Travis Toews kicks off leadership campaign, announces 23 endorsements

·3 min read
Travis Toews speaks to the media on February 27, 2020. Toews officially launched his UCP leadership campaign in Calgary Saturday. (Juris Graney/CBC - image credit)
Travis Toews speaks to the media on February 27, 2020. Toews officially launched his UCP leadership campaign in Calgary Saturday. (Juris Graney/CBC - image credit)

Travis Toews officially launched his United Conservative Party leadership campaign in Calgary Saturday — and revealed he's backed by 23 MLAs.

Toews, who is currently the MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, announced his candidacy this week and resigned as Alberta's finance minister. On Saturday, Toews named his two campaign co-chairs — Sonya Savage, the province's energy minister, and Grande Prairie MP Chris Warkentin.

During his campaign launch speech in Calgary, Toews said division has crept in during the pandemic, and added that some feel wrongly characterized or disregarded by the UCP.

"To those who feel disenfranchised, I want to extend a call home. We're better together, stronger in diversity and in our unity," Toews said during his speech.

In a press release he also announced the more than 20 MLAs who have endorsed him, including Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, Minister of Community and Social Services Jason Luan, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, and Tracy Allard, the MLA for Grande Prairie.

Political commentator and pollster Janet Brown says Toews has a "huge chunk" of the caucus behind him, and it's unlikely other candidates will be able to bring in that number of endorsements.

"He's certainly taking the position that he's the front-runner and he has the most support among members of the government," she said.

"There's risk to that. But I think he's really trying to position himself out of the gate as the strongest candidate, as the one with the most government support, as the person who can bring the most stability to caucus because he has most of the caucus members behind him."

Toews is one of several candidates who have officially put their names forward in the United Conservative Party leadership contest. Danielle Smith, Brian Jean, and Todd Loewen have all declared their intention to run.

However, it's hard to know what the race will look like, Brown says, as there are so many unknowns about what will happen next.

"We don't know when the leadership race is going to happen. We don't know what kind of a down payment that the candidates have to make. We don't know what the full slate of candidates is," she said.

The NDP issued a statement Saturday that was critical of Toews, and said his speech and endorsers show that he "represents a direct continuation of the Jason Kenney UCP policies and practices."

"Toews claims he will address mistakes made by the Kenney government," Sarah Hoffman, NDP deputy leader, said in a press release.

"Instead of sincerely attempting to do this, in his first moves he embraces Jason Kenney's top supporters and the architects of some of the government's worst decisions. This just goes to confirm what many people have suspected, that Travis Toews is running to continue Jason Kenney's agenda."

Kenney previously announced that he would step down as United Conservative Party leader after 48.6 per cent of United Conservatives voted against his leadership — however he will remain at the helm of the party until a new leader is announced.

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