News / Edmonton

Last-ditch bid to turf Jason Kenney from Alberta PC leadership race fails

Progressive Conservative officials have ruled that Jason Kenney's plan to merge the Tories with the Wildrose party was not an attempt to harm the party or its brand.

Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney speaks to media as he begins the Unite Alberta Truck Tour, in Edmonton in an August 1, 2016, file photo. A last-ditch attempt to get Kenney kicked out of the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race has failed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney speaks to media as he begins the Unite Alberta Truck Tour, in Edmonton in an August 1, 2016, file photo. A last-ditch attempt to get Kenney kicked out of the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race has failed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — A last-ditch attempt to get Jason Kenney kicked out of the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race has failed.

Party president Katherine O'Neill ruled Thursday that a bid by another member of the board of directors to call an emergency meeting on the issue for Feb. 24 is out of order.

O'Neill says the next meeting of the board will proceed as scheduled on March 19, one day after the new leader is picked at a delegated convention in Calgary.

"(O'Neill) has accepted a point of order ... and ruled that the emergency meeting was not within the purview of the vice-president who called it, and so the meeting will not take place," said party spokesperson Janice Harrington.

Darcy Schumann, the party's Calgary vice-president, called the meeting in an email sent Wednesday.

However on Thursday, another member of the board said, in effect, another board member can't call a meeting if the president has already put one on the agenda.

O'Neill agreed.

This was the second time in less than a week that a party member had tried to get Kenney expelled from the race based on his promise to try to join forces with the Wildrose party should he win.

Kenney could not be immediately reached for comment but on Twitter wrote: "Thank you to PC Alberta President Katherine O'Neill for making the right call both procedurally and democratically. Let the members decide (the leadership vote)."

It began last week with a formal complaint filed to the party by one of its members, Jeffery Rath, who has been supporting Kenney's rival, Richard Starke.

Rath has argued that Kenney's promise to dissolve the PCs to join forces with the rival Wildrose party violates party rules not to harm the PCs or their brand.

He also said that Kenney has denigrated the party in public comments and that those actions, along with his promise to dissolve the party if he wins, should prompt his expulsion from the race.

The party's leadership election committee unanimously dismissed Rath's complaint last weekend, but Schumann then called for a meeting of the board of directors, saying there were still outstanding issues on whether Kenney's plan violates the party's constitution.

O'Neill, in an email to the board Thursday, disagreed.

"The brand issue raised by Darcy is found within the leadership rules and well within (the leadership election committee's) authority to rule on," wrote O'Neill.

Schumann, in an interview, said he will not contest O'Neill's decision.

He said his concern was strictly procedural to ensure the right decision-making bodies were ruling in the appropriate areas.

"This has nothing to do with the Kenney campaign. This is about a member who brought forward some complaints that the board needed to hear," said Schumann.

Kenney's rivals — Starke and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson — are running on platforms to rejuvenate the party, although Starke has said he would entertain some form of collaboration with the Wildrose.

Kenney, a cabinet minister under former premier Stephen Harper, launched his campaign last July, providing a timeline to unite the two parties before the next scheduled provincial election in the spring of 2019.

Kenney's timeline promises that in August 2017 "if grassroots members approve, creation of the new united party and winding up the two current parties."

Provincial rules demand that two parties cannot simply merge but must first dissolve and forfeit all assets.

However an emailed statement from Kenney's campaign team this week suggested there is room for negotiation.

"Jason has never said that dissolution is necessary," said the email. "He has said it is the best way forward, but it is not the only way.

"He has promised to negotiate an agreement on the creation of a new party and to hold a party referendum on said agreement."

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