Volunteers began checking voters’ identification Thursday in a leadership review by Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney and, if so, the public could watch a live stream of the work on the United Conservative Party’s website.
“Volunteers check that each ballot paper received meets the requirements. If so, the sealed envelope containing the voting secret is placed in the ballot box for [future] count,” party spokesman Dave Prisco said in a statement.
“This entire process is overseen by the returning officer, the tellers and… [third-party audit firm] Deloitte Canada.”
Prisco said the votes are to be counted and the results will be announced via livestream next Wednesday.
Ballot papers were sent out to nearly 60,000 eligible party members a month ago. The question is simple: “Do you know the current leader well? Yes or No?”
The mood has remained under a cloud.
Correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating allegations of possible illegal bulk purchase of party memberships.
Elections Alberta cannot, under the law, confirm whether an investigation is underway. The party has stated that it is not aware of such an investigation.
It has been a winding road to get to this point.
The review was delayed by a year and was then voted in person on April 9 in Red Deer, Alta., after fierce demands from nearly two dozen constituencies.
The expected approximately 3,000 expected voters rose to 15,000. The party board announced a logistical problem and announced that the vote would be extended to all more than 59,000 members and that the vote would take place by mail.
Kenney opponents say the change was made because the large personal voter lists indicated that Kenney would lose.
The board has denied that.
Kenney won the party’s inaugural leadership review in 2017 in a race marred by allegations of collusion and voting irregularities. A multi-year RCMP investigation into allegations of criminal identity fraud among voters continues.
The fallout from that review, coupled with suspicions about last-minute changes to this vote, has raised concerns about whether it will be conducted fairly. UCP President Cynthia Moore has said she is confident anything above the board will be handled.
Kenney said this week that he is confident he will stay in the top job and that most of the party wants to stay united.
The leadership review has become the baton that disaffected party members and stragglers have used to hold Kenney to account for what they say: leadership failures, sluggish fundraising and lagging polls suggesting the door is wide open to an NDP victory in the following the spring election.
Members also criticized Kenney for the COVID-19 pandemic health restrictions that they deemed unnecessarily excessive.
Kenney and his staff have publicly clashed with several backbench caucus members who say he promised leadership based on grassroots advice, but delivered a tight-knit, top-down administration that ignored most inputs except a small group advisors.
Kenney, in turn, has characterized his opponents as extremists, hating peddlers, lunatics and lunatics trying to oust him. He has suggested that by doing so, they risk ripping out the central pole of his large-tent Conservative party and reducing it to a fit of rage ripe for destruction.
Kenney needs 50 percent plus one to stay on. If he doesn’t, he’s promised to stop — according to the rules — so a race could pick a new leader.
If he wins, he has said, it is expected that the disaffected in his backseat will step in or face undisclosed consequences.