Vitor Marciano, advisor to Brian Jean’s campaign. (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It might have seemed like a good idea when the Kenney Government passed legislation last year allowing bulk purchases of party memberships, but it was probably inevitable that an idea that dodgy would cause trouble for the United Conservative Party sooner or later. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

That time has now come.

Yesterday, the CBC reported it has a letter in its possession showing Elections Alberta is investigating allegations there have been legally sketchy bulk purchases of UCP memberships, presumably by Jason Kenney’s campaign to hang onto his leadership. 

The broadcaster quoted would-be UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean’s principal advisor, Vitor Marciano, saying Mr. Jean’s group complained to Elections Alberta in late March that someone had purchased memberships in bulk earlier that month. 

The excruciatingly carefully worded CBC story went on to say that Mr. Marciano indicated “they named the Kenney campaign as part of their complaint,” a statement that doesn’t quite connect the dots.

Mr. Marciano told the CBC that about 4,000 memberships were purchased in March with just six credit cards. 

UCP MLA and leadership hopeful Brian Jean (Photo: Brian Jean/Flickr).

Question: So what’s the problem with that if the Kenney Government passed legislation in December 2021 making the practice legal? 

Answer: Bill 81, the Election Statutes Amendment Act, didn’t take effect until March 31, 2022.

In other words, it would appear that even though the Kenney Government passed legislation making the practice legal, the premier’s supporters were in such a hurry to use it that their campaign couldn’t wait until the law took effect.

Indeed, even to comply with the new rules under the act, it probably would have required more donors than just six to make the cut. 

This adds up to a problem for Mr. Kenney because, while the UCP executive can be counted never to enforce its own rules when The Maximum Leader is accused of breaking them, it’s not the UCP that enforces the law. 

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul UCP MLA David Hanson (Photo: David Hanson/Facebook).

That leaves the question of whether Elections Alberta – an office of the Legislature, which in turn is dominated by the UCP – can be counted on to take allegations against Premier Kenney seriously. Mr. Marciano says he’s confident the office will and that he expects a real investigation will take place. 

As regular followers of Alberta politics should be aware, the RCMP continues to investigate election funding irregularities and allegations of voter identity theft in the 2017 UCP leadership contest won by Mr. Kenney and lost by Mr. Jean. 

But that investigation has taken so long, with the RCMP apparently still dragging their boots, that many Albertans have come to doubt it will ever be resolved. 

Mr. Jean, who resigned as MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2018 soon after his loss to Mr. Kenney, returned to political activities last year and won a by-election as the UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on March 15 this year. He campaigned on a platform of dumping Mr. Kenney and replacing him as leader, which he argues is the only way to prevent the return of the NDP to power. 

Chestermere-Strathmore UCP MLA Leela Aheer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the UCP introduced Bill 81 in November 2021, it was even opposed by some UCP MLAs.

In addition to the NDP Opposition, UCP MLAs David Hanson (Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul), Richard Gotfried (Calgary-Fish Creek), and Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Strathmore, who had been kicked out of cabinet last June for criticizing Mr. Kenney) all argued in the Legislature that the change was a formula for trouble. It would encourage well-funded candidates to buy memberships in the names of Albertans who might never know their identities had been stolen to vote in a campaign, Mr. Hanson said. 

They were also joined in their opposition by exiled former UCP Caucus members Drew Barnes, Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Todd Loewen, Central Peace-Notley, both of whom now sit as Independent MLAs. 

Their objections were for naught. The government insisted such things would never happen, imposed time limitation on the bill, and after Kenney loyalists on the UCP benches organized a filibuster to shut down debate, passed it at the end of the Legislature’s Dec. 7 evening sitting.

A day that will live in infamy, as it were.

So here we are. It seems unlikely that if Mr. Kenney is named the victor on May 18, when the UCP plans to announce the leadership vote results, that most Albertans will conclude there’s something fishy about his endorsement.

Join the Conversation


  1. Stranger than fiction. The blatancy of the latter caper is as presumptuous as it gets: anticipating Brian Jean’s war cry that it’s merely a question of who’s better at the misplaced priority—defeating the party which, in the easiest of comparisons, did a superior job than the brand new disaster of a party which ended its single term just three years ago. Well, give partisan competition its due, one supposes, but still wonder whether the higher priory should be governing for all Albertans at least as well as Rachel Notley’s NDP did.

