Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz launches UCP leadership bid

·3 min read
UCP leadership candidate Rebecca Schulz takes questions from reporters at her campaign launch in Calgary on June 14, 2022. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
UCP leadership candidate Rebecca Schulz takes questions from reporters at her campaign launch in Calgary on June 14, 2022. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

Calgary MLA Rebecca Schulz formally entered the United Conservative Party leadership race on Tuesday, bringing the number of Alberta premier hopefuls to eight.

Schulz resigned her post as Minister of Children's Services to kick off her leadership bid, which she launched in Calgary on Tuesday.

She was flanked by Health Minister Jason Copping, Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Frey and Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon.

Although she was in cabinet, Schulz said she wasn't part of Premier Jason Kenney's inner circle, or the "boys' club" wielding power. Schulz told reporters she tried to warn cabinet colleagues that Albertans saw the Kenney government as entitled.

"They want humility," she said. "They want humanity. They want a government that is just like them. That understands the struggles that they are facing every single day, that speaks to them not like a bureaucrat, but like a human."

She said the UCP needs a leader for the next generation, not just the next provincial election.

Schulz is the fourth former Kenney cabinet minister to enter the race, following past Finance Minister Travis Toews, past Social Services and Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, and former Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer.

Kenney said Tuesday that Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda will now also serve as acting Transportation Minister. Social Services Minister Jason Luan will be acting Children's Services Minister as well.

The other UCP leadership contenders who've announced their intentions are Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, media personality and former Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith, independent MLA Todd Loewen, and Amisk Mayor and past Wildrose candidate Bill Rock.

Jean is officially launching his campaign Wednesday in Edmonton.

In an interview with CBC News, Schulz said she'd be releasing more details about her economic, health and education platform in the future.

Some critics have chastised Kenney and his staff for taking a combative tone with anyone they perceived as opposed to their agenda, including doctors, health-care workers, teachers, journalists and members of the public.

Schulz, a professional communicator, said Albertans have told her that in some cases, the way the government relayed information and gathered feedback was more problematic than the decisions themselves.

"That shift in tone is absolutely necessary to rebuild trust both with both our party members and Albertans," Schulz said.

Submitted by the Rebecca Schulz campaign
Submitted by the Rebecca Schulz campaign

She said the diversity of opinions within the big-tent UCP is a strength, but can be "messy." The party needs a motivated leader who recognizes the NDP is the opponent, not other members of the UCP, she said.

Calgary city councillor Dan McLean introduced Schulz at her Tuesday launch, saying she's the hardest worker he knows.

McLean lauded Schulz for a $3.8-billion child-care agreement she negotiated with the federal government, after holding out to get more flexibility for the range of daycare centres that would qualify for the funding.

"She didn't just sign up for Albertans," McLean said. "She wanted what was best for Albertans, and she got one. Because of her, more moms have joined the workforce."

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver and Calgary-Currie MLA Nick Milliken also attended the launch.

The UCP also announced Tuesday that party members can vote for a new leader by mail-in ballot or at one of five in-person polling stations on Oct. 6.

Entrants must pay a $150,000 fee to cover election costs plus a $25,000 refundable deposit for compliance. Members have until July 20 to join the leadership race.

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