Bell: Toews – Smith’s ‘radical’ stance makes UCP losers in 2023

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You have to ask Travis Toews.

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Danielle Smith is expected to be first in the race to replace Prime Minister Jason Kenney.

But can she win the provincial elections next year?

She thinks there is a clear path to victory.

Toews is Kenney’s former budget chief. He is very close to the Prime Minister.

Toews is also running to replace him. He has the support of many UCP members of the legislature.

He has people from the Kenney team helping him.

Jason Nixon, Kenney’s right-hand man, gave Toews a vote of confidence if not outright approval.

This gives Toews the appearance that he is the party establishment’s preferred candidate.

Toews says he believes Albertans want stable, accountable and proven leadership and he thinks he fits this bill.

He promises to put his own mark on a government he leads and “past habits that may not be aligned will simply not be acceptable”.

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Toews, who could never be accused of giving too much sizzle, says Albertans don’t want a lot of drama and “don’t want to see a premier in front of them all the time.”

Who could he be talking about?

On Smith’s eligibility, Toews responds quickly.


You see, there’s the Alberta Sovereignty Act, a brilliant idea at the heart of the Smith campaign.

This would give the legislature the power not to apply any federal law that infringes on the rights of the province or Albertans.

Such an Alberta law would be a real blow to Ottawa, although the Supreme Court would likely strike it down and Smith says that would not deter her.

Where Smith sees opportunity, Toews smells trouble.

“That kind of radical politics, that kind of politics that creates conflict, that kind of politics that creates unpredictability, and maybe even chaos in the economy, cannot be sold to the general electorate.

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“This will effectively render, I believe, the United Conservative Party ineligible in the spring of 2023.”

FILE PHOTO: Danielle Smith speaks at the Open For Business Kickoff Party at the Petroleum Club in Calgary on Friday, July 2, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Danielle Smith speaks at the Open For Business Kickoff Party at the Petroleum Club in Calgary on Friday, July 2, 2021. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Yet the sovereignty thing is gaining ground, a lot of ground, they say. In fact, it catapulted Smith to an early lead.

Here’s what Toews says.

“I hear from a lot of conservative-minded Albertans. They are really worried.

“They express their concern to me. They agree with my point of view, this kind of politics makes our party ineligible in 2023.”

And, again, he adds that Smith’s Sovereignty Act could scare billions of investments out of Alberta.

Toews says he listens to Albertans.

He has been “explicit” about his social conservative views, but pledges to be premier for all Albertans.

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“Many Albertans have a faith. I will defend freedom of worship. I’ll go to the wall on this. It is ultimately a fundamental freedom that we must always defend.

But why are we here? Why are we replacing a prime minister when Toews talks about the good news of balanced budgets and a strong economy?

Toews says there is a divide in communities across Alberta and “the pressure of the pandemic has been a big force in that divide.”

And …

He concedes that too many Albertans felt they had no voice and some UCP members of the legislature felt they were not being heard.

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No kidding.

Toews says if he’s responsible, he’ll not only accept, but welcome differing opinions.

“I don’t walk into the room thinking I’ll have the best idea. Full stop.

“There will be no penalty box for people who bring differing views.”

But there will be a code of conduct agreed by UCP politicians.

“And then, when a member violates the code of conduct, they are expelled. ”

Behind closed doors in their meetings, UCP MPs will be able to put anything on the table, but there will be rules about what is acceptable and what crosses the line in public.

“Once this code is accepted, when an MP crosses the line, he is eliminated. It’s going to be safe and steep.

Toews was Kenney’s budget chief until he decided to run for Kenney’s job.

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He says if oil stays high, the province’s surplus could be more than $15 billion.

He has no plan for a version of Ralphbucks, where Albertans get a windfall check.

Toews says the province’s debt is $93 billion and if the government has to borrow at higher interest rates, the cost of servicing the debt will rise dramatically.

“We cannot waste a surplus.

“If we are unscrupulous with these surpluses, if we are negligent, if we use them for political points, we could bet the future of the next generation as this debt comes due and we have to refinance at rates significantly higher interest. ”

Ultimately, Toews points out that there are a lot of good things happening in Alberta and that the Kenney government “has brought complete fiscal responsibility to the province.”

So guess me that. Why doesn’t UCP have higher approval numbers?

“I think there’s been a breach of trust with Albertans,” Toews said.

“Trust has been broken with our members.”

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