    But, apparently, the UCP’ is focused on winning power by any means and governing only for those Albertans who think that’s okay. Excuse me, but Jean’s slogan just barely distances from the K-faction’s ethical abandon, given that the charge of cheating is really just a new manifestation of the former matter and , though the ‘loser’ has every right to be ‘sore,’ it’s too easy to associate those two words in an unflattering way.

    Hubris or desperation, either way the cabinet was warned its shifty membership-signup rules would risk trouble and the only way it won’t is if it doesn’t work in K-Boy’s favour. But if he wins, at least the inevitable uproar will keep the focus on the UCP’s existential matters, couched in ideological terms and safely away from what, exactly, a re-elected UCP proposes to better for Albertans than the NDP did. Maybe it’s forward-looking and clever, but too all-in by half.

    Why does the former matter hang there like a Sword of Damnakazecles? The RCMP risks its competence if nothing comes of it while opening up a new file on the latter matter. Has K-Boy hung his own, independent Sword of AlbertaPoliceclese over the current force which used to always get its man? Or is the former Sword simply waiting to cross the latter if—now when—it happens? ‘Don’t try this again, or else—okay?—please?—if you feel like it?…’ If that was its intent, it obviously failed.

    And it’s just as easy to wonder whether the Kamikaze investigation’s apparent reluctance to conclude—with at least a report , if not charges— might have effectively encouraged, if not colluded (‘inadvertently’)with the UCP to up and do it again (it’s hard not to equate it with tRump’s plunge into Ukrainigate—for which he was eventually impeached but not convicted—immediately after the Russiagate investigation intentionally sandbagged its own conclusion). There is only one way that question can be answered, and if it’s a summary ‘nothing-to-see-here-folks-please-move-along’ verdict, then it only looks all the more like coordination and calculation with a Kenney vindication, as suspect as it would appear to even conservative voters (not all of which are so hidebound as to dismiss voting NDP instead). If police consistently avoid “interfering “ in political matters, we end up distrusting politicians and police, both. The neo-right has made a lot of hay over this distrust. Apparently, for them, it ain’t broke so they ain’t about to fix it.

    It’s shaping up like the incumbent will condemn the NDP for everything and anything but its record as a way to distract from the much inferior UCP record. Conversely, the Dippers will prioritize getting rid of the UCP, the chief difference being that the condemnation doesn’t need to hammer away at philosophical ideology; rather it need only cite a record against which the its own compares very favourably in terms of fair representation for all Albertans, responsible administration, and a realistic vision for the future.

    It might sound perverse, but these electoral scandals are probably a good thing in the sense that it pares down on UCP popularity, even as low as it is. The happy coincidence is that Alberta’s shenanigans will reflect badly on Kenney’s former federal colleagues, particularly on leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre whose involvement with the HarperCons’ “Fair Elections Act” ( a misnomer if there ever was one) should hopefully remind every Canadian that cheating democracy, no matter how stridently rationalized, is as unacceptable as the parties perpetrating it.

    What’s happening in Alberta is instructive for all Canadians as we continue to seek a lasting solution to the radicalization of the partisan right. And we don’t get better info than right here on this site.

    Happy Motherhood Issue Day

  2. If only Jason Kenney would break one of the laws that law enforcement cares about. If there was half as much evidence that he robbed a bank as there is that he broke electoral law, something would have been done about it 3 years ago.

  3. If the memberships were bought before the law passed, would it not be illegal to have done that? If so, would Kenny face a prison term?

    1. Tom: You asked: “If the memberships were bought before the law passed, would it not be illegal to have done that?” Yes. “If so, would Kenny face a prison term?” No. Anyway, even if there were jail terms set out in the relevant amended statutes, just like everything else, the big shots and the true beneficiaries are seldom convicted. Jail time is for the Michael Sonas of this world. DJC

    2. would it really matter? We have a PM who broke a Federal ethics law in 2019 and he still came through the following election smelling like a rose. Government is rotten and the complacency of the average Canadian is not holding any elected official accountable.

  4. The only surprise for me is that there are not more of these.

    Or maybe there are!

    I can well understand why complainants would bypass the UCP executive in favour of Elections Alberta. Speaks volumes to the trust issue…..there isn’t any.

