Dave Hancock has been sworn in as Alberta's interim premier, taking over from Alison Redford, who resigned last week over criticism about her spending habits and infighting among the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Hancock is the minister of innovation and advanced education who became deputy premier in the December cabinet shakeup.
The PC party executive will meet Monday to set out a time line for the leadership race. Hancock has said he has no plans to run for the post.
Hancock had been Redford's closest supporter, rising to her defence in the face of party and public criticism over the past month.
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"Caucus has come together very well," he said last week. "Caucus understands they have a job to do and that is to provide good solid government."
He said his role will be to ensure the government gets back to its agenda and passes this year's budget, the first surplus budget in more than six years.
However, whoever is elected party leader will be facing strong opposition from the Wildrose Party, whose leader, Danielle Smith, said last week her party is primed for an early election.
At a sold-out fundraiser on Thursday night, Smith told an enthusiastic crowd her party would be ready to hit the ground running if they were elected to power.
Wildrose Party eager for early election
She said Redford's mid-term resignation is just the latest example of how dysfunctional the Progressive Conservative Party has become after 43 years in power.
“For the second time in about a three-year period, the governing party has forced out a leader who had led their party to re-election with a strong majority,” Smith said Thursday.
“She was unable to make the kind of changes many of us both inside and outside of her party were hoping to see from a leader so dramatically different than her predecessor."
The party unveiled its budget recommendations on Feb. 25, focusing on spending cuts to get back to balanced budgets.
Smith says Alberta doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. She wants to start at the top by cutting the size of cabinet, cancelling big pay hikes and doing away with bonuses and severances.
But the opposition leader says the biggest reductions can be made by eliminating corporate subsidies worth $450 million and cutting bureaucracy by $250 million.
According to the government's fixed election date legislation, the vote must be held in 2016 between March 1 and May 31, but opposition parties say the Tories could break it just as easily as they approved it.