UCP MLAs say party can unite after scathing Rempel Garner letter

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Several UCP MLAs, including leadership hopefuls, say the party can be united through strong policy and respect after federal MP Michelle Rempel Garner released a lengthy statement filled with concerns party members are too far apart to overcome divisions.

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Rempel Garner was considering a run at the leadership of the party before she issued a statement online saying she has decided not to jump into the provincial political picture. In the lengthy post she said she had everything in place to make a run, but she had concerns that members were divided and that it would be very difficult for an outsider to take the reins and be set up for success in time for the 2023 general election.

“Many of the conversations I’ve had while exploring this opportunity confirm public reports that a clear division exists,” wrote Rempel Garner. “That is, those who don’t want the former leadership team to retain any hold on power and those who are part of the former leadership team and want to entirely maintain the status quo. Neither of these positions are tenable. The public has no sympathy for it either.”

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Richard Gotfried, MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, said in a statement Saturday that Rempel Garner’s impressions are insightful but that he differs from her opinion. He believes there is an opportunity to fix issues affecting the party.

“We do have an opportunity to fix it, but not without honesty, potentially some apologies, a bit of contrition and most importantly a commitment to do and be better,” said Gotfried. “Attitude is everything in life, and autocratic, arrogant and smug attitudes have no place in building a trusted brand.”

Gotfried said that if the UCP caucus doesn’t put the needs of Albertans ahead of their own interests, then the party wouldn’t deserve or would not have earned the support of its members.

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“If two-thirds of Caucus just want the status quo, and put titles, pay packets and self-interest ahead of the best interests of Albertans, then we may not deserve or have earned not only the support of our membership, but more broadly, that of Albertans,” said Gotfried.

Meanwhile, leadership candidate and MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche Brian Jean said the way to unite the party is to focus on policy that helps all Albertans.

“You reunite the UCP by respecting the grassroots, and by recognizing that UCP MLAs should have meaningful input. You also reunite the UCP by having “cabinet government,” with strong ministers with strong staff who work with a premier who does not try to run the entire government out of the premier’s office,” said Jean.

Rebecca Schulz, also looking to lead the party, said the party needs a leader who will unite members around “shared conservative roots”, respecting the party’s membership and delivering for Albertans.

“I am ready and excited to meet these challenges head on,” said Schulz.

A new leader will be chosen in October. There are currently eight declared candidates.

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