Alberta Tory leadership candidate Alison Redford was dealt a harsh blow Tuesday night when her ailing mother died just days before the end of her daughter's campaign to become the province's next premier.

Helen Redford was 71 years old.

Her daughter had announced earlier in the day that she was briefly suspending her campaign after her mother was admitted to hospital in High River, Alta., with an unspecified severe illness.   

A campaign spokesman initially said Helen Redford's condition had stabilized and she had been transferred to a Calgary hospital.

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Helen Redford died Tuesday night. (Courtesy Alison Redford campaign)

But later in the evening, the campaign issued a news release with the sad news.   

The release said the candidate and one of her sisters had been with their mother when she died.  

"This is obviously a very difficult time for Alison and our thoughts are with her and her family," said campaign strategist Stephen Carter.

"Alison will take some time to mourn with her family, while her campaign for premier continues."   

He said Redford planned to participate in a previously scheduled televised debate on Wednesday, but would have no other public events on Wednesday or Thursday.   

"Alison would like to thank all of the volunteers from her campaign and the campaigns of Gary Mar and Doug Horner for their support," said Carter. "The outpouring from Albertans from every area in the province has been heartwarming."  

Members of the Progressive Conservative party are to choose a new leader and premier in a run-off vote Saturday.   

Redford, a former justice minister, was a distant second to Gary Mar after the first round of voting two weeks ago.   

Mar and Horner, the third candidate on the ballot, both sent best wishes to Redford and her family