UCP leadership ballots ready to be counted on Wednesday

The results are scheduled to be broadcast live at some point between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday

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Ballots in the contentious vote on whether Prime Minister Jason Kenney should keep his job are ready to be counted on Wednesday.

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In a statement on Tuesday, the United Conservative Party said volunteers had completed the verification stage of its leadership review process, meaning voters’ packages were checked to confirm names match the voters list and provided identification.

Sealed ballot envelopes that were part of voter packages will be held securely by Deloitte Canada until Wednesday, when those envelopes will be opened by volunteers and the ballots counted in front of Deloitte staff and scrutineers, the party said.

The results are scheduled to be broadcast live between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Kenney is expected to speak to supporters at Spruce Meadows in Calgary at some point that evening after the numbers are released.

He only needs a simple majority of 50% plus one to technically qualify to keep his job, although former prime ministers have lost their jobs after securing much higher numbers. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford were absent after receiving 77% support.

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Kenney said he didn’t need that level of support to survive, saying the voter base had been diluted by thousands of angry members bent on destruction.

“It’s a totally different dynamic,” Kenney said Monday.

“People who say (I have to) get, say, 90% or something (similar) really don’t appreciate the different context of that.”

Kenney has faced heavy criticism from his own party and caucus that suggests he is an overbearing leader whose deep unpopularity across Alberta will give the NDP a victory in the next election.

The leadership review process itself has also been controversial. What was supposed to be an in-person voting day in Red Deer was moved to mail-in ballots after more than 15,000 people registered to show up. This led to allegations that the changes were being made to improve Kenney’s chances, which the party denied. There are also reports that Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of mass vote buying.

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The party said on Tuesday it was “working diligently to maintain security of the vote.”

“Deloitte has been engaged to act as an independent advisor and impartial observer. They continue to work with the party to ensure that vetting and verification processes adhere to all rules and procedures, while maintaining ballot security,” the party statement read.

“Scrutineers from all sides participated in the verification process at every stage. The verification stage was also live streamed for Albertans to watch online 24/7.”

Party spokesman Dave Prisco would not say how many ballots were cast, saying those numbers could not be released until the process was complete.

If Kenney doesn’t get a majority, he will resign and the caucus will have to elect an interim leader while a leadership race is held.

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Either way, the next time all UCP MPs will see the prime minister face-to-face will be at a caucus meeting scheduled for Thursday morning in Calgary. Kenney said if he survives the leadership review, he expects caucus members to side with and respect the party’s choice for unity.

— With files from The Canadian Press

ajoannou@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ashleyjoannou


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