Jason Nixon, a United Conservative Party MLA pushed out of cabinet by Premier Danielle Smith, reaffirmed his plans to run in the provincial election after a group of conservatives allied against him took over the board of his local constituency association.
Hundreds of UCP members attended the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre annual meeting earlier this week. Officials erected overflow tents outside the Royal Canadian Legion in Sundre to accommodate the mass of UCP members who elected a new CA president and largely new board.
Mr. Nixon secured the right to run as the UCP candidate in the next election after the party disqualified his nomination rival in March. The fight for control of the board was viewed as a proxy vote on that decision, with Mr. Nixon’s dissenters believing former premier Jason Kenney used his influence to protect a loyal lieutenant in a tight nomination battle. The new CA board is expected to consider reopening the nomination, giving Tim Hoven, the previously disqualified candidate, another shot at replacing Mr. Nixon.
The UCP’s provincial board, which has a slew of new members, would have to approve Mr. Hoven’s candidacy, despite the party previously banning him for social-media activity it deemed inappropriate.
Mr. Nixon, demoted to the backbench by Ms. Smith after she took over as Premier and UCP Leader from Mr. Kenney, on Wednesday indicated he does not plan to step aside.
“I am proud to represent the constituency of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and pleased to be running once again as the UCP candidate in the 2023 election,” he said in a statement.
“All members in this riding have a common goal of keeping our province conservative this spring and we can see that the membership is engaged and excited to get involved. I look forward to the 2023 campaign and working with the new local CA board to defeat the NDP this spring.”
Mr. Nixon was not available for an interview. The provincial election is tentatively scheduled for May.
About 500 UCP members voted in the constituency association election, according to Dave Prisco, a spokesman for the party.
Take Back Alberta (TBA), which consists of conservatives from the UCP’s right flank, supported Mr. Hoven’s push to replace the CA board. Mr. Hoven credited the organization with inspiring people to run for the board and casting ballots.
TBA, founded by David Parker, aligns with conservatives who believe that the federal and provincial governments went too far in restricting personal liberty in their efforts to contain the coronavirus. TBA is against immunization mandates and many members are skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine. The organization has been encouraging citizens to influence politics by participating in CAs and other entities, such as school boards.
Mr. Hoven, on Twitter, said 25 of the 27 directors elected to the CA Monday were on the “preferred candidate” list, noting that two people were nominated from the floor because one person dropped out at the last minute and another person’s name was left off the ballot. A 14-year-old was elected to the board, Mr. Hoven said. The UCP did not provide The Globe and Mail with the names of the winning directors.
Aryn Werezak, the incoming CA president, declined to be interviewed before the new board has met.
The UCP’s provincial board consists of 18 voting members and roughly half of them have links to TBA.
Conservatives in Alberta are increasingly putting pressure on incumbents seeking the right to run for re-election. Dave Hanson, the UCP MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul, lost his nomination battle to Scott Cyr in December. One vote separated the pair, according to the local news outlet. Mr. Cyr was first elected to the legislature in 2015, under the Wildrose Party banner. After his riding boundaries were redrawn, he dropped out of the subsequent nomination contest in 2018.
Tany Yao, first elected as a Wildrose candidate in 2015 then as a UCP member in 2019, lost his nomination race in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo to Zulkifl Mujahid in early December. Adriana LaGrange, the Education Minister, is among those who have fended off challengers. She won her nomination battle in August with about 58 per cent support, according to the local paper.