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Commentary: New leader will face big challenges

The temptation may be very strong for the new UCP leader to make an immediate impact on the province by launching huge new initiatives with only months left in the current UCP mandate
opinion

When United Conservative Party (UCP) members choose Premier Jason Kenney’s successor next week, the new leader will take over a party facing what appears to be a committed and determined opposition in the run-up to the spring election.

Whether the new leader will be able to repeat what Kenney did in 2019 and win a majority in the legislature remains to be seen.

What is known is that while the new UCP leader will have the support of party members, he or she will not necessarily have the backing of most Albertans – that can only possibly come after voters head to the polls in May.

It’s true that as UCP leader, the winner will become the province’s premier for the next several months at least.

Yet, if the leader believes he or she has a wholly new mandate to undertake major changes in areas such as health care and education, he or she should probably think again.

Of course the temptation may be very strong for the new leader to make an immediate impact on the province by launching huge new initiatives with only months left in the current UCP mandate.

In particular the new leader may want to move forward in new directions in an effort to put the Kenney era in the rearview mirror, to distance himself or herself from the mistakes and missteps made by Jason Kenney and his cabinet colleagues.

In particular, the new leader may feel an overwhelming urge to do everything and anything possible to put the UCP’s handling of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in the past.

Yet, believing Albertans will somehow just forget the actions of the UCP over the past three years and let the new leader move forward with a clean slate would probably be a stretching reason a little too far.

A new UPC leader will become Alberta's premier early next month – and the day that happens, what promises to be a very hard-fought provincial election campaign will begin.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.