Substance versus bombast

Written by Brenda Schimke

Three female UCP leadership candidates, Leela Aheer, Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz, want the tone of politics to change and seem more willing to listen to Albertans and experts than had their former boss, Jason Kenney.

Sawhney has spoken out strongly for a curriculum do-over. After listening to parents and teachers, she accepts that her government made mistakes, particularly in not giving the experts ample opportunity to air their opinions and air their expertise. The ability to acknowledge mistakes and listen to experts are both important leadership attributes.

Schulz, as minister of children’s services, demonstrated that much can be gained from the federal government through negotiation rather than grandstanding and court filings. She skillfully negotiated $290 million in childcare funding and got the feds to agree that a portion of the money could flow to private operators, which advances the UCP’s ‘choice for parents’ agenda. In a democracy, good leaders are skillful at negotiation and compromise.

Aheer has shown she can work across party lines, getting two bills unanimously passed in the legislature while deputy minister of the UCP caucus. A private member’s bill to bring adoption into the 21st century and amendments to the Protecting Women and Girls Act. Collaboration and empathy are important leadership characteristics for elected officials and public servants.

Aheer was turfed from cabinet when she publicly chastised Premier Kenney and his ‘old boy’s club’ for sharing whiskey and cigars on the Palace balcony during COVID lockdown. Aheer wasn’t afraid to ‘speak truth to power’, and as recently witnessed, is darn good at going “head-to-head’ with a mad bull!

On the economic side, Sawhney, former Minister of Community & Social Services, is hardnose when it comes to balancing the budget. In November 2019, before Alberta’s latest windfall, she championed a policy to de-index AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped), senior’s benefits and income tax brackets, which directly harmed the oldest, poorest and most vulnerable.

Recently on CTV’s Alberta Primetime she reaffirmed her position saying, “the decision was made because we had to take a harder look at our fiscal situation. Now that Alberta’s finances are improving, we could re-visit the concept of de-indexing.”

Leadership candidate Schulz is an ardent supporter of Premier Kenney’s economic policies calling them “very sound”. Although she has not been forthcoming on whether that includes his very unpopular economic policies on coal mining in the Rockies, unrelenting push for a provincial police force and accelerated privatization of health care.

Leela Aheer is the ‘Peter Lougheed’ in the race. She acknowledges that this may be our last oil boom. She wants to manage the current windfall in a responsible manner, and believes that it presents an opportunity to invest money into health care, education and the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

Unlike Schutz and Sawhney, Aheer isn’t a fiscal conservative, but is fiscally traditional. Like Lougheed, she believes in the importance of savings to handle unexpected events, and believes a healthy and educated population are foundational pillars to sustain and grow economic output and wealth.

We can’t just ‘wish away’ the federal government and its constitutional responsibilities. We can’t just wish for successive oil booms to keep the budget balanced and taxes low. We can’t just wish the sick, the old and the disabled away. We can’t just wish away unions and the environment. We live in a real world, not a libertarian utopia.

Alberta needs a premier who lives in the ‘real world’, the ‘Canadian world’ and who is willing to fight hard for Albertans interests—legally , respectfully and responsibly.
Anyone of these three women would be a formidable opponent to challenge Rachel Notley in next year’s election.

Brenda Schimke
ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.