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‘I want to see a really competitive, open race’: says Red Deer MLA about UCP leadership contest

MLA Jason Stephan keeping an open mind
Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan, who was at the May 24, 2022 funding announcement to create 880 new seats at post-secondary institutions in central Alberta, says he has not chosen a candidate to support in the upcoming UCP leadership race. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says he has yet to support any particular leadership candidate to replace Premier Jason Kenney.

“I have an open mind. I want to see who comes forth. There are so many awesome Albertans with different experiences, talents and abilities,” said Stephan on Tuesday after attending a provincial funding announcement at Red Deer Polytechnic.

“I am really excited. I want to see a really competitive, open race.”

Last week Kenney announced he was stepping down as leader after only 51.4 per cent of party members supported him in a leadership review vote. He will stay on until a new leader is chosen.


Premier Jason Kenney quits as UCP leader

So far former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith, and Brian Jean, UCP co-founder and current backbencher, have announced they are running for the top job.

Jean lost the leadership of the UCP to Kenney in a 2017 vote stained by accusations of secret deals, colluding candidates and fraud.

On Tuesday, Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer, who came in a distant third in 2017 UCP leadership race, announced he will not run for leader, nor will he run in the next election.

Kenney has said anger from party and caucus members over decisions he made to limit personal liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic ignited the anger against him and led to open criticism of his leadership and ultimately the underwhelming vote of support.

Opponents in caucus have said the dissatisfaction was not just over COVID-19 policies, but also over Kenney’s management style, which they deemed to be top-down, dismissive and undemocratic.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he won’t run in upcoming party leadership race

Stephan said there is enough time to build unity within the UCP. Change can often bring unity.

“I think things can come together very quickly. I want to see a campaign and a vision that builds upon the successes we’ve had.

“Doing what’s in the best interests of Albertans, to me that’s what you unite around. It’s not around an individual.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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