Leela Aheer in March 2018 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If Leela Aheer hopes to continue her career in Alberta provincial politics, she’ll probably need to find a new political party. 

Well, sure, the United Conservative Party MLA who lately has become a frequent and vocal critic of Premier Jason Kenney could theoretically still win the United Conservative Party nomination in her Chestermere-Strathmore riding just east of Calgary for the election expected in 2023.

Jason Kenney in March 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Stranger things have happened – for example, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean has been allowed to win the nomination to become the UCP candidate in the upcoming but still-unscheduled Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election. 

Still, it can’t be a good sign for Ms. Aheer’s political ambitions that apparent allies of the premier have just staged a coup to take over the board of the Chestermere-Strathmore UCP Constituency Association.

As the CBC put it, “at the annual general meeting of the association on Jan. 8, the existing board was overthrown and new leadership was elected.”

As a result, the UCP is now having its own stop-the-steal moment. 

This, you see, is because the old pro-Aheer board won’t recognize the results of the election that chose a new pro-Kenney board, claiming votes were cast by individuals ineligible by merit of not having been association members for the required 21 days. 

This may or may not be true, although no one who has followed the recent career of Jason Kenney is going to be shocked at the thought the presumed mastermind and principal beneficiary of the notorious Kamikaze Candidate affair of 2017, intended to ensure Mr. Jean did not win the race to lead the UCP, may have engaged in electoral shenanigans. 

At any rate, John Kittler, the old constituency association president said in a letter more than 50 voters didn’t qualify to vote, “sufficient enough in number to invalidate the AGM in its entirety.”

Brian Jean in March 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, Dustin Van Vugt, executive director of the UCP, says everything was hunky-dory and “the results of that meeting are in full force and effect.” 

The fight, which continues, is not only about Ms. Aheer’s future or that of her challenger for the nomination, Chantelle de Jong, but also the funds in the association’s bank account.

Someone soon leaked everything to the media, so the UCP’s dirty laundry is now on full display to the entire province. 

As political stories go, this is all highly entertaining to those of us who are not disunited Conservatives. 

Clearly, though, long gone are the days when Ms. Aheer, who was first elected as a Wildrose Party candidate in 2015, was seen as a major asset by Mr. Kenney and the just-created UCP. 

In the fall of 2017, Mr. Kenney appointed her his deputy leader – giving the party an appealing modern face to show it was open to matters of concern to women and members of minority communities.

In 2018, former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who had been kicked out of the caucus by Mr. Kenney for failing to disclose he’d faced illegal hunting charges and had also seen his Strathmore riding disappear due to redistribution, wanted to seek the nomination in Chestermere-Strathmore to get back in. 

Derek Fildebrandt in March 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the party said no, he accused the premier of smoothing Ms. Aheer’s path to the nomination. Despite his self-inflicted problems, this may have been true. 

After the UCP was elected in 2019, Mr. Kenney named Ms. Aheer to his cabinet as minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women. 

Perhaps her appointment indicated those responsibilities were not top priorities for a party run by the boys and focused on pipelines and petroleum. Or maybe the premier’s assessment of her talents was quite sincere. 

Regardless, by last June, the bloom was clearly off the rose when Ms. Aheer publicly criticized the premier after his boozy, mid-pandemic rooftop “working dinner” at the notorious Edmonton Sky Palace was captured by an anonymous photographer with a long lens and a still-undisclosed agenda. 

She won no favour by calling on the premier to apologize, but she might have survived and remained in cabinet – as did Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney – had she not dared to assail Mr. Kenney’s tone-deaf defence of John A. Macdonald the day before the Sky Palace pot boiled over. 

The ugly history of Canada’s residential schools notwithstanding, Premier Kenney’s preoccupation with protecting the reputation of Canada’s first prime minister is passionate, and well known.

Three days later, Mr. Kenney shuffled his cabinet. Ms. Sawhney was still there – perhaps aided by the fact she had made her criticism on a radio program broadcast in Punjabi, not English. 

Ms. Aheer was out. As I wrote at the time: “Ms. Aheer is now minister of bupkes. Message sent.”

She has remained a member of the UCP caucus, where she may soon be joined by her old boss, Mr. Jean, who has described Mr. Kenney as an existential threat to the party and vowed to replace him. 

She has also continued to criticize Mr. Kenney. In October, when a harassment and office-day-drinking scandal broke out in cabinet that eventually brought down then agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen, she called for the premier to resign, tweeting: “Premier Kenney – you knew! Step down!”

