Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is calling on Premier Jason Kenney to resign after an upcoming leadership review has turned into a “spectacle and a circus.”
“The premier’s leadership, and now his unprecedented efforts to full out campaign and control the results of his own review have become a circus, a distraction, and a liability to the province and the party,” said Stephan in a statement released on Thursday morning.
“Confidence is lost, and for the good of the party, for the province, the premier should be gracious, resign and support a positive leadership race for a new leader to unite the party and the province.”
Stephan joined three other UCP MLAs, two former MLAs and six constituency association presidents at a noon protest on the steps of the Alberta Legislature. Among them was Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, who has also called for Kenney’s resignation.
The group slammed UCP president Cynthia Moore’s announcement on Tuesday that an in-person leadership vote that was to have taken place in Red Deer on April 9 was being dumped in favour of mail-in ballots. The deadline to become a party member was set for last Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
Stephan said he was there to represent party members who had been excited to participate in a grassroots democratic exercise only to have the rules changed.
“We don’t change the rules of the game after deadlines. That’s not fair,” he said.
“We need to do fair and we need to be seen to be fair.”
Patrick Malkin, Red Deer-South constituency association president, called on the UCP board to resign within five business days.
“By noon Wednesday, the board must restore the leadership review to Red Deer under the terms and conditions originally complicated or resign. It truly is that simple.
“Further, we are inviting the premier to join us in supporting the mainstream conservatives to ask for a fair and honest leadership review in Red Deer.”
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills constituency association president Rob Smith lamented the “sad, sorry state of affairs” the UCP’s executive had created and which would delay the results of the leadership review by two months.
“This is not a responsible decision in what will by then be less than a year to a provincial election. By changing the (special general meeting) rules in the dramatic way that they have, they have betrayed the rules and betrayed UCP members.
“Betrayal leads to distrust and you have shaken Albertans trust in the UCP,” he said.
“This is not a Kenny-autocracy. This is Alberta and grassroots Albertans run the show.”
Smith said the UCP board had outright rejected mail-in ballots previously because of concerns they would be insecure. Now, that position has been completely reversed, he said.
Those involved in the protest planned to meet with the UCP president on Thursday evening to discuss where to go from here, they said.
Alberta’s Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney said Thursday in an unrelated press conference that the change to mail-in ballots came in part due to “safety considerations that were being examined.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Premier said his office had heard concerns about protests that would be held at the event in Red Deer.
According to multiple reports, ballots for the mail-in vote will be sent out on April 9 and will be sent to anyone with valid party membership as of March 19. The results of the vote are expected to be made public in mid-May.