MLA and Kenney critic Leela Aheer enters United Conservative Party leadership race

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UCP MLA Leela Aheer, seen here at McDougall Centre in Calgary last month, announced on Tuesday that she is running to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader.   (Colin Hall/ CBC News - image credit)
UCP MLA Leela Aheer, seen here at McDougall Centre in Calgary last month, announced on Tuesday that she is running to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader. (Colin Hall/ CBC News - image credit)

Leela Aheer, the MLA who was punted from cabinet last year after criticizing Premier Jason Kenney, says she is running to replace him as leader of the governing United Conservative Party.

Aheer made her announcement Tuesday on Ryan Jespersen's Real Talk podcast. She said purpose of the leadership race is to regain the trust of Albertans.

"We owe that to people … to be able to be truthful about the mistakes that have been made because there's been plenty," she said.

Aheer represents the riding of Chestermere-Strathmore.

First elected in 2015, she was minister of culture, multiculturalism and the status of women in Kenney's cabinet before being moved out.

Aheer's decision to publicly urge Kenney to apologize after photos emerged of him dining on a patio at the Federal Building with three cabinet ministers and two members of his staff in May 2020 likely contributed to her losing her cabinet seat in a shuffle two months later.

Aheer is the sixth candidate and fourth former Wildrose MLA to enter the leadership race.

Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, independent MLA Todd Loewen, former finance minister Travis Toews and Bill Rock, mayor of the village of Amisk, have already announced they are running.

Last month, Kenney announced he was stepping down as UCP leader after receiving 51.4 per cent support in a leadership review. Kenney will stay on until a new permanent leader is chosen.

Loewen, the MLA for Central Peace-Notley, is planning to launch the start of his campaign Tuesday in his hometown of Valleyview.

Toews formally launched his campaign at an event in Calgary on Saturday.

The UCP has formed a committee to set rules for the leadership race but hasn't announced the entrance fee or when and how the vote would take place.

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