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The co-founder of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party has officially launched his campaign to become the next leader, saying it’s imperative the party get back on track by listening to people and fighting for a better deal in Confederation.

“Our leadership looked entitled and arrogant – telling us to do one thing while they acted like the rules didn’t apply to them, sitting around being served Jameson whiskey on the Sky Palace balcony,” Brian Jean told 150 cheering supporters Wednesday at a west-end hotel.

“Needless fights were picked with the everyday Albertans who are central to our rural and small-city communities – our doctors, nurses and teachers.

“We run the risk that the anger of everyday Albertans will return us to the shrill anger of an NDP government.”

Jean said his platform is based around keeping Alberta a proud province in Confederation but working hard to get a better return on issues such as equalization payments.

Autonomy for Albertans is the central theme of his campaign, said Jean, adding the time to start is right now.

“Imagine with me for a moment all of the improvements we can make to Canada over and above fixing equalization,” he said.

“We can repair the imbalances in political representation. We can ensure that no province can prevent another from selling its goods and services to the rest of the world. We can fix inadequate health-care funding.”

Jean, a former Conservative MP, left politics in 2018 but returned and won a by-election in Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in March.

He ran on a platform to unseat Kenney as premier, saying his policies and government were alienating Albertans and clearing a path for an NDP victory in the 2023 provincial election.

Kenney announced he was stepping down a month ago after gaining just 51 per cent support in a party leadership review.

Jean is one of eight candidates who have announced they will run for the leadership, which will see a new leader, and premier, chosen Oct. 6.

Three left Kenney’s cabinet in recent days in order to run: Rebecca Schulz, Travis Toews, and Rajan Sawhney.

Also running is another former Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith.

UCP backbencher, Leela Aheer, who was removed from Kenney’s cabinet in 2021 after criticizing his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is also seeking the top job, as is Independent Todd Loewen, who was voted out of Kenney’s caucus over a year ago for publicly calling for Kenney to quit.

The final candidate is Bill Rock, mayor of the village of Amisk.

On Twitter Wednesday night, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said she was considering a run.

“I will make my decision based on the conversations I have with the people I represent – Albertans,” she wrote.

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