednesday after earning just 51.4 percent support in a leadership review.
“The result is not what I hoped for, or frankly what I expected,” said Kenney. “But I’ve been clear from day one, that I will respect the decision of the members in this leadership review.”
Kenney had long insisted he would consider anything over 50 percent a passing grade, but on Wednesday night he announced it would be inadequate to get by on a squeaker.
“A large number of our members want to clear the air with a leadership election,” Kenney said. “I fully respect their decision, and I encourage all members to do the same.”
Earlier this week on a trip to Washington he told reporters, “I’ve never lost an election, and I don’t plan on doing so now.”
He said the results were a surprise, though had also prepared remarks. In his resignation speech, Kenney listed the challenges of the past two years.
“We went through three once-in-a-century crises — the largest public health crisis in a century, the largest collapse of the world economy in nearly a century, and — for the first time ever — we experienced negative oil prices.”
Kenney had served as premier of Alberta since 2019. Before that, he’d been an MP for almost 20 years, serving in various posts in Stephen Harper’s Cabinet.
He urged Albertans to move forward. “It’s clear that the past two years were deeply divisive for our province, our party and our caucus,” he said. “But it is my fervent hope that in the months to come, we all move on past the division of Covid.”
Kenney said he has advised his party leadership to schedule a leadership election “in a timely fashion.”
The Calgary Herald reports that the UCP caucus will meet Thursday morning when they are expected to select an interim leader.