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Jean throws hat into ring for UCP leadership

Last Updated Jul 25, 2017 at 2:31 pm MDT

Brian Jean throws his hat into the ring for leadership of the United Conservative Party. (July 24, 2017) 660 NEWS Ian Campbell

Alberta’s newest political party now has its first official candidate for leadership, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean.

Jean, a businessman and lawyer by trade, has been a long time politician in the Fort McMurray area on both the provincial and federal stages.

He made the announcement in Rockyview County late Monday afternoon and was quickly overcome with emotion as he was introduced by leaders in the energy sector and Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt.

Airdrie had been a longtime stronghold for the Wildrose Party.

“Very humbling to have people like that on the stage, endorsing me and my leadership, it’s extremely moving,” Jean told the crowd of supporters and media. “We have very important things in front of us, huge challenges, and today is the first day to take back our province.”

“Friends the vote to unite our two great conservative parties was truly historic, it’s an achievement and a moment that in my opinion belongs to each and every one of us, all Albertans.”

Jean says members will face an important choice, who is best placed to save Alberta from the NDP and Premier Rachel Notley.

“This will be the most important choice conservatives have faced in our province in generations, that’s why I’m formally announcing right now that I am seeking the leadership of the United Conservative Party.”

Jean formally resigned his former post as leader of the Wildrose Party early Monday morning and was in the caucus meeting that nominated Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper as the UCP’s interim leader.

The now former Leader of the Opposition, declined to comment on what sets himself apart from other potential candidates like Jason Kenney.

He instead focused on the need for them to come together to win in 2019.

“Over 50,000 full time jobs have vanished from in Alberta,” he said. “They’re taking more and more, every single day, and with every piece of legislation that they introduce out of the pockets of families who are struggling to get by and plan to more than double the size of the carbon tax with the help of their friend in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau.”

“They treat every one of us who don’t agree with them with disdain and arrogance.”

“We can and we must do better and together we can,” said Jean to applause from the crowd. “Let me be clear, I can tell you this much, I will never apologize for our industries, for Alberta, for Albertans and our province.”

“I’m so proud of where we live and our way of life but our education system used to be one of the best in the world, now we’ve plummeted to rankings and a place where Qu├ębec and Ontario students are ahead of our own, this must stop, and the NDP have threatened parental choice at every single step. They pretend that government knows better than parents at how to raise our own kids.”

He dismissed a question about online criticism being lobbed at the new UCP, in which critics have been saying its election would be bad for women and the LGBTQ community, calling the allegations ridiculous.

“We stand for all Albertans, we are the United Conservative Party, we believe in uniting people and uniting Albertans from all backgrounds and all belief systems and all sexual orientation, all Albertans. I can’t be any clearer than that,” he said. “We have to make sure respect is forefront always and that we take care and respect those people around us.”

Members of the new United Conservative Party will go to the polls to elect a new leader on October 28th, 2017, two days ahead of the fall sitting of the Legislature.

There are reports Jean’s main rival for the new job, former Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney, will make his leadership announcement Saturday.