Red Deer North MLA and Education Minister Adrian LaGrange will face a challenge for the UCP nomination from an anti-vaccine mandate activist.
Andrew Clews, 33, is co-founder of Hold The Line, a group that opposed mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and helped support those who lost their jobs or whose jobs were at risk because of their resistance to vaccination.
Clews said he decided to seek the nomination after speaking with many in the community who are not happy with the job LaGrange has been doing and her perceived lack of response to their concerns.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and it’s just a general feeling of dissatisfaction,” said Clews, who lives in Red Deer and is a commercial construction project manager. “So, I think the people of Red Deer North deserve to be represented by someone who represent their values, and that’s why I’m running.”
Clews said as a conservative he was happy with the UCP’s success in the last election.
“What I’ve learned through my interactions Hold The Line and other various groups we’ve interacted with is just because the party we want is in power it doesn’t necessarily mean we have the people we want in power,” he said.
He believes the UCP should be uniting around conservative values and by that measure LaGrange is falling short.
“Adriana LaGrange, when the party put in vaccine mandates, did not speak against them. I believe that vaccine mandates do not align with conservative values. So when she refused to speak out against them that was a problem for me and that was a problem for many Albertans.”
Clews said he will defend the rights of Albertans guaranteed under the Constitution and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Clews, a married father of three, also wants to see more choice for parents in education and to see funding follow the child.
“That would force the public school system to really listen to the values of the families that send their kids there.
“I think Adriana has tried working within the system that we have but I do think we need a fundamental change to the funding to make the changes we actually need with our school system.”
To get his message out, Clews and his team of volunteers have been phoning UCP members to drum up support ahead of the Aug. 18 nomination vote. UCP members will vote in-person at Pines Community Centre from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 18.
LaGrange was elected in April 2019 and was appointed education minister within weeks, a post she has held through several cabinet shakeups.
In a statement, LaGrange said, “I have great respect for anyone who puts forward his or her name to run for this great party. I am eager to connect with conservatives from all walks of life and every part of the riding.
“I am very proud of the good work I have accomplished on behalf of the citizens of Red Deer North and Red Deer as a whole. Particularly in my strong advocacy that resulted in the $1.8 billion dollar expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
“In addition, during my term as MLA, I have overseen an additional $346 million in other projects and infrastructure benefiting our great city.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The original story listed the hours of the in-person vote as 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The voting closes at 8 p.m., not 9 p.m.