So now a stronger message has been sent. If Ms. Aheer wishes to run again, it’s not likely to be as a candidate for the UCP. 

Join the Conversation


  1. The whole dust up in Chestermere-Strathmore is wildly entertaining and may be the first shot fired in the swelling boil of a brewing civil war in the UCP.

    Well, I can dream, can’t I?

    What happened is the templet for what Kenney and his loyalists intend to do in every troublesome UCP riding, which is the reason why many ridings have cancelled their AGMs leading up to the April 6th vote on Kenney’s leadership. At every AGM, it’s Kenney’s intention to oust every single rebel constituency and replacement them with his reliable allies and crush the internal opposition once and for all.

    What of Brian Jean? He can’t do anything if he’s sidelined because of a postponed by-election, which is what I believe will happen. Kenney has no intention of signing Jean’s nomination papers, and will find some means to postpone the by-election indefinitely…or at least until the next provincial election.

    The soap-opera of the UCP and the trials of the ongoing pandemic will continue to distract Kenney from even bothering to consider that maybe he should act like a premier for a change.

    At some point, the pressures coming from all sides will prove to be too much for Kenney; but it’s also important to remember that Kenney has no fallback position and no other aspiration other than the PMO. He believes that if he wins this fight, he will never be bothered with conflict again. He will have proven himself worthy of returning to Ottawa and vanquishing PMJT.

    I’m sure Erin O’Toole is watching the events in Alberta with considerable interest, because there are plenty of knives at his back already. A win by Kenney will assure that he can focus on returning to Ottawa and claim his birthright at PM.

  2. Yes, a very interesting story, that is not yet over. Ms Aheer was and remains an asset for the UCP, someone who could appeal to more moderate voters. Kenney surely understood this when he got her to run and help him get rid of that troublesome Fildebrandt.

    What Kenney might not have fully realized was she would not be a yes person, which is unusual in a party chock full of sychophants in cabinet positions. Yes, Kenney does seem to outwardly make a show to tolerate a bit of criticism when he has to, but he has limits. If you go beyond them it seems he is secretly plotting to stab you in the back and get rid of you.

    I suppose a message also has been sent to other potential critics to cool it. A strong man type of leader is good at suppressing dissent, but driving it underground and the facade of unity does not mean everything is calm. Potential critics of Kenney may have learned to not be as vocal or obvious, so they could still be planning to oust him but just less overtly. If that is not possible because Kenney still controls the party administration and is able to hang on, they could also be planning to leave.

    Kenney may hang on, but the party that remains may be much diminished if the better assets leave. Meanwhile, Aheer and those supporting her in her constituency can probably continue to fight until the leadership review happens. If it goes one way, they will be fine, if it goes another way they will probably have to leave the party.

  3. Politics sure has an ugly side. I could leave it at that, and it would be true, but I’ll expand on things. The UCP is made up of pretend conservatives and Reformers, and is a party that was made up of a merger between the Alberta PCs and the Wildrose, with the assistance of the Reformer, Preston Manning. It was formed out of desperation, because the Alberta PCs were a spent force, who did scandal after scandal, and should have been eliminated in the early 1990s. The Wildrose were showing that they were copycats of Ralph Klein, a Liberal turned Reformer. They wanted to emulate his bad policies. The Wildrose also had former Alberta PC MLAs in their party, who were thinking they could deflect to the Wildrose, to avoid any responsibility for their major mistakes, like Heather Forsythe, and her gross negligence on the foster care system flaws. Also, the Wildrose had candidates, such as Ron Leech and Bill Jarvis, who were saying racist things, and were caught doing so on recordings, and in interviews. Nobody with any sense wanted this. The UCP are the third attempt at a political merger between the right leaning parties in Alberta, and each time, Preston Manning was behind them. The first time was in the 1960s, when Preston Manning was goading Peter Lougheed’s fledgling resurrection of the Alberta PCs to come and join his dad’s long-standing Social Credit Party. Peter Lougheed refused, because he knew you can’t trust Reformers, (which the Social Credit Party were a precursor to). Peter Lougheed didn’t agree with the policies of the Social Credit Party, such as eugenics, and sub par oil royalty rates. The second time happened prior to the 2015 provincial election in Alberta. This is where then Danielle Smith and a bunch of Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor and went to Jim Prentice’s dying Alberta PC party. Preston Manning’s second attempt, and experiment with a political merger for the right leaning parties in Alberta flopped. The NDP, led by Rachel Notley, whom Peter Lougheed era MLAs, said was close to Peter Lougheed, got into power, in 2015. Aided by Preston Manning, Postmedia, and likely a pseudo media outlet, as well as cheating, the UCP got into power in 2019. That played a role in the NDP being removed from power, as well as Albertans having very short term memories of how bad these pretend conservatives and Reformers were. The UCP, like their Alberta PC precursors, who abandoned Peter Lougheed’s responsible governance, does scandal after scandal, costing Albertans billions, makes a massive load of debt, doesn’t look after the basic services so well, because they want to follow their hero, the Liberal turned Reformer, Ralph Klein, and privatize things, like healthcare in Alberta, and also did a terrible job of looking after the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. The UCP are fractured, and falling apart. It might not be long before they collapse. Preston Manning’s third merger attempt of uniting the right in Alberta will be short lived. If Albertans had any sense, they’d stop supporting these pretend conservatives and Reformers, because all they know how to do is to make a horrific mess of things.

