PC leader's dinner draws interim premier, 3 contenders, 1,800 Tories

A big crowd came out Thursday for the spring PC leader's dinner, but there was more to see than interim premier Dave Hancock's speech — the three Calgarians who are seeking the party leadership were also in the room.

Tory leadership hopefuls Jim Prentice, Ric McIver and Ken Hughes present for annual Calgary spring dinner

Jim Prentice, left, and Ric McIver are both set to run for the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservatives. Ken Hughes, not pictured, is the only other candidate to put his name forward. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

A big crowd came out Thursday for the spring PC leader's dinner, but there was more to see than interim premier Dave Hancock's speech — the three Calgarians who are seeking the party leadership were also in the room.

About 1,800 people paid $500 a ticket to attend the spring PC leader's dinner Thursday night at Calgary's Telus Convention Centre. 

 Jim Prentice, one of the three leadership contenders, spent months leading a committee of volunteers that organized the dinner.  

The former Conservative MP was originally scheduled to introduce the interim premier, but told reporters at the dinner it wasn't appropriate and that the night was about the party.

A spokesman for the former federal cabinet minister said last week Prentice will seek the party's leadership. For his part, Prentice has just said Albertans would have to "stay tuned."

Former Calgary alderman Ric McIver and Tory MLA Ken Hughes have also entered the race. Both men were at the event, talking with party members.

Former premier Alison Redford was not seen at the event.

Hancock talks mistakes, infrastructure

Interim Premier Dave Hancock spoke Thursday at the annual spring leader's dinner in Calgary. (CBC)

Hancock's speech focused on the government's record and his plans to keep promoting Alberta's energy resources. But he also acknowledged the long-running government has seen recent troubles.

"Now, mistakes have been made. Our cabinet knows it, our MLAs know it, and all of you know it."

At a similar event last week in Edmonton, Hancock also apologized a number of times — saying the government had lost focus and taken the party's grassroots for granted. It was a message Hancock touched upon again in Calgary.

"Last week on behalf of our government, I apologized to party members and to Albertans for talking too much and listening too little and for not living up to our Progressive Conservative values the way that Albertans expect us to. I meant every word."

Hancock spoke about infrastructure projects, including the $138.9 million the government has budgeted for 2014-15 to put towards completing Calgary's ring road. 

The interim premier said it's splitting the final leg of the road into two phases — west and southwest. 

"In the coming weeks we will be holding a series of public information sessions to share with folks the work we have planned on the West Calgary Ring Road between Highway 1 and 69 Street-Glenmore Trail intersection — the first segment we are currently planning to move forward with."

The speech also included a dig at the Wildrose Party. 

"We're facing an opposition that believes everything has a fixed price. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing."

The new Tory leader will be picked by party members in September. 

With files from Scott Dippel/CBC