WESTLOCK - Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken is taking a wait-and-see approach before declaring who he will support to be the next leader of United Conservative Party, saying he’s looking for someone with “a vision for not only the future of the party but all of Alberta.”
The next head of the UCP, who will replace current premier Jason Kenney, will be elected Oct. 6 with voting, in person or by mail, slated to begin Sept. 2 — prospective leadership hopefuls have until July 20 to declare. The race became necessary when Kenney announced last month that he was stepping down after receiving 51.4 per cent support in the party’s leadership review.
“I’m also looking for someone who will be a uniting force for the party who’ll stay on the high ground, essentially,” said van Dijken June 15. “Myself, I’m tired of negative politics. I respect members to the point that they understand what the issues are and what’s important to them and I expect them to present what their positions are. But I’m tired of smear campaigns about why someone doesn’t want to vote for somebody else. That’s not my kind of politics.”
So far, eight people are in the race and have each put up a $150,000 entrance fee, plus a $25,000 refundable compliance deposit in addition to completing a comprehensive candidate questionnaire and gathering at least 1,000 signatures, with 200 from each of the party's five provincial regions.
On the ballot as of June 16 are former finance minister Travis Toews, UCP backbencher and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, Independent MLA Todd Loewen, Amisk mayor Bill Rock, UCP backbencher Leela Aheer, former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney and former children’s services minister Rebecca Shulz. Locally, Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen has thrown his support behind Toews, while a ninth candidate, Calgary-area MP Michelle Rempel Garner confirmed on Twitter she’s been encouraged to run and is giving “serious consideration” to mounting a UCP leadership bid.
“Those who have reached out and are searching for support and an endorsement, I’ve challenged them with the criteria of what is their vision and I’ll watch how they perform during the first couple months of this campaign to see if they can be a unifying voice,” van Dijken added.