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Alberta Politics

The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race

The race has started.

Four candidates have filed their intent with Elections Alberta to join the race to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party:

Travis Toews: Finance Minister since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti since 2019. Former president of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association. Looks comfortable in a business suit or Carhartts. Sounds like the adult in the room but is connected to a northern Alberta Bible college with some fairly backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships. Probably one of the more hardline fiscal conservatives in the UCP cabinet. Grand champion of the 1976 4-H calf show in Hythe. Likely UCP establishment favourite.

Brian Jean United Conservative Party Leadership Wildrose
Brian Jean during his 2017 bid for the United Conservative Party leadership.

Brian Jean: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2015 to 2017. Target of a kamikaze campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership race. MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche since 2022. MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2015 to 2018. MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca from 2004 to 2014. Toyed with COVID skepticism and Alberta separatism. Jason Kenney’s worst enemy. Lawyer, businessman and Golden Boy of Fort McMurray.

Jim Prentice Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose Merger PC
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Premier Jim Prentice on December 17, 2014.

Danielle Smith: Leader of the Wildrose Party from 2009 to 2014. MLA for Highwood from 2012 to 2015. Crossed the floor to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. Calgary public school trustee from 1998 to 1999. Alumna of the Fraser Institute, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Calgary Herald, Global TV, and Chorus Radio. Current President of the Alberta Enterprise Group. Running for the UCP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod. Embraced COVID conspiracy theories.

Independent MLA Todd Loewen Free Alberta Strategy Separatist
Independent MLA Todd Loewen

Todd Loewen: MLA for Central Peace-Notley since 2019. MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2015 to 2019 and Wildrose candidate in the riding in 2008 and 2012. Resigned as UCP Caucus chair in 2021 after calling on Kenney to resign and was kicked out of caucus the next day. Formed a UCP Caucus-in-exile with fellow ousted MLA Drew Barnes. Drove his motorhome in the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa. Renowned in the UCP Caucus for his pancake cooking skills.

These four have registered others are expected.

Rajan Sawhney

Transportation Minister and Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney has tapped longtime conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool to run her exploratory committee.

“[W]hat this race needs right now is just not more of the same,” Sawhney told reporters in a statement.

Children’s Services Minister and Calgary-Shaw MLA Rebecca Schultz isn’t in the race yet but already has an endorsement from former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. Schultz worked for Wall’s government before she moved to Alberta in 2016.

Government House leader and chief Kenney lieutenant Jason Nixon is rumoured to be thinking about running.

So are former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer and Devin Dreeshen.

And Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner is rumoured to be testing the waters. She would be an interesting addition to the race, though recent history has not been kind to federal politicians jumping into provincial politics in Alberta.

The party has appointed a committee that is expected to release rules, entry requirements and timelines for the leadership race before the beginning of summer.

UDPATE! Village of Amisk mayor Bill Rock has registered with Elections Alberta to run in the UCP leadership race. Rock was the Wildrose Party candidate in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose riding in the 2015 election. He was parachuted into the riding after previously nominated candidate Gordon Hatch withdrew from the race and endorsed PC MLA Verlyn Olson following Danielle Smith‘s floor-crossing.

Note: Registering as a candidate with Elections Alberta does not mean automatic approval as a candidate by the UCP. Registering with Election Alberta allows the candidates to fundraise under Alberta’s current political finance rules.

10 replies on “The First Four: Travis Toews, Brian Jean, Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen enter the United Conservative Party leadership race”

Yes, the race has started – the establishment candidate, the enemy of Kenney, someone we’re not sure should be trusted, another enemy of Kenney, with perhaps someone who claims to be not more of the same and various other potential candidates. Does that sound about right?

It could be entertaining, but I think in the end the UCP will probably opt for something approximating more of the same (regardless whether they were an enemy of Kenney or not). This is a party that tilts quite far to the right and has a strong social conservative contingent, so whoever wins will probably have to appeal to this.

There might be some differences in personality and temperament, some of the candidates and potential may be women, but I don’t think most, if any, will diverge to much from the UCP’s current ideology.

What killed kenney is he wasn’t right wing enough for Alberta. It’s time for deep, sustained 20-30% cuts, private health care, and right to work legislation – just to start. Then we can finally be free and embrace our destiny as a province.

Jessicat: Is that supposed to be some type of a joke? Well, it isn’t funny. These pretend conservatives and Reformers in Alberta have caused far too much grief, for this province, for far too long, because they weren’t like the true conservative we had, under premier Peter Lougheed. We are missing $575 billion, because the oil royalty rates that Peter Lougheed was receiving, ceased, when Ralph Klein reduced them to basically nothing. Due to Ralph Klein’s negligence, Albertans now have to come up with $260 billion to look after the damages that the oil companies in Alberta failed to deal with. Very bad tax regimes, left Alberta with $150 billion less. There were also a whole bunch of other very pricey shenanigans done, that lost Alberta billions and billions more in revenue. Now we have more pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP who are doing the same types of things. $10 billion isn’t there anymore, due to very bad corporate tax policies, that never boosted employment numbers. $7.5 billion was lost on the pipeline to America, due to the head honcho of the UCP not paying attention when Joe Biden said he’d nix the pipeline, if he became president of America. $1.6 billion is lost from an accounting blunder. $4 billion is gone from people’s retirement money. Almost $2 billion is gone from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. The UCP squandered so much money on other very pricey shenanigans. Topping it all off, the UCP has left Alberta with its largest ever debt, which is currently at $125 billion. Deep sustained cuts? We are still dealing with the bad cuts of Ralph Klein. The UCP has done bad cuts too. How about you taking very deep cuts, at 20 to 30 percent of your income? Start with yourself. If American style, private healthcare is your thing, go to America, and see how much of a disaster that is. No, we don’t want any more pretend conservatives and Reformers destroying Alberta, with their far-fetched neoliberal policies, which only benefit their wealthy corporate friends, while they cause great harm to Albertans. Also, we don’t support this separation baloney.

“Backwards views about yoga and same-sex relationships”? Honestly, how are these Christian views on such topics any different from what, say, most practising Muslims would have? But something tells me you wouldn’t publicly call them “backwards” in that case. In any case, who cares about what’s considered “backwards” or “forward”? What matters is what’s good and true, what leads to human flourishing in the fullest sense — and that transcends what the constantly changing cultural zeitgeist happens to applaud or condemn at this exact moment.

Leaving aside the politics of the race so far, don’t you find it interesting that three of the four high-profile declared candidates so far are northerners? Two — Toews and Loewen — from the Peace Country? And only one Calgarian in the bunch? And when I say “northerners”, I don’t mean Edmonton, which despite its conceit about being “northern Alberta”, is well south of the actual north-south midpoint of the province. (The province’s southern border is the 49th parallel, and its northern is the 60th. Halfway between is 54° 30′ North latitude, and according to Google Earth that parallel of latitude goes through Fawcett, a hamlet in Westlock County, well north of E-town).

As you are a well-documented aficionado of Alberta political history & trivia, I’m asking you: when was the last provincial conservative party leadership with so many candidates from genuinely-northern Alberta?

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