Travis Toews wants to be the next Premier of Alberta.
On Tuesday, Toews resigned as the province’s finance minister and launched his campaign to lead the United Conservative Party in the upcoming provincial election.
Although others have reported running, Toews is the first candidate to officially join the race as the party prepares to replace incumbent Premier Jason Kenney.
“What pains 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. . “At this time, as a movement and a province, we must unite.”
Kenney plans to remain in the top job until UCP members elect a new leader. The party appointed a steering committee to decide the rules, entry fees and race schedule.
Speaking at an independent press conference on Tuesday, Kenney said Toews had submitted a letter that morning in which he resigned as finance minister and president of the Treasury Board.
“He did a fantastic job in that role,” Kenney said. “I will not endorse any leadership candidate. I think it is completely normal for a leader to avoid endorsing candidates.”
Kenney said he expects other ministers to resign from the cabinet as soon as they consider running to replace him as leader.
He said his plan is to appoint interim ministers “until I know what the full lay of the ground is” and then proceed with a formal cabinet reshuffle.
Toews officially registered for the campaign on May 30, according to the Elections Alberta website.
A chartered accountant and rancher, the MPP for Grande Prairie-Wapiti was first elected in April 2019 and has since served as Minister of Finance.
In his campaign launch video, a Toews-wearing cowboy hat herds cattle and rides horses while talking about his hopes of returning to the UCP’s vision for the province unveiled during the 2019 election campaign.
“I am running to bring our party back to the foundations that united us. It is time to put aside our differences to focus on our common vision.”
A lifelong Albertan with three children and 11 grandchildren, Toews stressed the importance of “humility as a guiding principle” for good governance. He says he wants to listen to party members and Albertans to regain their trust.
“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 candidate has 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 scoring 51.4% in a party leadership review.
“In deliberation right now”: Sawhney
Former opposition Wildrose leader and media personality Danielle Smith has said she will run in the leadership race, as will another former Wildrose and opposition leader, MPP for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche, Brian Jean.
In an emailed statement, Jean welcomed Toews to the race.
“It’s important to re-establish the United Conservative Party as the party that all sensible Alberta voters can rally to and defeat the NDP’s bad policies in next year’s election,” he said.
Other ministers considering a run include Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz and Transport Minister Rajan Sawhney.
As she headed to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Sawhney said she had an internal timeline to make a decision on her candidacy, but would not reveal it yet.
When asked if she would support Toews’ leadership, Sawhney said: “I wish him well but obviously I’m also in deliberation right now. Travis is a wonderful man but what this breed needs right now just isn’t more of the same.”
Later Tuesday, Sawhney said on Twitter that she had hired conservative political adviser Ken Boessenkool to test the viability of a leadership campaign that can “attract the various elements of our party.”
I hired @KenBoessenkool to test the viability of a leadership campaign that can appeal to the various elements of our party and our beautiful province.
Over the weekend, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall tweeted that Alberta political watchers should put Schulz on their leadership radar.
Two quick comments from a neighbor/watcher Sk guy. thanks to @jkenney for his service to Alberta. And the experts #abpolit should put the minister @rebeccakschulz on their leadership radar @Alberta_UCP
Schulz said Tuesday she was honored by the endorsement. She worked for the Wall government before moving to Alberta.
“My decision will be based on what I believe is in the best interests of our party, our movement and the province of Alberta,” she said.
Also on Tuesday, Labor and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu said he had “no comment” when asked if he was interested in a leadership contest. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange ruled it out, giving an unequivocal “no”.
The party is keen to find a replacement for Kenney before the start of the fall session of the legislature on October 31.
It is also the last summer before the next provincial election date scheduled for no later than May 29, 2023.