HomeCelebrityBell: Aheer runs for UCP leader, insiders insist they're for change

Bell: Aheer runs for UCP leader, insiders insist they’re for change

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She’s in and the political temperature goes up a few more degrees.

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It will get warmer in the days ahead as more join the fray.

Leela Aheer, the MLA from Chestermere, is expected to announce Tuesday she’s entering the race to replace Premier Jason Kenney as UCP leader and leader of the province.

She knows all about Travis Toews, Kenney’s budget boss, announcing last week he is in the race.

She knows all about the 23 UCP members of the legislature, including several from the premier’s inner circle, backing Toews.

She knows all about the show of strength this past weekend in Calgary where Toews was surrounded with plenty of UCP politicians and other somebodies in the party and they were most enthused.

Aheer isn’t bowled over.

The outspoken MLA, no stranger to being in Kenney’s bad books, says she very much respects Toews as a human being.

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But …

“Nothing has changed,” says Aheer, of Toews and his considerable team.

“If there was an agent of change then where were those views when things needed to be changed?”

“When there was an opportunity to fix, to change and alter and take away pain and fear from our people, where was that voice?”

“Where was the standing up for the people when fingers were being wagged at particular groups and organizations?”

“If they’re an agent of change, where was it? Where was it until now? I sure didn’t see it.”

“How can you be an agent of change when you weren’t willing to try and make change when you had the opportunity?”

“There were many, many opportunities to gracefully and with compelling argument make change whilst we were in the previous situation and that did not happen.”

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For Aheer, a former cabinet minister punted by Kenney because she took on the big guy, change requires empathy.

“Empathy has not been there. Had we led with that we might be in a very different discussion today.”

Aheer adds she spoke up because things weren’t fixed internally and “you know that corruption is happening.”

Then why is the group who didn’t utter a peep before the May 18 leadership vote now casting themselves as agents of change?

“I think because that’s the only way the people of Alberta could accept somebody in leadership, particularly coming from the premier’s team. But I think the average Albertan will see it is too little too late for that.”

Toews plainly does not agree. In Calgary his pitch was not meant to set the world on fire and it didn’t.

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He cast himself as the stable and responsible candidate who was a straight shooter and didn’t like political drama.

UCP leader hopeful Travis Toews during a news conference in Edmonton.
UCP leader hopeful Travis Toews during a news conference in Edmonton. Photo by Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

Toews did mention leading with humility and listening and did point out how some Albertans were wrongly characterized and needed to be heard and needed to have a voice.

He took questions from newshounds.

He said he and the premier were very different people and he was not a career politician .

He didn’t elaborate much further.

He was asked by one newshound, not yours truly, about whether having so many of the premier’s inner circle on board was a help or a hindrance, baggage he had to carry.

He didn’t really take that one head-on.

But Toews does believe in a code of conduct for government politicians and he pledges that code would be enforced.

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He also talked a lot about unity among conservatives.

Just for the record, your scribbler was treated very well, unlike in those days where the survival of the premier was at stake.

More than a few in the Toews crowd even acknowledged much of the criticism of the premier was on the mark.

Some may have believed it for some time but didn’t have the guts to come forward.

Maybe, for others, when push came to shove they could finally see the writing on the wall.

There was no advantage in defending an attitude in government clearly turning off most Albertans.

The folks at the Toews love-in insisted their guy would be different. He would be change. Just you wait and see.

We will wait and see. It is a long campaign.

Meanwhile, Aheer says her voice will be heard.

She makes a statement all leadership hopefuls ignore at their peril.

When it was ignored by the PCs in 2015 their one-party rule going back to 1971 ended.

“We’re here because there is a need to change the status quo. Arrogance will never win. Albertans will never, ever be able to be ruled by arrogance.”


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