  4. “In the fall of 2017, Mr. Kenney appointed her his deputy leader – giving the party an appealing modern face to show it was open to matters of concern to women and members of minority communities.”

    I am sure you are right, David, but it would appear that ever since then the UCP hasn’t been interested in having a modern face or been open to matters of concern to women and minority communities. Leela Aheer strikes me as intelligent and compassionate; I have never really felt she was a good fit with the UCP and its dinosaurs.

    What is next for Ms. Aheer? Compounding the whole question is the unpopularity of the UCP and especially Jason Kenney. The whole infighting at the Chestermere – Strathmore Constituency Association could wind up giving Ms. Aheer a Get Out of Jail Free card allowing her to escape Jason’s Dysfunctional Party, without being accused of being a rat deserting a sinking ship.

  5. 1. There’s too much backstabbing here for an afternoon soap.

    2. Can anyone tell me if I am one of the people who staged the coup to take over the board of the Chestermere-Strathmore UCP Constituency Association? Ever since the UCP allowed my Alberta Health data to be stolen in a security breach in November, I’ve been wondering what shenanigans I might get up to.

    3. If I am one of the Strathmorons who staged this (latest) UCP coup, may I please have a role in an oversized theatre production in London’s West End? London, not Broadway, because Jason. This is too much for the small screen, but think about the new “Evita”. Now that was a show. Perhaps Jason Kenney could star as the pitiful, self-serving Alberta Evita. We could call it “Springtime for Kenney”. I’m already humming the theme song. It might be even bigger than “Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer”. Every villain deserves a Broadway or London production. Let’s do lunch.

  6. She is very good on the guitar, something I wont forget was her support of Sam Lilly:

    Here is her self acknowledged number 1 priority:
    Priority #1
    “I care about standing up for low taxes. The Wildrose party is the only party that does not want to raise your taxes. As a business owner and having a family of four, I understand it is important that Alberta fix the cost problem of the current government. The Wildrose has laid out a comprehensive alternative budget that would not raise taxes and solve our current out of control spending.”

    Does that sound like any other party? Controlling spending?

    Woke politics is divisive. Divide and conquer stuff that plays into the progressive wheel house where victims abound and need to be coddled with a big nanny state.

    Does that sound like priority number 1?

    1. BRET LARSON: It’s an unfortunate reality that the pretend conservatives and Reformers that sabotaged the great things Peter Lougheed did, made Alberta’s finances rather weak. $575 billion was lost, when the oil royalty rates that Peter Lougheed got, were messed with. It will cost Albertans $260 billion to rectify the damages done by the oil companies in Alberta. $150 billion was lost with very bad tax regimes. There were so many shenanigans that were done, that cost Alberta billions of dollars. It’s nearing a decade since oil prices went down dramatically, that was in 2014, and oil prices of $100 a barell, and more, simply aren’t returning. The pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP have lost about $10 billion from foolish corporate tax cuts. The UCP have also thrown away billions of dollars on very pricey shenanigans. Having more pretend conservatives and Reformers saying they will lower taxes is bunk. They will make up the difference through foolish cuts. Regular Albertans won’t be any better off.

    2. It’s funny how you see low taxes and read “control spending” there’s a study to be done there I’m sure.

      The fact is that taxation is in fact a social question just as much as it is a monetary one. When the rich get to avoid their obligations it’s the poor and working class that must make them up.

  7. Consider her cabinet replacement Ron Orr and his nuanced and carefully considered thoughts regarding cannabis as a progenitor of communism and the presence of Kenney as a divine gift to Alberta. A micro manager desperate to hang onto power padding the cabinet with incompetents chosen from the crop of available buffoons. Anyone surprised?

