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Alberta Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer won't run for party leader or in next election

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Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer makes a statement at a news conference about the federal carbon tax in Calgary, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. The high-profile member of Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet says he won’t run in the party race to replace Kenney, and also won’t run in the next election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

EDMONTON — A high-profile member of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet says he won’t run in the party race to replace Kenney and also won’t run in the next election.

Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer says he can leave confident that Alberta is on the financial rebound.

“Over the past few days I have been truly honoured and humbled at the support I have received for a potential candidacy to run for the leadership of the United Conservative Party and become Alberta’s next premier,” Schweitzer wrote in a statement posted Monday night on social media.

“However, after much consideration I have made the decision not to run for leader of the UCP or seek re-election as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

“After eight years I am looking forward to spending more time with my family.”

Schweitzer is a lawyer and a first-time legislature member for the UCP but has deep roots in politics.

He was a longtime conservative strategist in Manitoba, and in Alberta managed the 2014 leadership campaign of former premier Jim Prentice.

He came in a distant third to Kenney in the 2017 race to become the first leader of the UCP. He then served in Kenney's cabinet as justice minister before moving to the jobs portfolio.

Schweitzer said he is proud of the work done in the jobs department, noting it has created incentives to develop the economy in fields ranging from film and TV to pharmaceuticals and tourism.

Kenney, in a tweet Tuesday, said: “I’m sorry that Doug Schweitzer has decided not to see re-election. 

“He has been a key member of the team that has led Alberta through turbulent times, helping to coordinate the province’s hugely successful recovery strategy.”

The party is now organizing a leadership race, and Kenney has said he will step down once a new leader is chosen.

Brian Jean, UCP co-founder and current backbencher, and former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith have already announced they are running for the job.

Schweitzer ran as a fiscal conservative but social progressive, supporting student privacy rights on gay-straight alliances in schools and saying issues including same-sex marriage and abortion are topics settled in law.

In the house, he became known for his aggressive, bombastic, high-decibel speaking style in question period, often ignoring the Opposition NDP question posed to him and using it instead as a launch point to attack the NDP for perceived past failures on rural crime and job creation.

But the NDP said it was Albertans, particularly those in Calgary-Elbow, who were sold a bill of goods by a socially moderate Schweitzer, who talked of support for the rights of women and sexual minorities but once in Kenney’s cabinet bent his principles to the prevailing politics.

“(Schweitzer) said the UCP would never out gay kids. But one of the first bills of the UCP government, that he supported, did just that. And yesterday when asked about his government’s position on the right to choose (abortions), the minister ducked the question,” NDP critic Shannon Phillips told the house on May 4 as she sat across the aisle from Schweitzer.

“After three years in cabinet, he’s shown he would rather cater to the premier’s social views about women than represent his women constituents in Calgary-Elbow.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press