Alberta politics moves at a mile a minute.
Days after getting a waiver from the United Conservative Party to join the leadership race because she didn’t meet the 6 month membership requirement, Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner announced she will not join the UCP leadership race.
Rempel Garner’s announcement comes less than 24-hours after Patrick Brown‘s campaign manager quit to allegedly work on her campaign and a poll put her at the top of the pack among UCP supporters.
But it wasn’t to be.
In a long statement posted on her newly launched Substack, Rempel Garner says the UCP is too much of a hot mess for her to lead.
“…there have also been squabbles that have erupted in the pages of national media, public meltdowns, nearly missed physical fights, coups, smear jobs, leaked recordings and confidential emails, lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign roles, and hours long meetings where members have been subjected to hours of public castigation,” Rempel wrote.
It was a brutal critique of Alberta’s main conservative party.
She’s not wrong.
Affable Calgary-Fish Creek UCP MLA Richard Gotfried agrees.
But while her criticisms are stingingly on point Rempel Garner doesn’t offer solutions to how to fix the UCP.
In fact, she basically reaffirms what NDP leader Rachel Notley has been saying for months: the UCP is too caught up in their own internal fights to do what’s right for Albertans.
The UCP wanted Rempel Garner but the White Knight from Calgary-Oklahoma will not be riding into this breach.
And the candidate the party didn’t want is in, well, kind of.
Edmonton emergency room doctor Raj Sherman says he’s running for the leadership despite the party denying him the same waiver granted to Rempel Garner.
Sherman is one of the most eccentric people in Alberta politics.
He was elected as a Progressive Conservative MLA in 2008, was pushed out in 2010, and won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2011. Narrowly re-elected in his Edmonton-Meadowlark seat in 2012, he left the party before the 2015 election.
He’s mostly stayed out of politics since then but in 2020 he spoke out about COVID-19 and last year he gave $4,000 to the Alberta Party.
It’s no wonder the UCP doesn’t want him in the race.
Sherman is persistent if anything, so he says he’s going to keep campaigning anyway.
Back in 2012, Sherman’s Liberals lost Official Opposition status in 2012 to Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party.
Now Smith is making waves as a candidate in this leadership race.
She wants Alberta to ignore federal laws she doesn’t like. She calls it the Alberta Sovereignty Act.
She also promises to never again “lockdown” Alberta.
Never mind that we never really had a lockdown during the pandemic, but her message plays well with an extremely motivated and well-organized group of conservative activists who oppose everything from face-masks to mandatory vaccinations.
Ten years ago it might have been described as a bozo-eruption.
But not today.
Anything goes in Alberta politics, or at least in the UCP, so it would seem.
Meanwhile, the perceived frontrunner and establishment favourite, former finance minister Travis Toews, is running a safe and low-energy campaign.
The most controversial issue he has tackled is opposing health safety labels on beef packaging.
Toews’ campaign held a rally just outside of Edmonton at the River Cree Casino on the Enoch First Nation a few days ago. Watching the live-stream it looked like a big crowd but there were still enough chairs for everyone.
It was nothing like the massive barnburner put on by Pierre Poilievre‘s campaign a few months ago to which all future political rallies at River Cree will be compared to.
Maybe safe and steady is the right strategy for Toews.
It didn’t work for Jim Dinning or Gary Mar but the old PC Party was a very different political beast than today’s UCP.
Not that Toews is immune from controversy.
His campaign co-chair Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin was part of a group of Conservatives who welcomed anti-vaccine activists to Ottawa this week.
The same poll that had Rempel Garner in the lead showed the top two issues on Albertans minds are the cost of living and health care.
It’s not hard to see why.
The price of everything has been skyrocketing, hospitals across Alberta are temporarily closing or diverting patients because of a nursing shortage crisis, and EMS is stretched past its limits.
So what did UCP leadership candidates gather online tonight to discuss?
Yeah, that’s right.
Former PC-turned-Wildrose-turned PC MLA Rob Anderson’s Free Alberta Strategy group hosted the first online candidates panel of the UCP leadership race.
It’s too bad Rempel Garner wasn’t there tonight.
She was the champion of the manifesto known as The Buffalo Declaration, named after Frederick Haultain‘s never formed mega-Province of Buffalo – a century old bad idea that has recently reached mythical status in some conservative circles.
Rempel Garner and 3 other Alberta MPs described the Buffalo Manifesto as a final attempt to make Alberta an equal partner in Confederation. They said without it a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.
[Insert eye-roll emoji here]
Sometimes it seems like the faster Alberta politics moves the more it stays the same.
Michelle Rempel Garner isn’t the only person starting a Substack – sign up for the Daveberta Substack.