Travis Toews is running to become the next leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and the Premier of Alberta. Toews served as Alberta’s Minister of Finance for three years prior to running for the leadership. Toews represents the riding of Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

When I served as Alberta’s Finance Minister, I thought a lot about our competitive advantages. Our competitive advantages aren’t just numbers. They matter because it means more families have jobs and livelihoods for future generations. But I always knew that our biggest advantages were not economic – they were cultural. 

Alberta is a place of freedom, pluralism, vibrant democracy, and unity. These things matter more than any tax rate.

From the beginning, Alberta has been built on a substantive commitment to freedom and pluralism. Unlike other regions of the country that were more exclusively “English Protestant” or “French Catholic,” Alberta has always had a broader mix. We were one of the first regions in Canada to welcome large numbers of immigrants from all over the world, and we have built policies in education and other areas that substantively reflect our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Alberta’s success in this area wasn’t just about opening the door. Rather, it was about building substantive policies that have allowed people of all backgrounds and faiths to live freely and to pass their values onto their children without interference from government or from an overbearing majority. 

It is far from certain that other provinces will adopt this approach or that this approach will continue to be dominant here at home. We see increasing attacks on freedom of conscience and pluralism taking many different forms. 

One example of a policy that attacks freedom and pluralism is Bill 21 in Quebec. This bill has led to people being removed from teaching and other positions because they visibly practise their faith. Bill 21 is at odds with the values of this country and a provincial government that I lead would seek to intervene in the case against it. 

Respectfully, Alberta’s approach is better. 

Not only do we not fire teachers for their faith, but here we have faith-based alternative programs directly within public schools and we are adding information about Alberta’s diverse faith communities to the provincial curriculum. These reflect our substantive commitment to pluralism, diversity, and freedom. 

Alberta’s commitment to pluralism as well as our economic vitality is what draws newcomers to this province and helps us to continue to grow and prosper. 

Alberta’s share of the national population is growing while Quebec’s is declining, and it stands to reason that our different approach to pluralism is a contributing factor. Even for many francophone immigrants, choosing a place where they can freely practise their religion and benefit from greater choice in education is more important than predominance of language. When jurisdictions come to be seen as unwelcome to newcomers, they are headed for demographic decline.

There are some people in this leadership race who offer perpetual confrontation with the rest of Canada. My approach is for our province to lead within Canada, based on our values and our success. That means building coalitions and using the law to our advantage, instead of breaking coalitions and ignoring the law. 

For Alberta, leading starts from understanding who we are and what has led to our success. A low tax environment, natural resources that we are actually prepared to use, a predictable regulatory environment, and an entrepreneurial well-educated population have helped Alberta’s economy to flourish. But we are more than just an economy.

As Premier, I will work to maintain and enhance our economic advantages but also our advantages in terms of freedom, pluralism and quality of life. There are politicians here at home who talk the talk about diversity and inclusion, but do not support choice and diversity in our education system. 

I will always defend and will work to enhance our rich tapestry of educational choice, and work to make Alberta the destination of choice for high-performing newcomers of any creed, culture, ethnicity, or language. This has been and will continue to be a key source of our province’s strength.

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Travis Toews is running to become the next leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and the Premier of Alberta. Toews served as Alberta’s Minister of Finance for three years prior to running for the leadership. Toews represents the riding of Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

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