Calgary lawyers approved as Alberta Liberal leadership candidates
Alberta Liberals have approved two Calgary lawyers to seek the party leadership in a campaign that is expected to focus on a city that has been more badly hit by the economic downturn than other parts of the province.
Kerry Cundal works for the federal Immigration Department and ran for the federal Liberals in 2015.
David Khan is a former vice-president of the party and ran for the party in a byelection and in the last provincial vote. The 42-year-old was born and raised in Calgary and has been involved in Liberal politics in Alberta since the 1990s.
Khan practises indigenous law across Canada, representing First Nations government clients at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
He served on the Calgary Buffalo constituency board before running as the Liberal candidate in Calgary West in the 2014 byelection and in Calgary Buffalo in the 2015 general election.
Liberal president Karen Sevcik said the hope is the campaign will attract new people to the party who are unhappy after voting NDP in the last provincial election and disaffected Progressive Conservatives who are leery of new leader Jason Kenney.
“It looks like Calgary is the most volatile. It is really where the NDs won’t do well next time. That is where the opportunity is for us to pick up seats,” she said Monday.
“There is a real opportunity with the election of Jason Kenney. There is a bunch of people who have been left homeless. This is a chance for us to take advantage of that and reach out to those people.”
Sevcik said recent polls suggest the NDP remains strong in Edmonton and the Liberals haven’t fared well historically in rural areas.
The first campaign debate is set for Saturday in Calgary.
The new leader is to be announced at the party’s annual general meeting in Calgary on June 4 following a provincewide online vote the previous week.
Khan said the race will come down to which candidate can best help the party grow beyond its base by attracting people who aren’t right or left wing.
“Most Albertans aren’t NDP left or whatever amalgam social-conservative right party comes out of this unite-the-right process,” Khan said.
“I want to make a difference and I think the Alberta Liberal party has a big opportunity here.”
Cundal said that while she has been approved as a candidate, she won’t make an official announcement on whether to join the race until Thursday.
The Alberta Liberals have been invited to send a representative to a meeting of people who have been talking about forming a “unite-the-centre” political movement in Alberta, including former PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel.
Sevcik said the Liberals haven’t decided if the party will attend the April 15 gathering in Red Deer.
If the Liberals do go, they will ask the leadership candidates to be part of the party’s delegation, she said.
“It is bad timing for us now in the middle of a leadership race.”
Alberta Liberal interim Leader David Swann is expected to continue representing Calgary Mountain View in the legislature once the new leader is chosen.
With files from The Canadian Press
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