What You Need to Know About the Alberta 2022 UCP Leadership Race

On May 20, 2022, Premier Jason Kenney announced his resignation as Premier of Alberta and leader of the UCP caucus. Following a leadership race within the UCP, the winner will take their position as both Premier and UCP leader.

Race Rules (Announced June 14, 2022) 

When: The election will take place on October 6th, 2022

Method of Voting: In-person as well as through mail-in ballot. In-person voting will occur at five locations, with one in each region of the province.

Candidate Rules: Each candidate paid an entry fee of $150,000 as well as a compliance deposit of $25,000. Additionally, they had to submit a nomination petition with 1,000 signatures from party members, including 200 signatures from each of the province’s five regions alongside a detailed questionnaire. The high fees and signature requirement (200 from north, central, and southern Alberta, alongside Edmonton and Calgary) were meant to dissuade less serious candidates. Given the stakes (and immense influence) the winner of the race will have on Albertans, the UCP hopes to deter fringe candidates from participating in the race.

Important Dates:

  • July 20th – Deadline for candidates to apply for inclusion in the race
  • August 12th – Deadline to purchase new memberships
  • October 3rd – Deadline for mail-in votes to be received
  • October 6th – Election Date

Who is running?

As of July 22nd, the following candidates have been officially confirmed by the UCP as candidates in the leadership race:

  • Travis Toews, UCP MLA (Grande Prairie – Wahiti) and current Finance Minister 
  • Brian Jean, UCP MLA (Fort McMurray – Lac La Biche) and former Wildrose Leader 
  • Danielle Smith, UCP MLA (Livingstone – McLeod) and former Wildrose Leader
  • Todd Loewen, independent MLA (Central Peace-Notley)
  • Leela Aheer, UCP MLA (Chestermere-Strathmore) and former Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women
  • Rajan Sawhney, UCP MLA (Calgary – Northeast), former Minister of Community & Social Services, and current Minister of Transportation
  • Rebecca Schulz, UCP MLA (Calgary – Shaw), and current Minister of Children’s Services

How Did We Get Here?

Elected to almost a supermajority status in the 2019 Alberta election, Premier Kenney endured a spectacular collapse in popularity. Some of the reasons: Cuts to social services in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, COVID policies that restricted mobility that simultaneously angered both the left and the right, poor relations with the grassroots, a tendency to diminish concerns instead of addressing them, dropping support amongst the more right-wing members of his caucus, as well as the perceived failure to stand up to Ottawa on energy issues.

Frequent polls conducted during the pandemic, in which most leaders across Canada saw their popularity rise, had Kenney slide to one of the most unpopular Premiers in the country, with an approval rating hovering around 20% to 30%.

With the NDP transforming into a genuine threat in the 2023 general election as well as the growing electoral support behind the Wildrose Independence Party, the new leader of the UCP will inherit the unenviable task of trying to recover the Party’s hopes in time for the new election.

Who’s in the lead?

  • Danielle Smith
  • Brian Jean
  • Travis Toews

Depending on how seriously one views polling numbers, Smith has a slim lead over Jean and Toews, her leading competitors. Therefore, while Smith is technically a front-runner in the race to replace Kenney, there is significant time before the election for change at the top. Particularly with a candidate like Smith, who has been at the center of many controversies in this race, it is difficult to predict who will win the race.

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