UCP outline leadership race rules as field of contestants grows increasingly busy

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A new leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party will be elected Oct. 6.

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The party released its rules for the leadership campaign on Tuesday, revealing that voting will take place in person and through mail-in ballots. In-person voting will take place at five centres, with one in each region of the province, while mail-in votes must be received by Oct. 3.

Party president Cynthia Moore said in a news release this is an exciting time for the UCP, stating there will be a showcase of diverse candidates from varying backgrounds.

“We’ve built on the successful mail-in vote that our party recently held and responded to members who wanted an in-person option. We’re also ensuring that the race is revenue neutral so that the party doesn’t require funds from our 2023 campaign to finance the race,” said Moore.

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University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young said she found the timing of the election date interesting. The Oct. 6 election date lands about a month after the federal Conservative leadership race and Young says the provincial race could end up competing with its national counterparts for camera time and donors.

“The party was kind of stuck in some ways when it came to timing. They could have picked a date that was before the federal Conservatives, but that would have meant quite a compressed contest,” said Young. “The other thing that’s interesting then is, you’ve got a new premier in early October, October 10, October 11 and then what do they do? Do they call an election?”

The leadership race was triggered last month when Premier Jason Kenney announced he intended to resign. Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith had announced their intentions before Kenney’s announcement, while independent MLA Todd Loewen, former finance minister Travis Toews and UCP MLA Leela Aheer have since put their hats in the ring alongside Amisk Mayor Bill Rock.

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Former cabinet ministers Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz this week that they, too, will join the race.

For nominations to be official, candidates will need to pay an entry fee of $150,000 as well as a compliance deposit of $25,000. They will also need to submit a nomination petition with 1,000 signatures from party members, including 200 signatures from each of the party’s five regions. Candidates will also need to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire.

Young said the entry fee is double what it was in 2019 when Kenney won the leadership.

“I’m inclined to see it as an effort to get the leadership candidates to do some of the party’s fundraising for them over the summer,” said Young. “If they’re not using this as a way to raise money, the party is really going to be challenged when it comes to fundraising for the upcoming election because there’s only so many donors and dollars available for the UCP.”

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David Price, chair of the leadership election committee, said all the money from the entry fees will be used to cover the costs of the leadership campaign, including hosting in-person voting stations and leadership debates. He said any leftover funds will be refunded back to the candidates.

“It won’t go towards profit for the party,” said Price. “We anticipated there would probably be five to eight candidates in total and we calculated what we thought would be the reasonable cost of that split that way, give or take a little.”

To be eligible to run in the leadership race, an individual must be a Canadian citizen, 18 years of age or older, and must have been a member of the party for at least six months before the deadline for applications on July 20.

Current Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said he was happy to see decisions being made on the leadership race. Picking the right leader in October will help the party move forward, he added.

“Our volunteer board, and I think it’d be nice to remember that they’re volunteers, had difficult decisions to make and they did their job and made those decisions,” said McIver.

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