Mayors, councillors, and citizens alike gathered in the heat on former Morinville-St. Albert Constituency Association president, Jeff Wedman’s deck for a Meet Rebecca event on Friday.
MLA for Calgary-Shaw and United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership hopeful, Rebecca Schulz, spoke to the 20 or so people in attendance at the event about why she would be a good fit for premier of the province, while also answering questions and concerns from those who attended.
Wedman said he is endorsing Schulz because she is the candidate that speaks most to his values and has “middle-of-the-road common sense.”
“Nothing too out there, but good. She's shown herself to be a good negotiator with Ottawa with the child-care agreement, she doesn't go out and seek publicity. She's a hard worker and prefers to have her work do the speaking,” he said.
Schulz, former Minister of Children’s Services, is one of seven leader candidates. She is running against fellow former cabinet members Travis Toews, Rajan Sawhney, and Leela Aheer, as well as former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, and Todd Loewen, an independent MLA.
Wedman said he held the event because he wants people who are interested to have a spot where they can get more educated and get a better take on who Schulz is.
He added he didn’t hold the event for one-way communication, but hoped the small event would allow Schulz to hear people’s stories and concerns.
“Smaller events like this are a two-way communication stream,” he said.
In true political fashion, Schulz arrived late and said she accidentally walked in to Wedman’s neighbour's backyard because she heard chatter.
Schulz said she sold them UCP memberships, to the laughter of those in attendance.
One attendee asked Schulz how she would strengthen constituency associations.
Schulz spoke about her own association, and how when she initially got involved, there were some issues.
“I sat at that meeting for probably half an hour before the AGM could start, because in conservative South Calgary, we didn't have enough people for quorum,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow. In one of the most conservative areas of Calgary, we've taken conservatism for granted.”
She added she thinks the board is almost full now, and that took a lot of work.
Schulz said if the party is going to continue to be grassroots, then it will have to figure out how to get the voices from its members up to the government.
“One of the things I've heard as well is: 'How can we as grassroots (members) get better information back from the government so that we can help when we're talking to our neighbours and communicating with our friends?'” she said.
Morinville Mayor Simon Boersma asked Schulz about the Alberta police force.
“We seem to be hell-bent on anything that comes out of the federal government and put (in) the opposite … and knowing that a lot of your Albertans — grassroots people — are actually against this, why do we continue on saying, ‘Yes, we are going to do this,’ and what are you going to do about that?” asked Boersma.
Schulz said her platform is unique, and her position is that the Alberta Provincial Police is not a “top of mind priority for everyday Albertans.” It is also not something many municipalities support.
“It is not a priority for me. I mean, look, that may change in the future,” she said.
Another attendee asked Schulz how she intends to beat NDP leader Rachel Notley, as a lot of millennials and youth face issues that are different than the people “sitting at the table.”
Schulz said the party needs a leader for the next generation of the conservative movement, and that it is important to get young people involved.
“I think it comes down to talking about complex things in a way that resonates with young people, but also recognizing that yes, we can defend oil and gas.
“But future generations also want to know what can we expect when it comes to clean tech … They want us to be able to not have to have either/or conversations,” she answered.
St. Albert resident Cameron Nuttall said Jason Kenney is a life-long politician, and at the end of the day didn’t do very well. He asked Schulz what skills she brings to unite the party.
Schulz said she grew up in a rural community, but her children are being raised in suburban Calgary.
“We need somebody with the ability to put themselves in the shoes of Albertans, who can talk — not like the government, but like a real person and connect with real people, no matter what corner of the province they're in,” she said.
After the event, Nuttall said he isn’t politically savvy. He and his wife are just two people who sit in their backyard and complain about everything.
Nuttall doesn’t want to be back in the position of looking for another leader in two years, and he has his reservations about Schulz.
“She comes from a communications background. She knows how to talk. She knows how to tell stories, right? Which is something that you're leery of with any politician.”