Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Horner grew up in Barrhead, Alta., where many people know his family's name.
Doug Horner is one of three candidates vying to become the next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party. (CBC)

In the small Alberta town of Barrhead, everyone knows the Horner name.

Hugh Horner was an Member of Parliament and MLA for the area and a cabinet minister in the 1970s under former premier Peter Lougheed. He was also a local doctor.

Doug Horner followed in his father's political footsteps. After establishing his own agriculture businesses, he was elected to the Alberta legislature in 2001. He later became a cabinet minister and, like his dad, deputy premier.

Horner is now one of three candidates vying to become the new leader of the Progressive Conservative party and Alberta's next premier.

Barrhead pharmacy owner Collin Grant grew up with Doug Horner and says he always knew his old friend would go into politics.

"He practised debating, that was really unique," Grant said. "He [was] always grooming himself to be a good politician, and it was no surprise when he actually told me that he was thinking of running."

Background in business

Horner, 50, became Alberta agriculture minister in 2004, when the province's cattle industry was still reeling from the aftermath of the BSE crisis, which led to the United States placing a ban on all imports of Canadian beef in 2003.

He was appointed minister of Advanced Education and Technology in 2006 and later served as deputy premier under Ed Stelmach. He stepped down from both positions in February 2011, when he joined the race to replace Stelmach as party leader.

Barrhead pharmacy owner Collin Grant grew up with Doug Horner. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC News )

Horner garnered 14 per cent of the votes in the first ballot on Sept. 17, which allowed him to progress to Saturday's second ballot along with rivals Gary Mar and Alison Redford.

Horner's message is that he doesn't just have integrity and experience in government —he also has experience in business, which he believes sets him apart from Redford and Mar, who worked as lawyers before entering politics.

"I come from a background of business, international business and ag food and food-related companies that I started here in Alberta, as well as companies I started in Mexico and the United States," he said.

"So I'm the only businessperson ... I know what it's like to make a payroll and to build a business from the ground up and to hire Albertans and to also be on a world stage in terms of doing business in other countries."

Fresh outlook

Horner is trying to do what Ed Stelmach did in the 2006 leadership vote by coming from behind on the second ballot, and beating the two front runners.

But Horner wants people to know that he's different from Stelmach and does not represent the status quo.

Horner became Alberta agriculture minister in 2004, when the province's beef industry was still dealing with the effects of the discovery of BSE in Alberta cattle. (CBC)

Horner says as leader, he would not settle for Alberta being second-best. For example, he wants the province to have a world-leading educational system. 

Horner believes that this can be done by shooting for the best and then figuring out how to find the money afterwards, without going into a deficit. 

"Our party stands on the values and principles that were created many years ago. They're not old and stale, but we will be if we move away from them," he said.

"Things like compassion, innovation, integrity, committment to excellence. That's what is in Albertans' hearts, that's what the Progressive Consevative party should stand for and that's how we should make our decisions. So that's why I'm in the race."

Horner will have to make up some ground. Much of his support on the first ballot came from rural and northern Alberta. Both he and Redford trail Mar, who won 41 per cent of the vote.

Back at his pharmacy in Barrhead, Collin Grant says it has been an honour to know Horner regardless of the outcome of Saturday's vote.

"No matter what happens, we're really proud of what he's done," he said.

Horner said he'll carry on as an MLA even if he doesn't win on Saturday. He also wants to be part of the next government, no matter who becomes the next premier and party leader.