By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews says his reason for running for leadership of the United Conservative Party is the same one behind his decision to seek a seat in the legislature in 2019.
Toews, who announced his bid for the UCP leadership on May 31 told Town & Country News this week he was “very concerned with the direction of the province.”
He said that’s what drove him to get “involved in the conservative unity effort here in Alberta,” said Toews.
“One thing led to another, and it seemed like a meaningful thing to do to step up and offer my leadership and representation.”
If elected, he would become Alberta’s next premier.
Toews resigned from his finance minister position to pursue the leadership role.
Premier Jason Kenney decided to resign after his leadership review only received 51.4 per cent of party support, on May 20.
“I will not be endorsing any candidates for the leadership,” said Kenney.
He said that he received Toews’ letter of resignation last Tuesday and expects to see more las ministers add their names to the leadership race.
“We’ve come through a very divisive time during the pandemic, and there’s division,” said Toews.
He said fragmentation is not unique to the UCP as it can be seen in communities and society across the province.
“We need to come together as a conservative movement, we need to come together as Albertans, and I believe I can offer that type of leadership,” said Toews.
Listening to Albertans is how Toews said he hopes to conquer the division; he noted he toured the province last year and heard many concerns.
He noted that some conservatives feel cut off from the party; he wants to invite those people back to the party.
Toews, who was criticized for his negotiations with nurses and other health care providers in the past year, told the News this week he wants to work on building health care capacity, particularly in areas that were shown to be deficient during the pandemic.
“The other real core value that we have to get back to is individual freedom and, to some degree, limited government,” he said.
He also noted that his time as finance minister gave him insights into many of the province’s programs and ministries.
He said he and his party worked hard to position the economy for growth, job creation, and responsible fiscal management, but “there’s more work to do.”
Toews announced on Saturday (June 4) that his campaign co-chairs are Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin and Sonya Savage, energy minister and MLA for Calgary-North West.
The co-chairs are expected to provide strategic guidance and counsel on how Toews’ campaign can best reach and engage Albertans.
Toews has also received the endorsement of 23 MLAs, including Grande Prairie’s Tracy Allard.
“I’m extremely grateful for the support of my colleagues,” said Toews.
As of press time, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Bill Rock and Danielle Smith have also registered for the UCP leadership race.
No date has yet been set for the leadership election.