Travis Toews is one of many who is running for the UCP leadership. On Wednesday, he hosted a meet and greet at Cairnhill Community Association and spoke about what he would bring to the table if elected as UCP leader.
"Stable, responsible, principled and proven leadership. That's what sets me apart from the other candidates I believe. The other thing is that I believe I'm uniquely positioned to bridge the rural-urban divide that does exist across the province," he said.
Toews believes his combination of urban and rural experience is what makes him suited to lead all of Alberta, not just one demographic.
"I've been the Minister of Finance, with my professional background, very comfortable in downtown Calgary or Edmonton or even broadly in urban centers. But my roots are planted deep in rural Alberta. I'm a rancher from the northwest."
Toews described the UCP movement as "a big tent movement", as he says it's very diverse and has a wide range of viewpoints and demographics. While he admitted having a big diverse party can be difficult to manage, he believes it's this same diversity that makes the UCP strong. Because of this, he says one of his big focuses as leader would be bringing everyone together, while still promoting diversity.
"Unity is mission critical for this movement. We have to come together around the core principles that define us as conservatives. The principles of fiscal responsibility, the commitment to a market-based economy, the fundamental value of individual freedom and liberty and limited government, we have to rally around those principles."
Another big part of this was calling Albertans to focus on what unites us, rather than the issues that divide. However, this doesn't mean he's hoping to create a party of same-minded people. It's his hope that if he becomes leader, he'll be able to create a caucus where all opinions are heard.
"I talked about how I would manage caucus, and ensure every government MLA has a voice around the caucus table, has the ability to bring the views of their constituents to the caucus table, pound the table and advocate for their views. Not only will I tolerate diverse views, I will welcome them, because we make better decisions when all of the views are on the table."
"Every government MLA will not win the day in terms of their argument, but they can go back to their constituents and say 'you were heard, your issue was put on the table and debated, and you were heard,' and that is critically important."
Some of the key issues for voters right now are inflation, the rising cost of living and basic goods, and affordable housing. With his background as the Finance Minister, Toews says he has a plan to lower inflation and support families that may be struggling.
"Affordability is a big deal in Alberta right now. It's putting pressure on a lot of families. We're in a real time of inflation. As Finance Minister I look to deliver responsible fiscal management during times of inflation. I believe the best thing, the most durable and beneficial thing that governments can do during times of high inflation is spend less, borrow less and tax less. And that was the approach we took, I took, as the Minister of Finance."
He specifically pointed to the fuel tax suspension the UCP implemented, which he said saved Albertans $1.3 billion on an annual basis. If elected, he would make this a permanent program. He also spoke about how he would eliminate the Graduated Driver's License (GDL) program, which requires drivers to take another $150 test to get their full Class 5 License. Toews said 500 000 young Albertans still have their GDL, so it's not providing any additional safety. He would scrap this to save people money. Finally, he said he would bring in tax credits to support families.
"So many Alberta families are struggling, so I would bring in a personal tax credit of $2 000 per child. That would effectively work as though the personal tax exemption would be expanded by $2 000 per child for every family. That will mean lower taxes for Alberta families, and that's a way government can support families during this time of high inflation."
It won't be an easy position for Toews to earn, as it's a seven-person race including Leela Sharon Aheer, Todd Loewen. Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney, Brian Jean, and Danielle Smith. The leader will be elected on October 6.