A United Conservative backbencher gives a blunt warning to Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney that his party is in trouble and must heed the growing concerns of its members.
“We have a caucus that I think is frustrated, and voters who are frustrated, and of course membership,” Peter Guthrie said in an interview on Tuesday.
“I just want what’s best for the future of the party and what’s best for the province and the Albertans.
“I have a feeling it can (turned around), but we’re 19 months until the next election, and we need to start listening and paying attention to the signs we’re seeing and hearing.”
On Monday, Guthrie delivered the same message to Kenney, reading a caucus letter warning that the party’s electoral fortunes are sliding down the abyss.
“Public opinion continues to decline and we may have reached a point where this party can no longer be saved,” the letter said.
“Winning back the favor of the Albertans should be our priority.
“Humility and confidence cannot be just words.”
Guthrie declined to describe Kenney’s reaction to his comments, except to say, “Clearly the Prime Minister defended his position.”
Kenney’s office declined to comment.
Guthrie in his letter expressed particular concerns about a move within the party to push the date for a leadership review to determine whether Kenney still has their confidence.
If Kenney gets less than 50 percent support in such an assessment, he’s out.
The leadership vote is scheduled for early April at the 2022 Annual General Meeting in Edmonton.
However, 22 constituency associations sent a letter to the party board this week, noting that they represent the required 25 percent of councils needed to hold the vote at a special meeting before March 1.
They say an earlier vote would allow all members to vote at home and not have to travel to Edmonton in April to cast a vote.
They also acknowledge that for some of them, the move is being driven by dissatisfaction with Kenney’s leadership.
The UCP chief said they are now discussing the letter about moving the leader’s vote.
Guthrie noted that a resolution due in Calgary this weekend before the UCP’s annual general meeting seeks to amend the statutes to raise the threshold for such a motion from 22 to 29 constituency associations.
The rationale is that 22 is too small a number to cause such a potentially consistent mood.
Guthrie said a belated motion to lower the threshold is a worrying signal from a party claiming to be celebrating grassroots participation.
“It’s going to look bad if they change it,” Guthrie said.
“If you move the goalposts from 22 to 29 CAs, I don’t think the supporters will appreciate that.”
Kenney has declined to comment on an expedited leadership review, saying the matter is up to date.
The Prime Minister has faced growing discontent in his caucus and celebration in recent months, mainly related to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cases peaked in the fall, pushing hospital capacity to the brink after Kenney lifted nearly all health restrictions and announced the pandemic was over.
UCP fundraising lagged behind that of the opposition NDP and Kenney’s endorsement numbers were in free fall.
He also faced calls from some caucus members to resign.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 16, 2021