Up­pal ready to re­turn to pol­i­tics

FOR­MER CAB­I­NET MIN­IS­TER LEAD­ING CON­SER­VA­TIVE CHARGE TO WIN BACK SEATS IN ALTA.

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Mia Rab­son THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — OT­TAWA

A for­mer fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter from Al­berta is back in the po­lit­i­cal game, hop­ing to take down the Lib­eral min­is­ter in charge of the na­tion’s en­ergy in­dus­try, in the heart of the coun­try’s oil patch.

Tim Up­pal, who served as a min­is­ter of state in Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s cab­i­net for al­most four years, is nom­i­nated to run again in Ed­mon­ton Mill Woods, a rid­ing Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Amar­jeet Sohi nabbed from him in 2015 by just 92 votes.

With the is­sues fac­ing Al­berta’s econ­omy, in­clud­ing a lack of pipe­line ca­pac­ity and low oil prices, Up­pal said he felt drawn to jump back in.

“I’ve started to get ex­cited about pol­i­tics again,” said Up­pal, 44. “There’s just a lot that needs to be done and I want to be part of that.”

Al­berta isn’t ex­actly the big­gest bat­tle­ground in this fall’s fed­eral elec­tion — the Con­ser­va­tives al­ready have 29 of the 34 seats and it’s re­ally only the five seats they don’t hold that are in play. The pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists for the Con­ser­va­tives to wipe out the Lib­er­als and NDP there com­pletely. The pos­si­bil­ity also ex­ists that Maxime Bernier’s new Peo­ple’s Party of Canada will play spoiler in some of those seats, tak­ing enough votes from the Tories to help the Lib­er­als or NDP sur­vive.

Al­most one-fifth of the new mem­bers signed up by Bernier’s party thus far are in Al­berta. Although sup­port for the party is still gen­er­ally pretty small na­tion­ally, there are some Tories who pri­vately pre­dict Bernier is likely to do best in Al­berta.

The Lib­er­als want to hang on to some Al­berta seats, even in the face of oil in­dus­try eco­nomic doom and gloom. Just be­fore Christ­mas they dis­patched Sohi with a $1.6-bil­lion aid pack­age.

Up­pal said one might ex­pect $1.6 bil­lion would al­ways be wel­come. In­stead, he said, peo­ple saw it as des­per­a­tion from the Lib­er­als try­ing to save Sohi, Ed­mon­ton Cen­tre MP Randy Bois­son­nault and Cal­gary Cen­tre MP Kent Hehr.

The Lib­er­als won two seats in Cal­gary in 2015, their first in that city since 1968, but both Hehr and Cal­gary Skyview MP Dar­shan Kang have since faced harass­ment al­le­ga­tions. Hehr lost his job in cab­i­net over his be­hav­iour, for which he apol­o­gized a year ago, but he has been nom­i­nated to run for the Lib­er­als again this fall. Kang left the Lib­eral cau­cus and al­le­ga­tions against him were later sub­stan­ti­ated by a House of Com­mons in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He re­mains an in­de­pen­dent and hasn’t de­cided yet whether he will be on the bal­lot come Oc­to­ber.

A senior Con­ser­va­tive told The Cana­dian Press on back­ground last sum­mer, be­fore Bernier split from the Tories to form his new party, that Cal­gary Cen­tre was the only Al­berta seat the party was not ex­pect­ing to take eas­ily. He said the de­mo­graph­ics have changed some­what since the days the Tories slid to easy vic­to­ries there and it may be the hard­est seat to flip come Oc­to­ber. It is one of just two seats in Al­berta where the Con­ser­va­tives haven’t yet nom­i­nated a can­di­date.

The other is Ed­mon­ton Strath­cona, which is wide open af­ter lone New Demo­crat Linda Dun­can de­cided not to seek re­elec­tion.

The Lib­er­als see that seat as a po­ten­tial pick up. Although they fin­ished third there in 2015, the lack of an in­cum­bent and the be­lief the NDP is weaker than in 2015, gives the party hope it can cap­ture some of the NDP’s vote. Lib­eral spokesman Brae­den Ca­ley said that rid­ing was the first with­out a Lib­eral MP to hit all the party’s re­quired fundrais­ing and mem­ber­ship tar­gets.

He also said more than 10,000 new Lib­er­als have reg­is­tered with the party in Al­berta in the last two years. Elec­tions Canada data show the Con­ser­va­tives con­sis­tently raise two or even three times as much money as the Lib­er­als in Al­berta, but in Ed­mon­ton, the Lib­er­als raised more than the Tories in both the sec­ond and third quar­ter of 2018.

Sohi said Fri­day the party has con­firmed he will be ac­claimed as the Lib­eral can­di­date, hav­ing met the voter en­gage­ment and fundrais­ing re­quire­ments to avoid a pos­si­ble nom­i­na­tion chal­lenge.

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