United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership candidates had until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to have their chance at becoming Alberta’s next premier, and eight of nine contestants vying for the top job made it across the first checkpoint.

All applicants were required to hand in 1,000 signatures from the province’s five regions and the first $75,000 of the $175,000 contest fee. 

Calgary businessman Jon Horsman announced he was pulling from the race less than an hour ahead of the deadline.

In a social media post on Wednesday, Horsman said his campaign was “on track” to meet the deadline, but he decided to withdraw because it is a “very crowded leadership race.”

“Having one more (candidate) does not serve the purpose of why I decided to run — which was to contribute to the success of the conservative movement in Alberta by growing the moderate and inclusive base for the party,” Horsman wrote.

“As I stand down today, I stand ready to move forward with the UCP through future opportunities.”

Submitted applications do not necessarily mean candidates have been approved to run in the upcoming election. The party first ensures that all signatures are from registered UCP members. Then, contestants are interviewed by the Leadership Election Committee (LEC). Once these processes are completed, the LEC will greenlight a candidate.

Travis Toews, Danielle Smith and Brian Jean were all approved as official candidates ahead of Wednesday’s cutoff. Toews was approved nearly two weeks ago, Smith was approved Monday night and Jean was approved Tuesday.

A poll in June showed Smith and Jean tied as the frontrunners, with Toews polling about ten points behind. Smith submitted her nomination package with 4,500 signatures and the entire contest fee. 

Jean was the second candidate to pay the full contest fee up-front. His campaign collected well over 2,000 signatures, his campaign told True North.

Candidates were helping one another collect signatures ahead of the deadline. Jean posted on Twitter about some contestants who still needed support, and Smith hosted rival Raj Sherman at her campaign event on Tuesday night, which drew in about 260 people.

UCP MLA and former Transportation minister Rajan Sawhney submitted 1,500 signatures and the deposit on Thursday. On Tuesday, she tweeted the party has verified that she has enough signatures. 

Independent MLA Todd Loewen submitted his package on Friday. Loewen was a member of the UCP caucus until he was removed last year after calling for Premier Jason Kenney’s resignation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He collected around 2,500 signatures and his interview with the LEC is this week, his campaign said.

UCP MLA and former Children’s Services minister Rebecca Shulz submitted her application with the party on Tuesday, as did UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

The party verified Aheer’s signatures already and she’ll likely have her interview this weekend, her campaign told True North. 

Sherman, the former Alberta Liberal Party leader, handed his package in just five minutes before the deadline. He was active on Twitter throughout the day, letting supporters know he still needed more signatures in some regions. 

The party already disqualified Sherman from running. He was not a UCP member for six months prior to the contest, as the rules require, and he was not granted an exemption. Sherman decided to file his application anyway and he said he hopes his campaign will show the party he wants to be taken seriously as a candidate. 

Bill Rock, the Mayor for Amisk, a town which lies about two hours southeast of Edmonton, was briefly in the race. He pulled out last week, citing an inability to raise the funds. 

Candidates have to submit another $50,000 by July 29 and the last $50,000 by August 12, which is also the last day Albertans can purchase UCP memberships to vote in the contest.

UCP members will elect a new leader and Premier on October 6.


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.