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UCP Debate: Observations and soundbites

Posted on September 8, 2022 by Sunny South News

By Cal Braid
Sunny South News

The United Conservative Party (UCP) held its final pre-election debate in Edmonton on Aug. 30. During a two-hour debate, each candidate was given an equal opportunity to speak and express the strengths of their vision.

The candidates are Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Danielle Smith, and Travis Toews.

Outside observers (non-UCP members) also had a chance to hear and see what that these potential premiers are made of. The UCP has 124,000 voting members in the province, and whoever wins will simply reflect a majority of that relatively small group. The next general provincial election is scheduled for the spring of 2023.

The event was structured in a seven-part Q&A-debate-rebuttal format, with the seven parts being seven issues that are at the forefront for Alberta’s people and politics. The topics were leadership and unity, agriculture, education, policing and crime, inflation, arts and culture, and energy.

Last week Aheer was the victim of a cyber attack in which her Facebook account was hacked and attacked with images of “sexual exploitation” according to her Twitter page. Toews and Jean have also reported receiving threats via social media and both told CBC News that they have received at least one death threat.

To begin the debate, the moderator first addressed leadership and unity, asking what specifically each candidate would do to keep Albertans united and moving forward. As the focus of this article, here are some soundbites from that topic:

Schulz: “What I bring to the table that is unique is that I know it’s not just about me. There is not one person who is going to make sure that we can win the next election. This about all of our members right across the province and our exceptional MLAs.”

Toews: “Leadership style and tone matters. My leadership style has been informed by previous leadership experience, and I know this: every voice around the table matters. That’s the way we make best decisions.”

Jean: “I may not be the flashiest person, I may not be the best speaker, but I can form great teams, and I can make sure that the people in charge — the members of the party and Albertans — always have the last say.”

Sawhney: “When caucus can see their values and perspectives incorporated into policy, that is unity. I would remind you that past behaviour is a good prediction of future behaviour. Choose stability, knowledge, and experience over turmoil, recklessness, and constitutional quagmires.”

Aheer: Being able to listen to your caucus is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. These are people who have given up their lives (…) to advocate for their constituents. They are the gem of our caucus because they know what’s going on in their communities.”

Smith: “For too long conservatives have been leading and governing by opinion poll. Leadership by followship is not leadership. You take a bold position (…) you consult, you get feedback, you modify, then you allow people to disagree.”

Loewen: “Unity is really about trust. Leadership is about surrounding yourself with good people.”

This concluded the first topic of the debate. It was amiable, with the only ripple being when Smith pointed out that Toews had not yet committed to running in a general election if he becomes premier. Toews replied by asserting that he would not be disingenuous and is committed to unity of the party.

We’ve broken this article into segments. Its intent is to help readers to understand more about the candidates and the next premier, who will stand in until the spring general election.  Mail-in balloting began on Sept. 2 and the outcome will be announced Oct. 6.

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