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Sundre-area's Nixon ponders leadership run as Kenney’s resignation garners mixed reviews

UCP MLA for Rimbey - Rocky Mountain House - Sundre says his priority is making sure UCP has a leader who can defeat Rachel Notley
parks changes
Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA and minister of Environment and Parks, said he may consider a run for UCP leader depending on who else comes forward. File photo/MVP Staff

Reaction to Jason’s Kenney’s announcement that he is stepping down as United Conservative Party (UCP) leader has garnered lots of reaction from local elected officials and others.

After receiving 51.4 per cent of the vote in support of his leadership in the recent mail-in review, Kenney announced May 18 that he is stepping down as leader. He will remain as UCP leader and premier until a new leader is chosen, likely within the next several months.

Nathan Cooper is Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UPC MLA and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

“I think the premier has put the needs of the conservative movement and the party ahead of his own and that is very admirable of him,” said Cooper. 

“He has served the province during an extremely difficult time and we have emerged from that with a balanced budget, with the economy growing, and there are lots of positives that have come from that.”

UCP members voted with mail-in ballots between April 9 and May 11 as part of a special general meeting. 

Members were asked “Do you approve of the current leader?”, with each given the option to answer yes or no. Of 34,298 votes cast, 17,638 voted yes and 16,630 voted no.

Asked if he believes some of the initiatives started under Kenney, such as the new K-6 curriculum, should be paused, Cooper said, “I think these things will be part of the public discussion. People are going to campaign on ideas and what is best for the future of the province and decisions can be made based upon that.

“The great thing about renewal, and while it often can be a challenge, it can also provide a lot of opportunity for us to talk about things that are important to Albertans, whether that is health, education, community, all of these sort of things.”

Cooper said he will not be vying to become UCP leader.

“I will not be seeking the leadership of the movement, of our party,” he said. “I have three young kids, two of which are teenagers, and I think our lives are busy enough as is, let alone being the premier.

“I know there is going to a bunch of quality candidates running to lead the province. I look forward to seeing what happens in the leadership race.”

Does he believe the need for a UCP leadership race will sidetrack the agenda of the government?

“The government sets policy and direction for the bureaucracy and that policy and direction was not set last night (May 18); it was set quite some time ago,” he said.

“I look forward to the new leader introducing another balanced budget and leading party into the next election.”

Cooper has already been nominated as the UCP candidate in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills for the 2023 provincial election. 

“It is certainly my intention to run under the new leader and the UCP banner,” he said.

Nixon weighing his options on leadership run

Jason Nixon is UCP MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and minister of Alberta Environment and Parks.

Asked if he plans to seek the leadership of the UPC, he told the Albertan he is weighing his options.

“I will be taking some days to look into candidates that are coming forward,” said Nixon. “My priority is to make sure that we have a leader who can defeat Rachel Notley and the NDP in a year during the election, and a leader that is capable of keeping our untied conservative coalition together. If I see a leader of that calibre I will be supporting them. 

“If I don’t see someone come forward who I think can do that, then I will consider stepping forward to do that. I will be looking how it sorts out in the next few days and making a decision.” 

The leadership campaign has not officially begun. Should he decide to run, Nixon would need to give up his cabinet portfolio.

The May 19 UCP caucus decision to have Kenney stay on as UCP leader and premier until a new leader is chosen is the right move, he said.

“I think our caucus chose stability for Alberta and the government,” he said. “There is no need for any more distractions and business must go on.”

Asked if he is encouraging Kenney to run in the upcoming leadership race, he said, “What I’m saying to the premier is I hope he does what he thinks is best for him. If the premier was to come forward to run in the leadership race he would be a tremendous candidate.”

Reeve hoping for stability

Angela Aalbers is the reeve of Mountain View County. She says changes at the provincial level can sometimes create challenges for municipal governments.

“It’s always a challenge for municipalities with changes at the provincial level, whether that be a leadership change or general election,” said Aalbers. “These events can create challenges in communication with the province as priority can be focused on party politics. 

“Our hope is always for stability in funding and policy direction so that we can continue to operate and deliver services to our residents and taxpayers in a consistent and effective manner.”

Rhonda Hunter is the mayor of Didsbury. Asked if she believes Kenney’s resignation will have an impact on the town, she said no.

“There should be no effect on the town and I see no reason for it to disrupt our work and communication with the province,” said Hunter. “I think we are all interested in knowing who the interim leader will be as well as the timelines for the leadership process.”

NDP leader Rachel Notley said Thursday that the UCP leadership race will “only extend the ongoing drama and infighting that has damaged trust in government and hurt Alberta’s economy. This leadership race is the starting gun for more chaos and further distraction.”