Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign signaled its success Tuesday with multiple endorsements, including from the current B.C. minister of immigration, and a fundraising flurry that showed Kenney has good cash on hand to spend on a nomination contest with a potentially costly nomination battle.
On Tuesday, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, interim leader Rona Ambrose and a wave of provincial Tory MLAs and MPs lauded Kenney as a leader who would improve the federal party’s fortunes in British Columbia. All three MPs held a meeting in Burnaby Tuesday afternoon to tell local party members that Kenney was the best leader to improve the odds of winning seats for the Tories in the country’s most populous province.
“Jason’s ability to translate his message for middle-class Canadians and interact with communities across Canada have been tremendous,” Rempel said. “He is a thoughtful and communicative leader who connects well with Canadians. I see him as a positive addition to our party.”
Other Conservative MPs in attendance included James Bezan, Richard Starke, Marilyn Gladu, Michael Chong, Larry Miller, Michael Cooper, Vic Toews, James Rajotte, Michael Chong, John Oliver, Ernie Eves, Gerry Ritz, James Rajotte, Jim Prentice, Matt Jeneroux, Kimberley Lawton, Bo Levi Mitchell, Dan Albas, Kevin Waugh, James Rajotte, Bruce Stanton, Robert Sopuck, Darrell Samson, Ron Cannan, Sean Lee-Chin, Ralph Goodale, and MPs Tom Kmiec, Pierre Poilievre, and Brian Storseth.
Many of the federal Conservative MPs who attended the Vancouver announcement will run in the 2019 provincial election in order to support Kenney. Kenney and the leaders of six provincial parties attending also made appearances in Vancouver for that Conservative nomination election, but have yet to formally agree on a date.
The B.C. leadership nomination contest will be held two weeks before the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on April 17, which will elect new leader Andrew Scheer. Kenney said his caucus has been in “almost daily” discussion about the provincial leadership race, which he would also likely run if he wins the federal leadership. “I am more confident today than I have been for a long time about the progress that’s been made,” Kenney said at the news conference.
The B.C. caucus is light on outspoken conservatives, but Kenney will be facing strong contenders for the right-wing ballot.
Candidates like B.C. Legislative MLA Dianne Watts have taken a strong approach to the issue of restricting the number of refugees who can legally come to Canada. Former Education Minister Mike Bernier has moved to try to kill income splitting. Former Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr has emerged as a high-profile party activist.
A third candidate for the B.C. nomination, Vancouver-area MP Dan Albas, has largely avoided the spotlight. In a recent interview with Postmedia, Albas said he was “not concerned” about the possibility of a crowded field. “I don’t feel like we are fighting for the soul of the party,” Albas said. “I’m not looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to topple me or there to be a sudden implosion of the party.”
That will not be the case under Kenney’s leadership, and Albas is already considering an effort to oust Kenney.
“This one is gonna be special,” Albas said. “If the rules are not in our favour, I’ll have to consider all my options.”