Jason Kenney to seek seat in Calgary byelection after winning United Conservative leadership

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney speaks to reporters the day after being elected the first official leader of the new party in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY - Alberta's newly annointed conservative leader is wasting little time in pursuing his desire to go head-to-head with NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

Less than 24 hours after winning 61 per cent of the vote in the fledgling United Conservative Party leadership - former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney already has a Calgary riding in which he can try to get a seat in the legislature.

Dave Rodney, the longtime member for Calgary Lougheed, announced he would be stepping down this week to make room for the Kenney. Rodney was the last member who served in former Premier Ralph Klein's government.

Kenney told a news conference on Sunday that it's his responsibility to try to contest a byelection.

"There is a constitutional responsibility for the opposition to be prepared to be an alternative government and the leader needs to be there," Kenney said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

"I look forward to my first conversation with Premier Notley. I'm confident she will respect the long standing Westminster Parliamentary Convention of calling a byelection without delay when there is a party leader seeking entry to the legislature."

Kenney said he doesn't intend to micromanage the UCP agenda during the legislative session that begins this week.

But he also doesn't intend to waste an opportunity to get fully involved in the political process. Kenney said if a seat hadn't become available he would have been content doing the "heavy lifting" required to grow the party and recruit what he calls an "A team" of strong, diverse candidates.

Kenney said the UCP's founding convention is scheduled for May 4, 5 and 6 of next year in Red Deer, Alta.

He isn't worried that the party will get caught off guard by an early election call by the NDP government.

"This NDP government knows that they are living on borrowed time. They're ideological true believers and they value every single day they have to try to change the province and try to recreate it in their political image," he said.

"I cannot see them voluntarily giving up a single day of power because of their ideological drive to remake Alberta in their own image."

Kenney isn't worried that a lack of a party platform will hurt the UCP in his byelection or with Albertans. He said he has already indicated he will kill the provincial carbon tax, reduce spending and restart the Alberta economy.

There will be no nomination meetings, other than his in Calgary Lougheed, before the founding convention next year.

Kenney said he has made it clear that the UCP will not fall into the trap of taking anything for granted despite polls showing the party with a massive advantage over the NDP. He said it will also remain humble after the former PC government that was defeated by the NDP in 2015 was accused of being arrogant.

"If we work hard, stay humble and earn every vote we will ensure this NDP government is one and done. There is no guaranteed election outcome," Kenney said.

"I'm confident but we're not going to take anything for granted."

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


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