Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews joins race to replace outgoing Premier Jason Kenney

Finance Minister Travis Toews has entered the campaign for leadership of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party.

Toews is the first candidate to officially join the race as the party prepares to replace outgoing Premier Jason Kenney. 

Kenney plans to stay on in the top job until a permanent leader is chosen. 

Toews, who had been rumoured as a contender, officially registered for the campaign on May 30, according to the Elections Alberta website.

He did not arrive along with other ministers for a cabinet meeting in the legislature on Tuesday morning.

Toews, the MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, was first elected in April 2019 and was appointed finance minister.

Last week he declined to confirm or deny rumours about his pending campaign, telling reporters he wanted to focus on the business of the legislature. 

If successful, he would become party leader and Alberta’s new premier. 

While no other candidates have officially registered with Elections Alberta, he likely won’t be alone on the summer campaign trail.

Several candidates are already jostling to replace Kenney who announced his resignation earlier this month after earning 51.4 per cent in a party leadership review.

‘In deliberations right now’: Sawhney 

Former Opposition Wildrose Party leader and media personality Danielle Smith has said she’ll be running in the leadership race, as has another former Wildrose and Opposition leader, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean.

Other ministers contemplating a run include Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz and Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.

On her way into the cabinet meeting Tuesday, Sawhney said she has an internal timeline for making a decision about running, but won’t reveal that yet.

When asked if she would support Toews’ leadership campaign, Sawhney said: “I wish him well, but obviously, I’m in deliberations right now, too. Travis is a wonderful man, but what this race needs right now is just not more of the same.”

On the weekend, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall tweeted that Alberta politics watchers should put Schulz on their leadership radar.

Schulz said Tuesday she is honoured by the endorsement. She worked for Wall’s government before moving to Alberta.

“My decision will be based on what I think is in the best interests of our party, our movement, and the province of Alberta,” she said.

Also Tuesday, Labour and Immigration Minister Kaycee Madu said he had “no comment” when asked if he was interested in a leadership run. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange ruled it out, giving an unequivocal “no.”

A leadership election committee was appointed last week by the UCP.

The committee is responsible under UCP bylaws, for setting the rules and procedures for the race, such as timelines, entrance requirements and the format of the ballot. 

The party is keen to find a replacement for Kenney before the fall sitting of the legislature begins on October 31.

It’s also the last summer before the next scheduled provincial election date on or before May 29, 2023.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance after being sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

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