‘Defeat the machines’: Former minister Leela Aheer launches campaign for UCP leadership

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CHESTERMERE – Leela Aheer is portraying herself as leading a grassroots campaign to become the next leader of the United Conservative Party on the basis of a promise to “lead with humanity” and collaboration.

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Aheer, former UCP Minister for Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women and current MP for Chestermere-Strathmore, who was ousted from her cabinet post last year shortly after criticizing Prime Minister Jason Kenney, officially launched his leadership campaign to replace him on Wednesday at an event in Chestermere.

Aheer said she didn’t have what she called “the Harper machines or the Kenney machines” behind her, instead calling her campaign “real, truthful, honest, hardworking, grassroots.”

“I think Albertans are going to beat the machines. They understand what the machine is. They are frustrated with the machine,” she said.

“They are frustrated with the rhetoric. They are frustrated with the anger that is happening between the two parties that are supposed to represent you in this province.

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Aheer is one of six so far who have put their names forward to enter a leadership contest. Kenney announced his intention to step down once his successor is chosen after receiving just 51.4% support in a leadership review last month.

Aheer said the ability, or inability, to keep the Tories together is a management issue and “a failure of leadership”.

“We will listen and we will work together. We will lead with humanity and seek to change the culture, to earn the trust of Albertans,” she said.

Aheer said it was a mistake for the government to de-index AISH supports for Albertans with disabilities and “pull the rug out from under the most vulnerable.” She promised to re-index the program.

She said she wanted to address concerns about emergency medical services and that when it comes to the Canadian Energy Center – better known as the War Room – while it’s a worthwhile experience “I think ‘It’s important that we understand that there are other organizations that we can go through that will help us with our oil and gas sector.

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Aheer’s official launch came a day after Independent Central Peace-Notley MP Todd Loewen launched his campaign for the party’s top job.

Like Aheer, Loewen also promised to boost public confidence in the provincial government.

“Albertans expect us to return to the fundamental principles of good, responsible and ethical government. It’s time to get the big financial influences out of politics. Time to build a movement for the little guy,” he said Tuesday.

Other candidates campaigning for Kenney’s job so far include former UCP finance minister Travis Toews, former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith, UCP MP for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche and former Wildrose party leader Brian Jean and Amisk Mayor Bill Rock.

The UCP has yet to release details on how the leadership race will take place, including details such as the entrance fee and when the next leader will be elected. Candidates will still need to meet the requirements of the leadership election committee before they are considered official.

— With files by Lisa Johnson

[email protected]


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James G. Williams