  5. With this story coming out before the vote count it: is it possible for investigators to get custody of the ballots before they are counted to verify the voters list?

  6. Oh the good old days, when Conservative political organizers would load up the buses at the homeless mission, everything would be paid for with a big bag of cash, everyone involved was happy in the end and there was a big party with a lots of food and drink.

    I suppose with it being an online vote, cash doesn’t work so well here and no there is point to bus in students from bible colleges or ethnic communities. However, using credit cards does have its issues too, as it becomes where clear where the money has come from. Especially when it is just a very few people buying thousands of memberships, it sure does look fishy.

    Kenney has always been said to be a good political organizer both by supporters and opponents, but along with that has come a big bunch of serious ethical questions about that organizing that just does not seem to go away and just seems to keep growing.

    So, even if Kenney gets his 50 plus 1% support or a more respectable number, questions will persist as to how real that support was and continue to undermine his legitimacy. Maybe Kenney is fine with that and for him winning is all that counts, but practically having the majority of his party not trust him is really not much better than having a majority vote against his leadership.

  7. It shows that the UCP has absolutely no respect whatsoever for democracy. Their base gets all riled up about a so called lack of democracy in Ottawa, under Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh, when that’s not the case, because it’s how minority governments work, but they don’t even say anything about the actual lack of democracy with the UCP in Alberta.

  8. The claim is that about 4,000 memberships were ‘bulk purchased.’
    I would like to hear an explanation as to the huge difference in membership numbers that apparently have come from the UCP Party.
    Initially it anticipated approximately 3500 maximum memberships that would be making it to the Red Deer SGM. With about 3 days left to buy memberships, the party thought there could be up to 20,000 memberships sold and the decision was made to hold the vote by mail instead of in person. The 20,000 is quoted in many media articles as well as social media. I believe that the cut-off for membership purchases had passed when that decision to change to mail-in voting was made which leads to my question that I haven’t seen addressed.
    Since the furor following the announcement of the change in voting died down, I started to notice several comments about 45,000 to 50,000 members eligible to vote.
    Where does this 25-30,000 difference come from? We know it wasn’t the amount of existing memberships when the review was called. The party membership had dwindled to 3,500 maximum at that time.
    David, if I’ve missed an explanation for this I would appreciate being directed to it.

    1. My guess is that no one would believe a “hundred-billion-gazillion”, so they pared it back to something a little more credible.

  9. What did I say? What did I say months ago?
    I told you Kenney would cheat and win and remain leader of the UCP.

    The upside for intelligent caring Albertans is that with him as leader going into the next provincial election, we (NDP) stand a much better chance of winning a majority government.

    My biggest fear was that the UCP would chose a different leader and go into full redemption renew mode and maintain their support and possibly win the election. With Kenney it is much more likely they won’t be able to do that.

    All UCP MLAs need to be voted out. They were all in on it, and Albertans paid the price – some with their lives in fact.

  10. While subterfuge and shenanigans are the stock and trade of Kenney and his fellow grifters, a recent media outlet story mentions that government insiders went to great, and likely very illegal lengths, to assure that there was always a veil of secrecy over government business.

    The efforts by insiders to avoid the scrutiny and bounds of FOIP were/are considerable and meant to protect the same insiders’ own activities. Cited in particular is the strange case of the War Room, a multi-million dollar slush fund with zero accountability or record of its activities. Given the revelation that thousands of UCP memberships were purchased (on six credit cards), one wonders what uses were applied to the War Room’s slush fund.

  11. That’s a fast 4000 votes for Kenney that are in the bag. Or should I say in the post.

    $10 each. Cheap at half the price. My understanding is that years ago in certain Provinces the price was a $5. bottle.

  12. The UCP are signalling what they might do if conservatives in this country get their way with that bodily autonomy issue they don’t want us talking about. “Forced” party memberships are just the beginning. Surely people with no bodily autonomy need to be told how to vote, and supervised so that they do it correctly.That’s just the beginning of the no-bodily-autonomy dystopia of the con future. Why stop with women? Think of all the slippery slopes ahead for those with unapproved skin colors and non-sanctioned gender identity. Imagine a world where nobody gets old or has chronic illness and disabilities. It all starts with removing bodily autonomy from women.

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