Grassroots members of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party voted Saturday to explore using nuclear power plants to assist oilsands development.

After the vote at theparty's annual general meeting in Edmonton, Energy Minister Mel Knight suggestedthe province may not follow up on the idea of forming a committee to study the issue, saying the governmentis stayingneutral.

"We will not have any development in the province of Alberta without open, public discussions with the public," he said.

Knight saidit is in the government's best interests to be seen neither as an opponent nor a proponent of nuclear energy,but heis willing to listen to ideas on any forms of alternative energy.

Delegate Bill Dearborn of Medicine Hat said oilsands industries need a nuclear option as a bulwark against any future federal raids on Alberta's resource-based economy.

"We're familiar with these Liberal governments in Ottawa that have imposed unfair taxes on the oil and gas industry in the past," he said.

But delegate Don Dabbs said he participated in an earlier provincial study on nuclear power and that nuclear is not the way to go to generate steam power for the oilsands.

"A reactor to generate steam is not the principal purpose of a nuclear reactor. It's for electrical energy. It's a very expensive source of steam."

Energy Alberta Corp. recently announced it would file a regulatory application to build a twin-reactor plant in northern Alberta.

Members back government's plan on housing

Also on Saturday, delegates rejected a motion to adopt the resolutions of an all-party legislature committee that had urged Premier Ed Stelmach's Tory government to adopt rent controls.

"Rent controls and all other sorts of initiatives are sort of like a drug. They're very addictive and they're difficult to get off of once you start down that road," delegate Jon Lord, a former Tory house member, told delegates prior to the vote.

Anne Hughes, a Tory party member from Calgary, was disappointed.

"It's going to come up again and again and again, and we might as well address it now before it gets blown up out of proportion."

Rent controls have become a hot button and, at times, a divisive issue for the governing Tories as they grapple with a roaring oil-and-gas economy that brought 100,000 newcomers to the province in the past year alone.

Housing Minister Ray Danyluk, who sat in on the resolution session, said the Tories still consider housing controls a "dead issue." But he has a few words for landlords who aregouging tenants.

"I guess what I can do is go to them with a plea and suggest to them this is unscrupulous. This isn't right."

New rules introducedin the legislaturelast week will allow landlords to increase rents only once a year instead of twice.

And landlords wanting to kick a tenant out to do major renovations or convert a rental to a condominium will have to give at least one year's notice and won't be allowed to increase the rent during that time.

Thegovernment has also promised to spend$447 million for affordable housing over the next three years.

Stelmach backs financial disclosure

Delegates also voted to urge the government to bring in new legislation to govern financing and financial disclosure in the leadership campaigns of all political parties.

Stelmach said he would honour that.

"We will take that to caucus and start working toward drafting the legislation," he told reporters.

The recent Tory leadership campaign that saw Stelmach replace Ralph Klein came under fire because there were no rules governing how much money the candidates could raise and no rules compelling them to say where they got it from.

With files from Canadian Press