Ex-cab­i­net min­is­ter lead­ing Con­ser­va­tive charge in Al­berta

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC/CANADA -

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.

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