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Alberta UCP announces rules for leadership race

The vote will be held Oct. 6

EDMONTON — The United Conservative Party has announced rules for a leadership contest to be held Oct. 6 to choose a new leader and the province’s next premier.

Each candidate will be required to put up a non-refundable entry fee of $150,000, along with $25,000 that will be returned as long as no rules are breached.

Eligible candidates must also get a nomination petition signed by at least 1,000 party members from across the province.

The deadline for the required signatures and first instalment of the entry fee is July 20.

Premier Jason Kenney announced last month that he was stepping down after he received 51.4 per cent support in a leadership review. He is staying on until his replacement is chosen.

“These rules demonstrate our commitment to running a fair, open and equitable leadership election,” David Price, chairman of the party’s leadership election committee, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We are proud of the robust rules we have developed, which provide for a secure and transparent process.”

The winner is to be selected through a combination of mail-in and in-person votes at five locations. Each voter will rank candidates in order of preference.

If no one gets more than 50 per cent on the first ballot, the candidate receiving the fewest votes will be dropped and that person’s second-preference votes will be reallocated to those still in the race. This will continue until someone gets a majority.

Seven candidates have announced they want to run for the leadership. A potential eighth, Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, was expected to announce her intention to run later Tuesday.

The declared candidates include former finance minister Travis Toews and former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney. Both have left cabinet to avoid a conflict of interest.

UCP backbencher Brian Jean, one-time leader of the Wildrose Party and co-founder of the UCP, is also running, as is another former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.

Another backbencher, Leela Aheer, who was removed from Kenney’s cabinet in 2021 after criticizing his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is also seeking the top job, as is Independent Todd Loewen, who was voted out of Kenney’s caucus over a year ago for publicly calling for Kenney to quit.

The final candidate is Bill Rock, mayor of the village of Amisk.

There will be debates during the campaign and the rules require all candidates to participate or face sanctions or disqualification.

The deadline for new members to sign up and vote is Aug. 12.

Auditors are to ensure the rules are followed, that voting is fair and the membership of voters is verified.

The first UCP leadership campaign, held in 2017, resulted in a Kenney victory.

Elections officials have since levied fines for improper campaign contributions. There is also an ongoing RCMP investigation into voter identity fraud.

Correspondence obtained by The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is also investigating allegations of illegal bulk buying of memberships tied to the recent party vote on Kenney’s leadership.