LETHBRIDGE - With the wind howling high above the roof of the Exhibition Park building and in front of a crowd of hundreds, United Conservative Party leadership hopefuls Brian Jean, Jason Kenney and Doug Schweitzer went head to head one final time Tuesday night (Oct.17), before a leadership vote in less than two weeks. Four other debates were held previously in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer and Fort McMurray.
Even as the lights flickered on and off in the hall for a brief period of time, all three hopefuls launched into speeches about why they should be the one to lead the party into the next provincial election in 2019.
The two-hour event was divided into three sections. The first was dedicated to answering pre-determined moderator questions about post-secondary education, lessons learned during the debate process, municipal affairs and the future and direction of the party itself. The second saw each candidate asking one another various questions, including what they intended to do should they not be elected as leader. The third portion of the debate focused on queries submitted from members via social media.
The common message throughout the night, was to ensure “grassroots” involvement, and the need to “take Alberta back” from the NDP. Kenney and Jean also had particularly harsh words for B.C. Premier John Horgan and his province’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline, with Kenney telling the crowd “people in Vancouver need to wake up and see that cars are not fueled by pixie dust.”
Onstage, each candidate was also asked why they should lead the party. Jean declared “This is not a stepping stone for me” and should be become the leader, “members will always be in charge.”
Jean also asked what Kenney would do, should he fail in his bid for the leadership, and whether he would run as and MLA in the next government at the first given opportunity. Kenney replied “yes.”
Kenney also took some shots at Schweitzer, saying whoever wins the next provincial election will inherit the province at “one of the most challenging times ever,” that Albertans need a leader who “doesn’t flinch” and that there was no time for “on the job training.”
Schweitzer appeared to give some food for thought to the audience as well, telling them that the world of politics was rapidly changing, that the largest voting block in the province was the millennial generation, and that provincial conservatives need to “turn the page and reach out to young Albertans.”
United Conservative Party members will vote for a new leader Oct. 28.
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