Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer has announced her candidacy for leadership of the United Conservative Party, as Premier Jason Kenney will be stepping down later this year. Aheer is one of eight candidates who have thus far submitted their bids for party leadership.John Watson

Original Published on Jun 16, 2022 at 15:13

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chestermere-Strathmore MLA and former Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Aheer, has announced her bid for leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party.

During her announcement on June 8, Aheer pitched herself as the grassroots candidate for party leadership, aiming to take the UCP in a radically different direction and earn back the trust of Albertans.

“This leadership race will be leading the future of our province, and there’s always lots of hard decisions ahead, and we need to unite and lift each other up and face those challenges,” said Aheer. “It’s the winds of change … and it’s invigorating, and it uplifts all of us and I’m so excited and so optimistic. I’m inspired every day by the heroes all around us who give their time and energy to our communities.”

Aheer was removed from her position as Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women on July 8, 2021 shortly following her criticism of Premier Jason Kenney regarding images that circulated in June 2021 of a dinner held between himself and three other ministers on the patio of a government building. 

At the time, Alberta had only just entered Stage 1 of its Open for Summer plan in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patio dining parties of four per table if from the same household or close contacts.

In her leadership bid address on June 8, Aheer made it clear she intends to rebuild the trust of Albertans and the organizations within the province that may have felt betrayed under Kenney’s leadership.

“A government and the UCP led by me will be very different. We will lead with kindness and courage and strength and lead a province of people who care about their neighbours and their families. We will listen and we will collaborate,” said Aheer who stressed three priorities in her leadership campaign announcement:

• AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped)

“We broke our promise on AISH … and we pulled the rug out from under our most vulnerable after the election. I will reindex AISH,” said Aheer.

“If what we’re seeing with EMS is a success right now, talk to the frontline people who were there, the exhausted, the burned-out people who are there for us every single time when we’re having problems and we call for help,” said Aheer.

• Canadian Energy Center

“The idea of the War Room was a good one, it was a worthwhile experience, but we are … not able to show you that the investments we made had comparable items that we could show you,” said Aheer.

“I think it’s important that we understand that there are other organizations that we can go through that will help us with our oil and gas sector.”

Aheer concluded her address stating it was a privilege for her to stand as an MLA and a former minister – a position she stressed is not one she takes lightly. 

She is one of eight candidates who have thus far put their names forth to compete for party leadership, including former Finance minister Travis Toews, UCP backbencher Brian Jean, former Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith, Amisk Mayor Bill Rock, Independent MLA Todd Loewen, former Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schultz and former Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.

Premier Kenney announced his plans to resign last month following a 51.4 per cent indication of support during the UCP’s latest leadership review.

This item reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta