By Cal Braid
Westwind Weekly News
When the UCP candidates appeared for their last debate on Aug. 30 in Edmonton, favourites had already been established in print, broadcast, and social media. Nevertheless, the underdogs kept it interesting with a fervent exchange of ideas and strategies for Alberta’s future. This week, Albertans will be delivered a new Premier decided by a UCP membership that comprises less than three per cent of the province’s population.
The candidates are Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Danielle Smith, and Travis Toews.
The debate moderator challenged the candidates by saying, “Let’s talk about how you see our world-class energy industry contributing to the future economy, and how you will ensure greater diversity of energy in order to grow the Alberta advantage.”
Smith: “You’re going to be outraged when you realize just how badly we’ve been treated by Ottawa. Every single time we ask Ottawa to engage with us, they push back against us. If we were in a sovereign frame of mind, we would stop expecting Ottawa to come in and build economic corridors for us. We would build them ourselves. I would double dog dare them to take us to court if we were starting to build pipelines with our First Nations partners and bringing our products to market.”
Toews: “One thing I don’t do on my plan to strengthen Alberta is over-promise and under-deliver. The sovereignty act is a false bill of goods. If it’s implemented as it’s been envisioned by the Free Alberta strategy it will create chaos within this business environment. It will send tens of billions of dollars packing out this province.”
Sawhney: “We’re talking about legislation that is going to bring additional constitutional quagmire into Alberta. I’ve got to tell you Danielle, a sovereign frame of mind does nothing for those on Bay Street and Wall Street when they’re doing their analysis and trying to convince investors to bring their investments into a stable and predictable environment.”
Aheer: “All too often, the debate about energy gets reduced to a yelling match about pollution and profits. Albertans know the importance of clean earth, air, water, and a successful economy have to be aligned. It’s really hard to negotiate a new trade agreement when you’re starting a bar brawl in the middle of confederation.”
Schulz: “I am curious, Danielle—if you are so against Justin Trudeau and so for doing things on our own terms, why did you accept his net zero policy? Yes, we need a credible climate plan, we need to work on industry, (but) buying into Trudeau’s net zero plan is confusing for us, especially when you’re saying you want to do things our own way. It doesn’t make sense.”
Loewen: “We don’t need to apologize for our oil and gas industry. There’s no way I will ever do that. We need to build a firewall between us and Ottawa. We have to start doing things like our own pension plan and send Ottawa a message. Ottawa has already driven away so much investment here. Some of the candidates here or just willing to sit back and let things happen. There will be no change and that’s unacceptable.”
Jean: “Folks, every single situation here today—(from) Travis, Rebecca, Danielle—all the options they have for constitutional challenges have to go through the constitution. That is the only way we’re going to get any attention from Ottawa and get any resolution to what’s bothering us. The only one that has a solution for our economic woes is myself. Please take a look at it.”
Toews: “Danielle noted that she has a plan to accelerate to net-zero. We cannot get ahead of technology solutions. We cannot get ahead of competing resource-based economies. I will not parrot Trudeau’s nonsense about net zero.”
The closing statements in the debate were limited to 90 seconds each.
Loewen: “I’m the only candidate on the stage who stood for Albertans freedoms and prosperity without ever compromising or capitulating for personal or political gain. The well-being of Alberta is my highest priority. The provincial election in 2023 will be fought on trust. Let’s give Alberta a UCP that puts principles before politics.”
Aheer: “I hope that you understand that I will put Alberta and Albertans first. I’ve risked my political career and my own personal safety to do the right thing more than once. Instead of looking for reasons to leave, we need to be finding ways to lead Canada.”
Smith: “The NDP used to stick up for the little guy, but they don’t do that anymore. They choose big, bloated bureaucracies every time. We’re in a leadership race because our government allowed themselves to be bullied and pushed around by the NDP. I may make mistakes from time to time, but I won’t be bullied. I won’t be pushed around. I will stand up for you and I will always put Alberta first.”
Schulz: “Alberta is on the edge of being a world leader in every sense, but we’re not there just yet. Alberta needs a Conservative government to be an economic powerhouse while it strives to have the best health care, education, and supports for the most vulnerable. I’m in this for you and for you I will represent the values (…) of all of us with humility and common sense.”
Toews: “Which leader can unite this party and movement and go on to win the election in 2023? Leadership matters and leadership track record matters. Now is the time for stewardship, humility, and stability. Future generations of Albertans are depending on us.”
Jean: “There are many good people on the stage who want to lead our party; that’s why they would all be in a Brian Jean cabinet. But I’m the only person who’s talking about renewing the party; a party that can represent the vast majority ordinary everyday Albertans who want good Conservative government that respects their autonomy, their freedoms, and their ability to choose for themselves.”
Sawhney: “Reckless and distracting constitutional turmoil is not a top priority for Albertans. I’m not interested in going backwards and delving into old grievances. The politics of anger has caused a recent slate of attacks on politicians and journalists. We must choose hope, progress, and most importantly of all, we must choose unity.”
The new UCP leader and premier will be announced on Oct. 6. Coverage to follow.