EDMONTON – The battle is back on to turf former Conservative MP Jason Kenney from the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race.
Darcy Schumann, a member of the party’s board of directors, exercised his right Wednesday to revisit a complaint filed by party member Jeffrey Rath against Kenney.
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.
Schumann said in an email Wednesday that the committee could only rule on half the complaint relating to a breach of leadership race rules. The committee couldn’t rule on allegations relating to the party’s constitution and damage to the PC brand, he wrote.
“That is the sole responsibility of our board and, as such, we should, as a board, give it proper consideration.”
Schumann, the party’s Calgary vice-president, has called the emergency meeting for Feb. 24.
He could not be reached immediately for comment Wednesday.
Rath said he was pleased.
“I think it underlines how we viewed this all along – that it’s a very serious complaint and is certainly not frivolous,” he said in an interview.
Schumann’s email said he will ask Rath to make his arguments in person on Feb. 24. Rath said he will attend.
Kenney called Rath’s complaint and Schumann’s review an undemocratic attempt to silence the thousands of party members he says have already voted to support pro-Kenney delegates at the leadership convention in Calgary on March 18.
“This is going from the sublime to the ridiculous,” said Kenney in an interview. “The members should decide who the leader is and not a group of insiders based on legal manoeuvres.”
Kenney is one of three candidates running to leader the PCs, who governed Alberta for more than four decades before crashing to third place in the 2015 election.
MLA Richard 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.
The Wildrose formed more than a decade ago, mainly from PCers who felt the party had abandoned its commitment to fiscal conservatism and balanced budgets.
Kenney has promised to dissolve the Tory party and join with the Wildrose to form a conservative coalition he believes is critical to defeat Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP in the next election.
His plan has brought bitter attacks and sharp division to the contest. Three candidates – Sandra Jansen, Donna Kennedy-Glans and Stephen Khan – dropped out, criticizing a Kenney-led shift towards social conservatism more associated with the Wildrose.
Kenney has also questioned Rath’s motives, given that Rath has fundraised for Starke.
Both Starke and Rath have said Starke did not direct or encourage Rath to file the complaint.
Prior to last weekend’s decision, Starke asked Rath to withdraw the complaint and remove himself from Starke’s campaign.