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St. Albertans happy to see UCP leadership race near finish line

The United Conservative Party will name its new leader and the new premier on Oct. 6
0709 leadership debate
From left: Todd Loewen, Brian Jean, Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney, Travis Toews, Danielle Smith, and Leela Aheer are shown here at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton on Aug. 30, 2022, for the final United Conservative Party leadership debate. FACEBOOK/United Conservative Party of Alberta

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, St. Albertans and visitors alike, when quizzed about their thoughts on leadership in the province, all agreed on one thing: a change is needed.

The province will get that change on Oct. 6 after the votes are tallied, and the United Conservative Party (UCP) names their new leader and Alberta’s new premier.

The new premier could be one of seven candidates: Todd Loewen, Brian Jean, Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney, Travis Toews, Danielle Smith, or Leela Aheer.

Memory Brenzan, who was walking her dog Ladybug along the Sturgeon River Sunday afternoon, said she has been following the headlines on the leadership campaign and she feels like the campaign has gone on long enough.

“I think it's time to time to appoint a new leader and get going on it,” she said.

Brenzan said she won’t be voting for the new UCP leader, but she would have liked the opportunity to vote.

“Because they're the party in power, everyone should be able to vote,” she said.

Brenzan said she thinks two of the front-runners, Danielle Smith and Brian Jean, are “extreme.”

She said she doesn’t know much about former finance minister Travis Toews, but said if she was voting he might be the only member she could get behind.

“He just seems [the] most reasonable,” she said.

Brenzan admits, however, that she doesn’t know much about the other candidates.

“Those are the three, they're always in the headlines,” she said.

Those three are also featured in a recent survey from the Angus Reid Institute, which polled people on the top three candidates.

Results from the survey, which was released on Sept. 30, showed that of the people polled, 42 per cent believed Danielle Smith would be terrible for the province if she won the leadership race, while 18 per cent said she would be good for the province. Thirteen per cent of people polled were not familiar with who she was.

Of the Albertans polled, 16 per cent thought Travis Toews would be terrible for Alberta if he won the leadership race, while 26 per cent thought he would be good; however, 32 per cent of the people polled said they were not familiar with Toews.

Results from the survey showed 21 per cent of people surveyed thought Brian Jean would be terrible for the province if he won the leadership race, while 27 per cent thought he would be good for the province as leader. Of those polled, 18 per cent were not familiar with Jean.

The survey was a randomized sample online survey of 598 Albertans from Sept. 19 to 22, 2022, and also polled people on what they believed were the top issues in the province.

The survey found 63 per cent of the Albertans surveyed were concerned with the cost of living, while 51 per cent were concerned with health care. After cost of living and health-care issues, 30 per cent of the Albertans surveyed felt the province was facing issues around the oil and gas sector, 28 per cent of the Albertans surveyed were concerned about the economy generally, and 22 per cent of those surveyed believed the province was facing issues with education.

Jasen Pankiw, a teacher from Edmonton who was in St. Albert on Sunday for his daughter’s softball game, said he has been following along with some of the candidates, but overall, he would like to see if the UCP will have a new direction with the new leader or if it will be the “same status quo.”

Pankiw said running the province would not have been an easy job.

“I wasn't happy with the direction of some of [Premier Jason Kenney’s] cabinet. I'm a teacher. I'm not happy with the way the education has been going. So, I’m OK to see a change right now,” he said.

Andy Jarema was sitting outside of St. Albert Place on Sunday afternoon. Jarema is retired but used to work in health care. Jarema said he has been following the leadership race, but he is “kind of ambivalent.”

“My leanings haven't been towards the UCP … I'm sort of watching this with interest. I don't know if it's going to change my view, overall, of this party and the direction they're going,” he said.

Jarema said it will be interesting to see how much things change in terms of putting out a new platform.

“The key things that governments are in charge of — education, health care, and infrastructure, those are the big three — they have to sort of figure out ways of funding that and providing the services that we all need. That's really what everybody's focus should be,” he said.

Don Drouin, who was walking near the Sturgeon River on Sunday, said he knows some of the candidates and some of their views, but he is not in favour of any of them.

Drouin won’t be voting in the leadership campaign.

“I’m not in favour of most politicians, because most of them make a lot of promises and then never seem to come through with it,” he said.