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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is stepping down as leader of the United Conservative Party after receiving 51-per-cent support in a review of his leadership by the party he helped create.

It marks a political turning point for a leading figure in conservative circles in Canada, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister who has also been an outspoken critic of the federal Liberal government, particularly over its policies on the energy sector.

Moments after the results of the vote by members of the United Conservative Party were announced Wednesday evening, Mr. Kenney announced his plans to exit.

“The result is not what I hoped or frankly what I expected,” Mr. Kenney told supporters. “While 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader.”

As a result, Mr. Kenney said he had informed the UCP president of his intention to step down as leader.

“We need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us,” he said.

The question before the 59,000 Albertans who have UCP memberships was “Do you approve of the current leader.” A total of 34,298 votes were cast.

A total 17,638 voters – or 51. 4 per cent – said Yes, and 16,660 – or 48.6 per cent – said No.

Mr. Kenney had said that 50 per cent plus one would be a win in the outcome of the vote.

As energy reporter Emma Graney and Calgary reporter Carrie Tait reported earlier here, the vote marks the culmination of two years of open dissent within Mr. Kenney’s caucus from party members and MLAs unhappy with pandemic restrictions and Mr. Kenney’s leadership style.

After 19 years as an MP, Mr. Kenney resigned his parliamentary seat in 2016 to seek the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives.

He won the leadership in 2017 after campaigning to merge the PCs with the Wildrose Party. Once the merger came about that year, Mr. Kenney was elected leader of the resulting United Conservative Party and led the UCP to a majority government in the province’s 2019 general election.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY'S HEADLINES

FAST OUT AS CONSERVATIVE FINANCE CRITIC - British Columbia MP Ed Fast is out as official opposition finance critic over his support of former Quebec premier Jean Charest in the race for the leadership of the federal Conservatives. Story here.

INFLATION HITS 31-YEAR HIGH - Canada’s inflation rate hit another record in April as groceries and other everyday items escalated in price, a troubling development for many workers who aren’t seeing their wages keep pace and for central bankers trying to bring inflation back to target levels. Story here.

ROYAL TOUR UNDER WAY, WITH OTTAWA STOP - On Wednesday, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, embarked on the second day of a visit to Canada, with stops throughout Ottawa designed to recognize pressing issues, including the displacement of Ukrainians because of Russia’s invasion. Earlier this week, Prince Charles acknowledged that the tour has arrived at a time of historic reckoning with Indigenous people. Story here. There’s a Globe and Mail Explainer on the tour here.

RUSSIA CLOSES CBC MOSCOW BUREAU - Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it was closing the Moscow bureau of Canada’s CBC and withdrawing visas and accreditation from the public broadcaster’s journalists after Ottawa banned Russian state TV station Russia Today. Story here.

TRUDEAU FACES SUPREME-COURT CHOICE - Globe and Mail Justice Writer Sean Fine looks here at Prime Minister’s Justin Mr. Trudeau’s options as he considers a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moldaver, who retires on Sept.1.

OTTAWA POLICE DIDN’T ASK FOR EMERGENCIES ACT - The Ottawa Police Service did not make a direct appeal for the invocation of the federal Emergencies Act, its interim chief says. Story here.

NO TIMELINE ON GENDER-VIOLENCE ACTION PLAN DESPITE GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT - Sixteen months after the federal and provincial governments issued a joint declaration that they would work toward creating “a Canada free of gender-based violence,” there is still no timeline for when the country’s first-ever national action plan to achieve that goal will actually be implemented. Story here.

UPTICK IN TRAVEL PLACES PRESSURE ON PASSPORT OFFICERS: UNION - The union representing Canada’s passport officers says its members are facing verbal abuse, stress and long hours as they continue to respond to an overwhelming surge in applications prompted by an uptake in travel after the lifting of many COVID-19 restrictions. Story here.

ONTARIO ELECTION - The first edition of Vote of Confidence, the Globe and Mail’s new guide on learning the ins and outs of the biggest issues in the Ontario election is here.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS ‐ Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, May 18, accessible here.

TOP POLITICAL BOOK - Toronto Star journalist Joanna Chiu has won the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for her book China Unbound: A New World Disorder, published by House of Anansi Press. She was named the winner at a gala on Tuesday night. Story here.

COMMITTEE MEETINGS - House of Commons committee meetings Wednesday include the standing committee on health holding a hearing on the Emergency Situation Facing Canadians in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic - details here. Also, the standing committee on national defence will be looking at Rising Domestic Operational Deployments and Challenges for the Canadian Armed Forces - details here.

