Even though it's still nearly a year away, the winds of a political election are already starting to blow.
Alberta's next provincial election is slated for May 2023. Now less than a year out from that vote, it certainly feels like momentum is starting to ramp up. MLA hopefuls are already starting to pop up, including the NDP's newly chosen candidate for Airdrie-Cochrane.
Before next year's vote, Alberta's governing United Conservative Party (UCP) will have to select a new leader, after the decision by Premier Jason Kenney to step down following a leadership review that garnered him 51 per cent of the party membership's vote. Since Kenney's resignation – though he continues to operate as the party's interim leader – plenty of hopeful candidates have thrown their hat into the ring to be the party's next leader. As of press time, those include Brian Jean, Danielle Smith, Leela Aheer, Travis Toews, Todd Loewen, Bill Rock, and Rajan Sahwney.
More candidates will likely be announced in the coming weeks. Whoever wins will have the unenviable task of trying to bring the party together again.
Even though Alberta is as conservative a province as they come, the UCP has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done to its credibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. If the UCP hopes to continue governing Alberta beyond May 2023, its new leader will have to unify a group that has papered over several cracks in recent months.
The 'U' in the party's acronym may as well have been removed these last two years, given the lack of unity within the party ranks. In-fighting and multiple scandals have plagued the UCP since 2021, including everything from the "Aloha-gate" MLA travel fiasco to Kenney's Sky Palace patio photos to the wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by a former political staffer who alleged a culture of harassment and abuse.
The countdown to see who will govern Alberta a year from now starts now.