  8. All this reminds me of a very interesting event from history that could be highly instructive in the months to come.

    From June 30th to July 2nd, 1934, A. Hitler, concerned over the strong indications that there could be a challenge to his leadership of the Nazi Party and the chancellorship, from various rebellious factions within his group, acted to crush dissent once and for all. SA leader Ernst Röhm was believed to be a challenger to Hitler’s authority, or at the least the inspiration for it. At the urging of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler ordered the extrajudicial execution of Röhm and the subsequent dissolution of the SA by the SS. The resulting massacre, which is believed to have numbered in the hundreds of lives, is infamously known as the Night of the Long Knives.

    The Night of the Long Knives in Chestermere-Strathmore is the beginning of a very telling pattern in Kenney’s behaviour that was foreshadowed at the UCP’s first policy conference. Kenney declared that he alone “holds the pen”, effectively saying, “L’etat c’est moi” and permitted no more discussion of anything that displeased him. From that moment, the UCP membership decided to accept the premise that the new party was going to function as Kenney’s cult of personality and a vehicle for his own personal advancement. I suppose that Kenney’s early backers believed, as those who backed Hitler believed, he could be controlled and used to serve their ends. For the most part, Kenney has proved to be an able and loyal agent for their respective agendas. But it’s that nasty authoritarian streak that freaks people out as if they just found out about it. Like being so surprised by the extreme degree of Kenney’s corruption, they truly act like they were born yesterday.

  9. I hate that Nanny State! Thank goodness we can count on the billionaire class to help us see what’s in our best interests. More acquisition of university faculties by obscenely wealthy businessmen, less social supports for the 40% of Albertans who are low income!
    I will grant you that replacing the real conflict in our society, that being the complete domination of the rich minority of everybody else, with identitarian rubbish, is the apogee of divide-and-rule.
    Aheer is a dyed-in-the-wool neocon. The following makes reference to her standard-bearing on behalf of one of the original 3P scams used by old-timey Kons to replace mandated social programs with faith-based nonsense:

    Meanwhile, in yet another round of the ol’ switcheroo, the Gubmint has stopped listing vaccine outcomes under “complete”, “partial” and “unvaccinated” with “three”, “two”, “one dose” or “unvaccinated”.
    The latter currently make up 17.4% of “active cases”, while the triple-threats are already at 11.49% of active cases. Three shots in a year should be the trick. Although apparently the Israeli guinea pigs are already moving on to shot 4 from their Pfizer overlords.
    No need for anybody to worry about antibody-dependent enhancement. That’s just a conspiracy theory.

    1. Billionaire class? Funny, but thanks for bringing up the most important point. Making government big just means everyone is poor. Much poorer than if some are “rich” as long as people can get ahead the whole of society will be better off. As people working for their benefit makes everyone better off, as they provide services for the rest of society. In the big government solution you get more government workers not taking care of people.

      1. BRET LARSON: The UCP have the most bulky government in Alberta. The UCP has a panel for this, that and the other, all lined with their pretend conservative and Reformer friends, acting like they are listening, when they aren’t. Their agenda is already made up. The UCP MLAs have even more staff members, which doesn’t come cheap. Also, the UCP has numerous pretend conservative and Reformer friends of theirs on the payroll, and they do nothing of any substance. What exactly does Ben Harper do? Also, these pretend conservative and Reformer friends of the UCP get really good pay to conduct enquiries, that end up inconclusive. Steve Allan is a classic example.

      2. And yet, the greatest transition of a population out of poverty in world history was accomplished by the Soviet Union. China would be second.

        The United States, where nonsense like comes from, is the most unequal country since ROME. They lead the developed world in child mortality.

        But please, “big government”

        1. Bird: Unsurprisingly, Comrade Google has provided us with very little information about the elimination of poverty in the Soviet Union, so my suspicion will have to remain a suspicion that the greatest transition of a population out of poverty in human history in fact took place in China. As you say, it certainly wasn’t in the United States. DJC

          1. I will concede that by sheer numbers, it has to be China, especially by now as they haven’t stopped.

            The USSR was the first class based revolution in history though, they did it first, and that can’t be overstated.

  10. I had to think about this for a bit. I have concluded that the Used Car Party is in a state of wishing to be true to their grand leader. In any event, they have given up the idea that parties are to win power. The UCP is now in a terminal state. They are paralyzed by being devoted solely to Kenney worshiping. So this internal fighting will continue.

  11. Looks like Bumbles has been taking lessons on how to become a weak strong man.

    Let’s hope this ends up being so much shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic.

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