Alberta premier steps down after weak showing in party vote

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — The premier of oil-rich Alberta province announced Wednesday that he is stepping down after only narrowly winning a leadership review from his party members.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the 51.4% support he received was not enough to stay on, either as head of the provincial government or as leader of the governing United Conservative Party.

“The result is not what I hoped for or frankly what I expected,” he said to gasps of surprise from a few hundred supporters at an invitation-only event in Calgary. “While 51% of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader.”

Kenney said he asked the party to expedite a vote to select a new leader, who will become Alberta’s premier since the United Conservatives have a majority in the province’s legislature. He will remain as party leader until an interim leader is chosen.

Legislative elections in Alberta must be held no later than the end of next May.

Kenney has said anger among the party’s members and legislators over decisions he made to limit personal liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic led to open criticism of his leadership and ultimately the underwhelming vote of support in the review.

“It’s clear that the past two years were deeply divisive for our province, our party and our caucus, but it is my fervent hope that in the months to come we all move on past the division of COVID,” he said.

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