Photographer: Todd Korol/Reuters
Jason Kenney warns a far-right element could take control in the coming weeks as the United Conservatives conduct a leadership review
Alberta’s premier has called fellow Conservatives who are “trying to seize asylum” “lunatics” as a populist riot in his party heralds a bitter struggle for the future of Canada’s conservative movement.
In a leaked recording of a meeting with caucus staff on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jason Kenney warned that a far-right element skeptical of coronavirus measures and wedded to conspiracy theories could seize control of the party in the coming weeks. weeks while the United Conservatives have a lead. revision.
“I will not allow this mainstream Conservative party to become an agent of extreme, hateful, bigoted, bigoted, crazy views. I’m sorry to be so blunt with you, but you need to understand what’s at stake here,” he said, before alluding to QAnon’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theory with a warning that “people who think I’m involved in a global conspiracy to traffic children” appear to vote for his impeachment.
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The comments underscore both Kenney’s poor poll numbers and the degree to which an energized faction of the United Conservatives threatens his leadership.
But the controversy could also herald a bitter struggle for control of the federal Conservative Party, as candidates vying for national leadership weigh a possible ideological shift in Alberta, the party’s electoral heartland.
“Conservatives seem to have this existential crisis, where they split up and come together and break up again,” said Lori Turnbull, director of the Dalhousie University School of Public Administration, citing “deep-seated” differences within the conservative. party that break out every year. few years. “Federal candidates are definitely looking to see what happens in Alberta, because it’s going to be a big part of the game for whoever ends up winning the leadership race.”
In a statement, the prime minister’s office said Kenney’s comments were “consistent” with previous public comments on the issue.
For the past two years, Kenney has led a party with strong internal divisions over public health measures, with the most anti-government element protesting the closures.
Those fissures, which critics say delayed Alberta’s response, are cited as part of the reason Alberta at one point during the pandemic had one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in North America.
Recent polling suggests that Kenney’s response to the crisis did not put up either the libertarian element or those who want strong public health measures: the prime minister has one of the lowest approval ratings in the country.
“It was seen as the savior of a fractured game, a shot in the arm for Alberta. It looked like a dive,” Turnbull said. “And now it’s crashed and burned.”
For his part, Kenney has suggested that those seeking him are “crazy people in general.”
“[Prominent Alberta conservative] Preston Manning used to say that a bright light attracts some insects, well, there are more than a few insects attracted to us, this party, right now,” Kenney said.
In the audio recording, the prime minister suggests that mounting frustrations over the job led him to consider resigning.
“What is the easiest path for me? Just to take a walk. I don’t need this job. I could go into the private sector, have my evenings, weekends off,” she said. The prime minister chose to stay and fight, he said, fearing domestic turmoil would hand power to the rival New Democrats in the next election.
The party was hit by fresh turmoil this week after the leadership made a last-minute switch to mail-in ballots, citing a record surge in party registration. The sudden change has led to accusations of cheating by party members, some of whom have called for Kenney’s resignation.
Results will be announced on May 18, and Kenney will need a simple majority to remain the leader.