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Alberta premier hits campaign trail for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

Sept. 28: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Sept. 28 that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is a “great friend” and that he supports his platform. Kenney said he would do “everything he could” to get Scheer elected.

One of the shiniest stars in Canada’s conservative constellation hits the campaign trail this weekend in support of party leader Andrew Scheer.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, once touted as the leader-in-waiting for the federal Conservative party, will work the circuit in Ottawa and the Toronto area in a bid to boost Scheer’s profile.

“Andrew Scheer has been a close personal friend of mine for 20 years,” Kenney said Friday at an event in the riding of Nepean.

“And I just want to go out and vouch for him as a man of integrity.”

UCP MLAs to campaign for Andrew Scheer, federal conservatives outside Alberta
UCP MLAs to campaign for Andrew Scheer, federal conservatives outside Alberta

Kenney will travel from Ottawa to the Greater Toronto Area, where he says he’ll campaign with people who are long-time personal friends.

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It’s in the so-called “905,” the suburban belt around Toronto labelled for its area code, where the former federal cabinet minister was instrumental in growing the party’s electoral base.

His efforts particularly in ethnic communities are often cited as a reason the Conservatives became a politically competitive force in the highly diverse ridings, and for helping them win their first — and only — majority government in 2011.

One of the ridings they won that year was Willowdale, where visible minorities are 67 per cent of the population. It had been a Liberal stronghold for years but the Conservatives managed to eke out a win.

READ MORE: Canada election — Willowdale

The Conservative reputation in many diverse ridings took a hit in 2015, with controversial promises like the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, a debate over face coverings and concerns over refugee policy.

The Tories lost Willowdale and several others like it, and hope to regain them this time around. Willowdale will be one of Kenney’s stops on his Ontario tour this weekend.

READ MORE: In the federal election campaign, Alberta’s concerns have become wedge issues

Kenney said he still sees alignment between the values of many new Canadians and the Conservatives.

“Many new Canadians come from broken regimes where there is abuse of authority, they want democratic values and respect for families and law and order, which Mr. Scheer is talking about today,” he said.

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Scheer’s announcement Friday was on gun crime, promising to get Canada’s border agency to do more to try to stop illegal guns from crossing into Canada from the United States.

Federal Election 2019: ‘To tackle gun crime, you have to tackle gangs’: Scheer
Federal Election 2019: ‘To tackle gun crime, you have to tackle gangs’: Scheer

Kenney was among the people whose names were immediately floated to lead the party after it lost government in 2015 and then-leader Stephen Harper stepped down.

But he decided to enter provincial politics instead, first uniting the conservative movement in Alberta and then running and winning the premier’s job earlier this year.

He’s rare among the country’s conservative leaders for being willing to publicly go to bat for his federal political brother; other conservatives, such as Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, have declined to issue an endorsement.

READ MORE: ‘I’m busy governing’ — Doug Ford explains why he isn’t campaigning for Scheer

Kenney also hits Ontario at a time when that province’s conservative premier, Doug Ford, is perceived to be doing damage to the brand with unpopular policies and a looming school strike.

Kenney said he didn’t want to weigh in on those issues, saying while he is campaigning to support Scheer personally, he’s also there representing Alberta.

“I’m just here as a leader of the third-largest economy in Canada to say we desperately need a new federal government.”

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