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Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.

As the roster of candidates vying to replace Jason Kenney as United Conservative Party leader – and Alberta premier – there have been rumours and speculation about Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner.

She announced on Twitter last week that she was considering a leadership bid, stepping aside from Patrick Brown’s federal Conservative Party leadership campaign as she weighs her options. But there was a problem: she hasn’t been a member of the UCP for the required six months.

The Globe’s Alanna Smith reports that the party gave Ms. Rempel Garner a waiver exempting her from the membership requirement and clearing the way for her to run. The waiver followed a meeting with caucus on Monday to discuss the issue. (The confirmation came from a party source, who The Globe agreed not to identify because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss internal party matters.)

Ms. Rempel Garner hasn’t formally announced whether she’s in or not, and she didn’t respond to The Globe’s requests for comment.

If she does jump in, she would be an immediate frontrunner. Ms. Rempel Garner is a popular Calgary MP who was elected in 2011 and served in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. In Opposition, she has been a vocal critic of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response and specifically vaccine procurement. Among constituents, she has become known for her frequent Facebook Live videos.

In 2020, she was among the authors of the Buffalo Declaration, which repeated many longstanding grievances in Alberta and Saskatchewan and called for changes to address them. The proposed changes include repealing environmental laws seen as detrimental to the oil industry, revisions to the equalization program, giving Saskatchewan and Alberta better representation in Parliament, and recognizing the two Prairie provinces as a culturally distinct region within Confederation.

But Ms. Rempel Garner could also be met with skepticism among party members who might view her as parachuting in from Ottawa. That’s been a complaint about Mr. Kenney among some of his many critics, and former Alberta premier Jim Prentice faced the same criticism.

Ms. Rempel Garner would join four other women who have already declared – former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and former cabinet ministers Leela Aheer, Rajan Sawhney and Rebecca Schulz.

The Globe’s Kelly Cryderman says that these women, who make up half the candidates so far and would be a majority with the addition of Ms. Rempel Garner, are the most compelling people in in the race. And they also, writes Kelly, better represent the diversity of the province.

“If you want to look at where the UCP contest is going, and who is leading the break from the leadership of Alberta’s current Premier, look at the four women who’ve already stated their interest in running in the Oct. 6 contest,” she writes. ”They account for half the declared candidates. And they represent a broad range of political views within Alberta’s conservative movement, with each distancing herself from the outgoing Mr. Kenney in one way or another.”

The other candidates are former finance minister Travis Toews; Independent MLA Todd Loewen, who was ejected from the UCP caucus after publicly criticizing Mr. Kenney; and Bill Rock, the Mayor of the tiny community of Amisk in eastern Alberta.

The leadership race will take place with both a mail-in ballot and optional in-person voting using a ranked ballot. The winner will be announced on Oct. 6, giving them about seven months to prepare for the next provincial election in 2023.

The cabinet resignations have also forced Mr. Kenney to make several changes to cabinet, including a shuffle announced late Tuesday afternoon. Jason Nixon, who was acting Finance Minister, now takes over the job full-time.

Whitney Issik, the associate minister of the status of women, now takes over Mr. Nixon’s old job as the minister for environment and parks. Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones is the new minister for children’s services and Calgary-Currie member Nicholas Milliken will head up infrastructure. Prasad Panda moves from infrastructure to the transportation portfolio.

Backbencher Brad Rutherford will now be a cabinet minister without portfolio and also handle chief whip duties, while Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk moves into cabinet as the associate minister of the status of women.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.