The United Conservative Party is set to choose a new leader on October 6th, and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer has thrown her hat in the ring.
Since she announced she'd be running for UCP leadership two weeks ago, Aheer said it's been a very positive experience.
"It's been unbelievable, the momentum is huge, and we've got thousands of volunteers across the province. I think we've really touched on the desire to work collaboratively and to look at policy from that perspective," she said.
When asked what she would bring as a potential UCP leader, Aheer emphasized collaboration and community.
"I think people are really tired of the arguments and fights. They're looking for a collaborator, they're looking for strong policy. People are tired of being angry and frustrated. There'll always be those things, but I think when you lead with compassion and empathy and capacity and you look at what your communities needs and you base that based on those kinds of things and that kind of transparency, you get a lot of really amazing people popping out of the woodwork."
Communication and openness were another big focus for Aheer.
"When the people are used, and fear is ignited as a result of that in order to push forward an agenda people start to recognize that from all sides of leadership. They're desperate for collaboration and hungry to have real conversations and robust debate, which produces excellent policy, legislation and transparency."
Former leader Jason Kenney was among the least popular premiers in Canada, dipping below a 30% approval rating in April. To earn the trust of Albertans again, Aheer said she would look at policies and work with the community to do what's best for the people. Regarding collaboration and debate, educational systems and policies were one of the focuses Aheer said she would look at.
"Education is a perfect example of a very ambitious idea, and a lot of good stuff that came out of it, but as we know a lot of really obvious things that need to be changed and started from scratch"
"It's imperative that we are looking at that and seeing what's in the best interests of the teachers and the schools and their ability to actually implement it or not. So taking a bold look at that and understanding that you might have missed the mark on those kinds of things, you don't have to argue about it. It's not calling foul, it's like 'ok, we did this, that didn't work. back it up, slow things down. Consult, make sure you have people on board and go forward.' That's how you build community, you work with the ATA and you work with the teachers association and you work with your parents and your amazing school boards.
The trust of Albertans is something Aheer doesn't expect to be handed to her; she knows she'll have to work with communities and people to prove she and the UCP can be trusted to lead Alberta.
"The truth about all of this is that it's not the people's responsibility to find trust in the conservative movement, it's my job to earn those people. That's why this leadership race is so important, it's why I wanted this to happen. We're the foundation, we're not supposed to be standing on the shoulders of the people we serve, they're supposed to stand on our shoulders. When you approach it with that lens and that level of humility you get a completely different perspective."
There's plenty of competition for Aheer though. Among others, Aheer will be competing against the co-founder of the UCP Brian Jean, Finance Minister Travis Toews, and potentially Calgary Nosehill MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who said she would strongly consider running for the position.
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