Travis Toews wants to be Alberta's next premier.
On Tuesday, Toews resigned as the province's finance minister and launched his campaign to lead the United Conservative Party into the next provincial election.
Although others have signalled they're running, Toews is the first candidate to officially join the race as the party prepares to replace outgoing Premier Jason Kenney.
"What grieves me most is the division that has formed in our communities — in businesses, churches, families and, certainly, in politics," Toews said in a campaign video posted online. "Right now, as a movement and a province, we need to come together."
Kenney plans to stay in the top job until UCP members elect a new leader. The party has appointed a leadership committee to decide the rules, entry fee and timeline for the race.
Speaking at an unrelated news conference Tuesday, Kenney said Toews had submitted a letter that morning resigning his post as finance minister and president of the treasury board.
"He's done a fantastic job in that role," Kenney said. "I will not be endorsing any candidate for leadership. I think it's entirely normal for a leader to avoid endorsing candidates."
Kenney said he expects other ministers to resign from cabinet soon as they contemplate running to replace him as leader.
He said his plan is to appoint interim ministers "until I know what the complete lay of the land is," then do a formal cabinet shuffle.
Toews officially registered for the campaign on May 30, according to the Elections Alberta website.
A chartered accountant and rancher, the MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti was first elected in April 2019 and has served as finance minister since.
In his campaign launch video, a cowboy-hat wearing Toews herds cattle and rides a horse while talking about his hopes to return to the UCP's vision for the province unveiled in the 2019 election campaign.
A lifelong Albertan with three children and 11 grandchildren, Toews emphasized the importance of "humility as a guiding principle" for good governance. He said he wants to listen to party members and Albertans to regain their confidence.
"I was — I am — a passionate Albertan, inspired by this movement and I believe that Albertans and our members can be inspired again, too," he says.
While no other candidates have officially registered with Elections Alberta, he likely won't be alone on the summer campaign trail.
Several candidates are already jostling to replace Kenney who announced his resignation earlier this month after earning 51.4 per cent in a party leadership review.
'In deliberations right now': Sawhney
Former Opposition Wildrose Party leader and media personality Danielle Smith has said she'll be running in the leadership race, as has another former Wildrose and Opposition leader, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean.
In an emailed statement, Jean welcomed Toews to the race.
"It is important to re-establish the United Conservative Party as the party that all of Alberta's common sense voters can rally to and defeat the bad policies of the NDP in next year's election," he said.
Other ministers contemplating a run include Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz and Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.
On her way into a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Sawhney said she has an internal timeline for making a decision about running, but won't reveal that yet.
When asked if she would support Toews' leadership, Sawhney said: "I wish him well, but obviously, I'm in deliberations right now, too. Travis is a wonderful man, but what this race needs right now is just not more of the same."
Later on Tuesday, Sawhney said on Twitter she has hired conservative political adviser Ken Boessenkool to test the viability of a leadership campaign that can "appeal to the diverse elements of our party."
On the weekend, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall tweeted that Alberta politics watchers should put Schulz on their leadership radar.
Schulz said Tuesday she is honoured by the endorsement. She worked for Wall's government before moving to Alberta.
"My decision will be based on what I think is in the best interests of our party, our movement, and the province of Alberta," she said.
Also Tuesday, Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu said he had "no comment" when asked if he was interested in a leadership run. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange ruled it out, giving an unequivocal "no."
The party is keen to find a replacement for Kenney before the fall sitting of the legislature begins on October 31.
It's also the last summer before the next scheduled provincial election date on or before May 29, 2023.