By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With Jason Kenney stepping down as the leader of the United Conservative Party, many other politicians are now moving to take up the mantle of leadership for the party. The official list of candidates that are running for the leadership position within the United Conservative Party at the time of writing is Travis Toews UCP MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, former Finance Minister; Brian Jean, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray, former Leader of the Wildrose; Todd Loewen, Independent MLA for Peace River-Notley, former UCP MLA; Rajan Sawhney, UCP MLA for Calgary-North East, former Transportation Minister; Rebecca Schulz, UCP MLA for Calgary-Shaw, former Children’s Services Minister; Leela Aheer, UCP MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore, former Minister of Culture and Tourism; Danielle Smith, former Wildrose Leader; and Bill Rock, mayor for the Village of Amisk.
Michelle Rempel Garner, MP for Calgary-Nose Hill and Raj Sherman, former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, are also believed to enter the race, but are still unconfirmed at this point.
All candidates that are officially running for UCP leadership have released public statements declaring their intentions and what they would bring to the table as the new leader.
“I am inspired by our movement, which is why I ran in 2019, and I believe that Albertans and our members can be inspired again,” said Toews in a press release. “I’m running to lead our party back to the foundations that united us. It’s time to lay aside our differences to focus on our shared vision — a hopeful future for our children and grandchildren, on the foundation of a free and prosperous Alberta.”
Jean announced his intentions to run for UCP leader tweeting, “you unite and renew the UCP by uniting around big ideas. By allowing people, communities, & Alberta to take more control over their affairs. By giving Albertans a govt that is in line with their wants, needs, & aspirations.”
Loewen made a post on Facebook on the following day of announcing his desire to run for UCP leader stating: “It’s time to get blue truck politicians out of the spotlight and put the focus on blue truck Albertans — the everyday people of this province who work hard to provide for their families and grow their communities. This is not a campaign for flashy insiders and big-money influences; it’s a campaign for the little guy who has been forgotten.”
On Twitter after officially announcing that she will be running for UCP leader, Sawhney tweeted: “I am running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party so we can move forward for a better future for our party, our families and our province. This campaign will be about improving the quality of life for all Albertans. We are building a team that represents all of Alberta’s places and people, a team that is ready to govern.”
Schulz released a video on Twitter as part of her announcement to run for a leadership position in the UCP. In the video, she states the following, “I am proud to be an Albertan and a Conservative. This is who we are: hard-working women and men who built this province, and who continued to build this province today, but too many see us as arrogant, entitled, out of touch, and not listening to regular Albertans, or even are party members. We got off track and I’m running to change that to get our party and our province back on track.”
On Aheers’ campaign website, she released the following statement, “I am proud of what we have accomplished together. We came together and stood with one voice to let the rest of Canada know that Alberta may have been down, but we weren’t out. We came together and worked with Albertans of all stripes to find efficiencies in government which put us on a path to a balanced budget.”
As part of Smith’s announcement to run as leader, she tweeted out the following statement: “I am so grateful to hear from Alberta families and businesses on both their concerns and ideas for the future. Albertans want a premier who is ready to take action on day one and restore Alberta’s sovereignty. With your help, that is exactly what we will do together.”
On June 16, Toews came to speak at the Taber Legion where Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner, endorsed his campaign for UCP leadership.
“I have worked closely with Travis for over three years on Treasury Board and over two years as the Red Tape Reduction Minister,” said Hunter in a press release. “In all of that time, Travis has shown me that his only reason for being in politics is to build a better Alberta for our children and grandchildren. I will support that every day, all day.”
“I’m proud to have Grant – a strong voice for Albertans and the people of Taber-Warner – stand with me,” said Toews. “I’m humbled by and grateful for his support. I know the importance local MLAs have in their communities, and the people of his riding have a strong voice at the table.”
Members of the UCP will have the opportunity to vote for their next leader on Sept. 2 when mail-in ballots will begin to arrive at the doorstep. The ballots will be required to be mailed out on Oct. 3, and for those who prefer to vote in person, there will be an in person election on Oct. 6 at five locations across the province.