Jen Henderson is a journalist breaking news in the capital region. She is a staff reporter at the St. Albert Gazette and  covers provincial and federal politics, crime and court. 

Khan launches leadership campaign

Khan launches leadership campaign

Stephen Khan officially revealed St. Albert’s worst kept secret when he formally announced his leadership bid for the Progressive Conservative Party on Thursday.

The former St. Albert MLA and provincial cabinet minister made his case to modernize the PC party when he spoke to a crowded room at the Sturgeon Valley Golf Club.

He squarely opposed the unite-the-right campaign being pitched by former federal MP and cabinet minister Jason Kenney. Khan made it clear that he does not think Kenney’s plan to join up with the Wildrose party is the path to success in 2019.

“Mr. Kenney has a plan that I don’t think is going to put us in the best position,” Khan said. “I also think it’s a very dangerous path, if we morph into this ‘small-c’ right-wing party all we are doing is conceding the centre political spectrum to the NDP. I think we’ve always been better when we’ve been a fiscally conservative centrist party.”

One of the reasons some conservatives think the two right-wing parties should combine is the voting records since the last election. The parties have a very similar track record when it comes to voting in the legislature and they almost always support each other’s amendments to bills. Overall they vote together 96 per cent of the time.

Khan says the remaining issues the two parties disagree on are what matter the most to Albertans.

“The magic of this province has always been that no matter where you’re from, where you pray or who you love, as long as you’re working hard and doing your best you’re one of us.”

Khan joins the chorus of candidates who think Kenney’s plan is not the best path to success in Alberta. Donna Kennedy-Glans, Byron Nelson, Richard Starke and Sandra Jansen have all come out against uniting with the Wildrose Party.

“What I am trying to do is unite Albertans period.,” Khan said. “And I think what we need to do is get people excited again and hopeful about what we can do as a province.”

With such a large pool of candidates it may be hard for Khan to stand out. But he says his experience as an entrepreneur, businessman and his positions with the former government separate him from the rest of the candidates.

Khan served as Minister of Advanced Education and Enterprise under Premier Redford and as Minister of Service Alberta under Premier Prentice. He chaired the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship and the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

Before becoming an MLA, Khan was an owner of Management Information Group, a St. Albert-based company that developed administrative software for schools. He has also spent time as a hockey and volleyball coach and a stay-at-home dad.

Those are the experiences that he plans to draw on to mould his leadership style. The former minister wants to put an end to negative politics and focus on solving the problems facing the province.

“I am not here to fear-monger,” Khan said to the crowd. “I’m here because I believe we can do things better. I’m here because I believe we can do politics better.”

Part of his mission if he does become leader of the party is to bring young people back to politics and get them invested in their communities. To do this, he thinks the party needs to change its approach.

“Clearly what we lost was trust,” Khan said. “And for me this is about building trust back up at the constituency level. This is a real opportunity to do some things differently and improve the party.”

Khan will spend the weekend at the Progressive Conservative convention in Red Deer. On Saturday night he will debate the other five candidates for the first time.

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