The results of the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership vote were announced last evening. Premier Jason Kenney only received approval from 51.4% of the 34,300 votes cast. He quickly took to the podium and announced he would be stepping down as party leader.
While that 51.4% approval number exceeded the threshold set by the party’s constitution, he had little choice except to resign. It was simply not tenable for him to stay as party leader when nearly half of UCP members do not approve of his leadership.
However, this does not mean he must step down as premier. Both former premiers’ Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach continued to serve as premier while their party chose a new leader, with that person then immediately appointed as premier (at least until the subsequent election).
There is a UCP caucus meeting this morning at 11 a.m. MT. It is possible that Kenney could step down as premier at that point, and an interim leader (and by default interim premier) appointed by a vote of the UCP caucus, as was the case when Alison Redford stepped down as party leader and premier (and Dave Hancock took over as interim premier).
In this case, the most likely interim premier would be someone who has clearly indicated they are not interested in leading the party and becoming premier until the next election.
In the coming days, a number of individuals are expected to announce they intend to run for the leadership of the UCP, including former Wildrose Party leaders Danielle Smith and Brian Jean (recently elected UCP MLA in Fort McMurray Lac La Biche), who also ran against Jason Kenney for the leadership of the newly formed United Conservative Party in October 2017. Others likely to be throwing their hat in the ring include several sitting cabinet ministers.
The leadership race will most likely be decided this fall, as it would be near impossible for the UCP to complete a leadership race before summer.
Who are the top contenders for the top UCP job? Who is most likely to become the interim leader? What do these latest developments mean for running an effective government as the next provincial election approaches in May 2023? In what ways will it affect the policy direction of the government over the coming months?
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