Prime Minister Jason Kenney aims to portray a government still focused on public priorities in his first comments since the caucus announced Thursday that he will remain in power until a new leader is chosen.
On Wednesday, Kenney said he intends to resign after a narrow victory in the leadership review, saying 51.4 percent support was “not adequate.”
Ahead of a Friday morning cabinet meeting in which ministers gave Kenney a standing ovation, the prime minister said staying in office for the time being will allow continuity, stability and his government to focus on people’s priorities, including renewing the health care system and growing the economy.
“For me, that is the most important thing. This is a critical moment in Alberta’s history. We are determined to keep our eyes on the ball,” Kenney said.
The prime minister also reiterated much of his talk about keeping his post from April, praising his government’s progress in passing laws and continuing to promote the province’s energy sector abroad.
“This is a demonstration that the government of Alberta continues to do the people’s business, continues to fight for this province, continue to work for a strong economy, to improve the lives of Albertans,” said Kenney, who did not appear in a news conference to take questions from reporters from before the results of his leadership review were announced Wednesday night.
The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a Postmedia query about whether Kenney intends to take part in the upcoming leadership race, which has not yet been scheduled by the party.
UCP spokesman Dave Prisco said in an email that the party’s board met Thursday night to plan its next steps, beginning with appointing a committee to design the process and rules for a contest for the leadership.
Kenney has faced criticism from both inside and outside his party for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and accusations that he has been ignoring party rank and file.
Before entering Thursday’s six-hour marathon meeting, several of his critics called for Kenney to step aside immediately and allow an interim leader to intervene. Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche UCP MLA Brian Jean, who won a by-election in a campaign to take over from Kenney, told reporters he hoped a new interim leader would be named immediately.
“The healing process cannot begin until Jason Kenney is gone. He knows it, we know it and we need to start the process of renewing the PCU”, said Jean.
‘The UCP is completely adrift’: PND
NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley told Postmedia that a photo shoot is insufficient and that Kenney owes Albertans a better explanation for why his government has not focused on addressing long wait times. in emergency rooms and ambulances or the high cost of living, including natural gas prices.
“You should focus on answering questions from the media who can get that information out to the people of Alberta,” he said.
At a news conference in Calgary on Friday, Ganley said the upcoming leadership race will only further distract the ruling party with infighting, and no matter who wins, the UCP will remain “dysfunctional.”
“Over the last 48 hours, it has become clear that the UCP is completely adrift,” Ganley said.
-With Dylan Short files
More to come…