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Large C or small C, conservative parties have interesting leadership races

Posted on 22 June 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

By Ryan Dahlman

Whether you are a fan or not of both the federal Conservative party of Canada or the United Conservative Party of Alberta, you can’t take your eyes off of it… like a car wreck. 

Or maybe because it the UCP will name its new leader Oct. 6 and there looks to be some heavy campaigning going on from now until then, maybe it’s like looking on the horizon on a super hot summer day and the heat waves make things like fuzzy, almost confusing. 

Well, UCP fans, it will be confusing. There are a plethora of choices out there.  Somewhere there’s some pundits chanting as if they were at a sporting event “we want ten! we want ten!”

The (Un) United Conservative Party leadership race is multiplying faster than a growing herd of jumpy rabbits. 

The latest to float the idea of her running is Michelle Rempel Garner, the controversial Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP who was outspoken about pandemic restrictions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and who spent a lot of time the past two years in the United States, reportedly with her American husband. 

She must be taking it seriously as she stepped down as co-chair for federal Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown and is taking a page out of the soon-to-be-ex premier (maybe)’s book and move from federal to provincial politics. 

Rempel Garner is dipping her toe in the blue waters of the UCP race and waiting to see if her ultra blue, almost navy, social and fiscal conservatism would be a fit as leader. 

Even if she doesn’t run, it’s not like the race is clear-cut. 

The list at the time of writing is eight. MLA. The latest confirmed was former children’s minister Rebecca Schulz who had the support of Health Minister Jason Copping, Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Frey and Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, not to be mixed up with acting finance minister and buddy of the premier, Jason Nixon.

Also leaving his post is former finance minister Travis Toews, who has Energy Minister Sonja Savage, Taber MLA Grant Hunter and Member of Parliament for Grand Prairie-Mackenzie Chris Warkentin supporting him. MLA Former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney left her post and his running as is ousted former minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women Leela Aheer. Aheer and Independent MLA Todd Loewen were both ousted by the premier as they were critical of the handling of Covid-19 related issues. Loewen is also running for the UCP. Amisk, which is a small village outside of Red Deer, is watching their mayor Bill Rock run for the leadership campaign. 

Of course former Wildrose leaders Danielle Smith and Brian Jean are also running for the UCP leadership. One would think twice as both are ultra fiscally and socially conservative, far more so than the current regime of Conservatives. After all, both of them were in a separate party because they didn’t like the Conservative way. In Smith’s case, as leader of the Wildrose, she decide to cross the floor to the Conservatives and Jean fell short to Kenney in the last leadership race. 

And those two are the front runners. According to Angus Reid polling (prior to Rempel Garner announcing she is interested in running) “both are selected as the most appealing Kenney replacement by one-quarter of Albertans (Smith, 24%; Jean, 23%). Kenney’s Finance Minister Travis Toews (13%) is the only other candidate to be selected by more than 10 per cent of Albertans.”

The only thing more eye-popping in this race, other than see Toews the former finance minister do a lot of his initial campaigning in a cowboy hat – you know to connect with all Albertans – is the fact that there are so many choices. It is confusing. It is difficult enough that there are that many candidates but unless these candidates are able to stand for something or represent a cause that will generally appeal to the UCP leadership, they will be faceless also-rans. It would be unfair to say right now what each of them truly stands for right now. Until they get into some literally hot and heavy campaigning this summer, issues probably will not be the highest priority with the candidates. 

Can they sell themselves to the general public and reunited the United Conservative party and the UCP faithful who paid their membership dues? All things which need to be considered besides rejuvenating the economy, the electorate’s trust and confidence, build some semblance of cooperation with so many facets of the workforce, government-based or not. 

On the surface one could predict that the six lesser lights’ votes/support will all cancel each other out leaving Smith and Jean, both former ultra-right leaders of the Wildrose Party, to battle for UUUCP (Ultimate Un-United Conservative Party) supremacy. But, the fact that both had tumultuous leadership pasts and seem opportunistic, should throw some doubt in people’s brains.

Fear not UCP fans, if all of this blows up, don’t worry, there will always be someone to take back the reins if he doesn’t like what he sees. 

Who knows, maybe by the end of the summer, Jason Kenney may not seem like that bad of an option.  And who would’ve thought that, probably: no one? As they say, be careful what you wish for? Maybe the UCP will have someone dynamic and wished this would’ve happened before.

This summer will tell a lot about the depth and the future of the UCP. Get your lawn chairs, sunglasses and cool drinks out, it promises to be must-see political theatre.   

Ryan Dahlman is the editor of the 40 Mile County Commentator/Cypress Courier; Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West 

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