Jason Kenney, one of the top ministers from Stephen Harper's government, is set to leave federal politics, according to several reports.
Kenney will reportedly announce his departure this summer, and the news has set off speculation that he could devote his time to uniting Alberta's Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, reported the CBC's Chris Hall, citing unnamed sources.
Jason Kenney is seen in Ottawa on April 14, 2015. (Photo: Cole Burston/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Those sources said Kenney came to his decision after meeting with prominent Conservatives including ex-Harper advisor Ian Brodie, ex-MP Monte Solberg and former party campaign manager Tom Flanagan over the past few weekends.
In an email to CTV News Wednesday, the MP did not confirm or deny the news.
"I’m getting very close to making a decision, and will let you know," Kenney wrote.
"If he won, he would be pledging to proceed very quickly to open negotiations with the Wildrose."
— Political scientist Tom Flanagan
The leadership of Alberta's PC party is currently vacant after former premier Jim Prentice steered it to a dismal third-place showing in the 2015 provincial election.
CBC News reported that Kenney renewed his PC membership recently, but there is no confirmation of his candidacy.
Flanagan, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, said Kenney's platform would focus on bringing Alberta's right together.
"If he won, he would be pledging to open negotiations with the Wildrose," Flanagan told the Calgary Herald.
Flanagan added he would personally support Kenney if he decided to run.
Reports say Jason Kenney consulted with former campaign strategist and current political science professor Tom Flanagan, pictured. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
The reports come as Kenney has been touted as a possible candidate for leadership of the federal Conservative Party, a position that is currently held by interim leader Rona Ambrose.
Last week, Kenney said he was keeping his options open when it came to his political future — and he didn't rule out diving into Alberta provincial politics, The Calgary Sun reported.
He told the newspaper that numerous people had approached him to help unite the right in Alberta, which is something that he feels "needs to be done."
The Tories and Wildrose have repeatedly denied any intention to merge, but other conservative groups in the province have pushed for the two parties to unite, or for the creation of a third right-leaning party.
Popular Calgary MP
Kenney was first elected — at the age of 29 — as the MP for Calgary Southeast in 1997 as a member of the Reform Party.
He was then re-elected in every subsequent election, as a member of the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservatives. As of the October 2015 election, he represents the Calgary Midnapore riding in the House of Commons.
Kenney served in numerous cabinet roles under Harper, overseeing portfolios including defence, multiculturalism, immigration and employment and social development.
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Since Jason Kenney became defence minister in February, 2015, his credibility has previously been called into question over a series of incidents ranging from social media gaffes to inaccurate factual claims.
On March 8 – International Women’s Day – Kenney took to Twitter to thank the Canadian Forces for fighting ISIL’s “campaign to enslave women and girls.” He shared striking images of women in burkas chained together. However, The Ottawa Citizen reported that the women in one image were actually performing a ceremonial re-enactment in honour of the prophet Mohammad's grandson, Hussein, and his family. The National Post later reported that another photo was from an anti-ISIL protest in the United Kingdom and a third image, supposedly showing an ISIL militant and a child bride, has also be called into question. When Liberals asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper in question period if he would reprimand his minister for the misleading tweet, the prime minister responded that Kenney was “new to his portfolio.” Though the National Council of Canadian Muslims derided the tweet as “corrosive” and opposition parties called for Kenney to remove it from his account, the tweet still exists.
Kenney also claimed in March that a Russian fighter jet “buzzed” the HMCS Fredericton at a low altitude in the Black Sea and stood by a claim from his parliamentary secretary that the frigate was confronted by Russia warships. However, NATO officials told Postmedia that Russian aircraft actually flew over the NATO maritime task force to which the Fredericton was assigned at a high altitude and denied any confrontation with Russian warships took place. The confusion over the incident spurred a blistering rant from CBC host Rick Mercer. “Someone’s lying,” Mercer said. “The Minister of Defence, NATO. They both have completely different stories.”
According to The Ottawa Citizen, while Kenney was on a conference call with reporters discussing Canada’s expanded mission against ISIL, he said he did not take NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair seriously because “the NDP has opposed every single overseas military deployment in Canadian history.” Not true. The NDP supported Canada’s 2011 military mission in Libya, but did not vote for extension.
According to that same Citizen story, Kenney also claimed that defence spending under the previous Liberal governments fell to a record low of 0.7 per cent of GDP. Not true. From the story: “NATO, the World Bank and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a respected think-tank on global defence expenditures, say Canadian defence spending never fell below 1.1 per cent of GDP between 1990 and 2012. However, last year – under the Conservatives – it slipped to one per cent.” A spokesperson told the paper that Kenney meant to say defence spending dropped by 0.7 per cent under the Grits.
Kenney also told reporters in late March that Canada needed to join the bombing campaign against ISIL in Syria because only this country and the United States have the kind of precision-guided smart bombs needed for the airstrikes. Not true. As reported by The Ottawa Citizen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both part of the five nation, U.S.-led coalition bombing targets in Syria, have used such bombs against ISIL. Gen. Tom Lawson, the chief of the defence staff, originally backed up Kenney’s claim that only Canada and America had the weapons. However, Lawson changed his tune on April 1, saying Canada’s allies did indeed have the weapons. Kenney apologized for the gaffe in the House of Commons, placing the blame on a briefing error.
UP NEXT: Mosul After ISIS
In this undated handout photo provided by the Library of Congress taken during the autumn of 1932, men pause on a lorry on the road to Mosul, northern Iraq.
Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road in Mosul on Monday, June 23, 2014.
A 1932 image of Lady Surrma of the Assyrian community posing for a portrait in Mosul, northern Iraq.
An Iraqi woman looking at a shop display in central Mosul after the Islamic State group ordered clothes shop owners to cover the faces of the mannequins on Monday, July 21, 2014.
In this undated handout photo provided by the Library of Congress taken during the autumn of 1932, the Tigris River stretches out in the distance as seen from Mosul, northern Iraq.
File photo of smoke rising during airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants at the Mosul Dam on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.
A 1932 image taken during the autumn of Nebi Yunis, the tomb of the prophet Jonah, in Mosul, northern Iraq,
Iraqis walk in the rubble of the revered Muslim shrine after it was was destroyed on Thursday, July 24, 2014 by militants who overran the city in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
In this undated handout photo provided by the Library of Congress taken during the autumn of 1932, Iraqis pause in the market in Mosul, northern Iraq.
Demonstrators chanting pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul on Monday, June 16, 2014.