GOVERNOR GENERAL IN B.C. - Governor-General Mary Simon, and her husband, Whit Fraser, will be visiting British Columbia between Friday and next Tuesday, with stops that include the Governor-General delivering remarks at a memorial event commemorating one year since the confirmation of unmarked graves at a residential school in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. It also includes meetings with Premier John Horgan and Indigenous leaders, and a meeting with University of Victoria students.

JOLY IN NEW YORK - Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is in New York City on Wednesday, beginning a two-day visit to attend meetings at United Nations Headquarters and with other foreign ministers to discuss a co-ordinated response to the global food-security crisis. The trip includes meetings with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and additional senior UN officials.

FREELAND IN GERMANY - Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, also the Finance Minister, is in Bonn to attend the G7 finance ministers and central-bank governors meeting and a working dinner,. The event is being hosted by German Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Deutsche Bundesbank President Joachim Nagel.

THE DECIBEL

On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, wildlife pathologist Brian Stevens talks about this year’s deadly avian flu which has spread from poultry to wild animals, with reports of birds suffering from neurological symptoms, dropping dead from trees and twitching uncontrollably. Nearly two million birds have already died from the avian flu this year in Canada alone. Dr. Stevens talks about how this strain is different, what experts are watching out for, and how to prevent further spread. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

The Prime Minister held private meetings, spoke to Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and attended the national Liberal caucus meeting. He was also scheduled to attend Question Period. As part of the royal visit, the Prime Minister was scheduled to have a private audience with The Prince of Wales., and to participate, with the prince, in a discussion on sustainable finance in combating climate change and building a net-zero economy. Also, the Prime Minister and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, were to attend a reception at Rideau Hall, hosted by Governor-General Mary Simon to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet held a media scrum at the House of Commons regarding the royal visit and its costs as well as the protection of the French language. He also attended Question Period.

Interim Conservative Party Leader Candice Bergen attended Question Period.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attended the NDP national caucus meeting, held a news conference on the cost of living and was scheduled to participate in Question Period.

No schedules released for other party leaders

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on whether it is time to end Canada’s last remaining COVID travel restrictions: But we supported prudent, measured public-health restrictions. So did the majority of Canadians. In the fog of the pandemic war, mistakes were made, such as keeping schools in some provinces shuttered far too long. But many other impositions were the least bad options, under the circumstances. And they worked. Last week, the number of COVID-related deaths in Canada reached 40,000. It’s a terrible toll. But the same week, the United States reached one million, a death rate three times higher. Government and individual action made the difference – notably Canada’s vaccination rate, which is among the highest in the world. But Canadians’ acceptance of public-health restrictions was always dependent on the assumption that what would be asked of them would go on no longer than necessary, and would be based on the best science. As things change, policy would evolve.“

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the Canada Infrastructure Bank: good idea in principle, bad idea in practice: “That the Government of Canada abolish the Canada Infrastructure Bank.” That was the striking recommendation of the Commons Transport committee in its recent report on the CIB – striking, both because of its finality (end it, don’t mend it) and because it was the only recommendation in the report. Not that anyone should have been altogether surprised, given the predispositions of the three opposition parties in support, who together make up a majority of the committee (its Liberal members dissented).”

Colin Busby (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Employment Insurance is a confusing mess in need of urgent reform: “One message came through loud and clear: the current EI system, with its many layers of complexity and glaring gaps in coverage, has become increasingly ineffective, especially when facing economic shocks. For many Canadians, EI is an extremely complex program to understand and navigate. The introduction and expansion of special benefits – such as maternity and parental benefits, sickness and caregiving leave – has created more than 200 ways in which all EI benefits can overlap with one another. This hodgepodge can confuse even the most informed citizens. And it’s one reason why simplicity should be an overarching principle to guide reforms.”

Ralph Heintzman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on what we ignore when we talk about abolishing the monarchy: So, abolition of the Crown in Canada is simply not worth talking about, for least another generation, because it simply cannot be done. Efforts to generate such discussion are a waste of time – time that would be better spent examining the uses and potential of the institution we have, and will have for the foreseeable future.”

Huda Idrees (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canadians should not be smug whenever there is pain and death to our south: “Diversity is our strength” is a catchy motto that leaders across all levels of government love to quote, but they’re empty words unless we challenge and change racist laws. We have to investigate the rise in hate crimes across Canada, and we have to stop normalizing obvious white supremacist trends disguised under the banner of “freedom.” A good first step on this journey would be to stop using the pain of victims of domestic terrorism in other countries as opportunities to gloat.”

Don Braid (The Calgary Herald) on MLAs jockeying for position ahead of results of a review of Jason Kenney’s leadership of the United Conservative Party: “While Premier Jason Kenney confidently talks about a majority win for his leadership Wednesday, some people in his caucus and government have another subject entirely. They’re speculating about who will be the new premier as early as Thursday, when a full UCP caucus meeting is scheduled at McDougall Centre from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.”

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