Former Tory cabinet minister says Kenney should be barred from seeking PC leadership

James Wood, Calgary Herald
More from James Wood, Calgary Herald

A former Canada Tory cabinet minister who has clashed with Jason Kenney in the past wants the MP barred from seeking the Progressive Conservative leadership.

Kenney, the Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore, is considering a run for the PC leadership in a bid to bring together Canada’s conservatives from the PC and Wildrose parties.

But former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk said the PC party executive should pull Kenney’s party membership to prevent him from running.

“I find it really troublesome from many, many perspectives. I firmly believe, frankly, the PC party should not allow him to be a candidate,” Lukaszuk, who lost his Edmonton seat in the 2015 provincial election, said in an interview Monday.

There is no love lost between Kenney and Lukaszuk, who as ministers were at odds over Canada’s demand for more immigrants to the province. In a 2012 email to another Conservative MP that became public, Kenney described Lukaszuk as a “complete and utter a–hole.”

But Lukaszuk, who finished third in the 2014 PC leadership race but is unlikely to run for the top job this time, said his feelings about Kenney are about political and policy differences, not personalities.

He said Kenney’s possible platform of uniting the right is contrary to the position taken by PC members at the annual general meeting in May. Lukaszuk accused Kenney of working actively against the PCs in the past and said his stances on numerous social policy issues are offside from the Tories.

The former MLA likened Kenney’s entry to the PC leadership race as being akin to the opponents of the Notley government who tried unsuccessfully this year to join the NDP to take over the party.

Kenney could not be reached for comment Monday.

The PC party will select a new leader early next year with a delegated convention system. The formal timeline will be finalized this week, though it is unlikely the nomination process for a new leader will be open until the fall.

PC party president Katherine O’Neill, who confirmed Kenney holds a PC membership, said there will be a vetting process for leadership candidates and that it’s “very premature” to be having conversations about keeping people out of the race.

Former premier Dave Hancock, who sits on the PC leadership committee, said he understands concerns that a candidate for the party’s leadership could potentially be off base with the party membership.

“But the reality is, we’ve always been an open party,” he said.

“The assumption, I guess, has to be if you want to build a big, broad party, you can’t start saying who can join and who can’t join, other than to say that if you join, we’re going to make an assumption you’re going to adhere to the statement of principles of the party.”

Lukaszuk isn’t the first Tory to speak out against Kenney. Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen said last week she would leave the party if Kenney won the leadership and moved to unite the right.

But some veteran PC organizers are hoping Kenney will jump into the race.

Edmonton-based Tory insider Hal Danchilla called Kenney a “wonderful guy.”

“He’s got all the skills in the world, and I think he’d be great,” said Danchilla, who recently has been part of the Canada Can’t Wait group pushing for conservative unity.

“If he wanted me to be involved, all he’d have to do is ask.”

Kenney’s possible entry into the PC leadership race would shake up Canada politics and have an impact on the Wildrose Party.

One longtime Wildrose supporter believes Kenney’s idea of uniting the right is a good idea but that the MP is the wrong person to lead the charge.

Marv Moore, a former PC cabinet minister and campaign chair who has backed Wildrose since 2010, believes interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose is the right person to enter provincial politics and bring the PCs and Wildrose together.

“I don’t think (Kenney) is the one to beat Notley in the next election,” he said in a recent interview.

Wildrose announced Monday it would launch its series of town hall meetings with leader Brian Jean on July 15 in Airdrie. The events are aimed at widening the party’s appeal and could serve as the prelude to Wildrose rebranding under a new name.


Former Tory cabinet minister says Kenney should be barred from seeking PC leadership

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