Kenney suggests Jean will be allowed to run, questions his 'commitment and reliability'

Jason Kenney hasn't ruled out allowing Brian Jean back into the UCP, but the premier wasn't exactly playing nice with his former leadership rival on Friday.

Jean announced Wednesday night that he plans to run for the party in an upcoming byelection in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche.

Kenney said Jean will have to go through a vetting first before being approved as a candidate.

Then the premier openly questioned Jean's commitment to the UCP, saying the former Wildrose Party leader can't decide what party he wants to lead.

"In 2019, he was openly calling people about becoming leader of the Freedom Conservative Party…and then a few weeks ago he said that he was interested in starting and leading a centrist party," Kenney told reporters.

Jean isn't a fan of Kenney either, and he's made that very public by criticizing him in social media posts.

Some political experts have speculated that Jean is not running just to become an MLA, but he's actually after Kenney's job as leader. Jean hasn't denied that.

Kenney faces a leadership review at the party's AGM April 8-9, 2022 at the River Cree Resort in Edmonton.

The premier has recently polled as low as 22 per cent.

In June, Jean asked Kenney to resign, alleging the premier had a "poor attitude" and saying that he made "a mess of following the COVID rules that he placed on all Albertans."

"Do the right thing and step down for the good of the party we created and the good of Alberta," Jean wrote on Facebook at the time.

On Friday, Kenney said Jean and other candidates need to be vetted by the party, but the premier promised to "endorse whoever the members choose" to run in the byelection.

A date for that race has not been set, but the premier acknowledged it has to happen by mid-February.

Kenney said nominations in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche will open "quite soon," and it's not clear who else plans to run.

"I'm sure the local members will have some questions about his reliability given that he did not complete his term as a member of parliament, he did not complete his term as an MLA," Kenney said.

JEAN RESPONDS IN FACEBOOK VIDEO

Jean offered an answer to Kenney's questions in a recorded Facebook video posted Friday afternoon.

He alleged Kenney wanted him to quit and didn't talk to him after Jean lost the UCP leadership vote in 2017.

"You should know that between the weekend that Jason Kenney won the leadership and my leaving the legislature four months later, we had no phone conversations, no in-person conversations, no text or emails," he said.

"I wasn't consulted or asked about any decisions, and my input was never sought out…Jason obviously wanted me out and I obliged him."

Jean declined to do an interview with CTV News Edmonton when asked on Thursday.