Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice promised to bring transparency and trust back to Alberta's Progressive Conservative party in front of a packed room at his official campaign launch in downtown Edmonton Wednesday morning.
He said he would also focus on updating provincial infrastructure and governance to reflect the changing face of Alberta.
“I am running because I believe Alberta has before it, right now, an opportunity to achieve great things,” he said. “It’s going to take discipline and it’s going to take focus, but we will do this.”
Prentice said if he wins the leadership vote, he will bring in rules to remind caucus members that they are the servants of the people. He also pledged to end entitlements and sweetheart deals for political staffers.
"The bond of trust between the people of Alberta and their elected representatives must be repaired," he said. "I will introduce clear rules I will change the way that things are done and I will promise you that those rules will be enforced with discipline
Prentice, who said he plans to spend the coming months travelling the province to speak with Albertans, also promised to bring vigour and tenacity back to provincial politics in Alberta.
“We need to make changes to ensure the party continues to thrive in the future – and I will make those changes,” he promised in closing.
He will deliver a similar speech later in Calgary.
MLAs gather in show of support
About 100 supporters, including about a dozen Tory MLAs, were on hand to support Prentice during the launch.
“I haven't publicly said that he's my guy but ... everything I heard today is exactly what I was looking for,” said Edmonton MLA Steve Young.
Former Edmonton city councillor Kim Krushell also spoke in favour of Prentice’s message.
"He doesn't wear the Redford government issues, which we're all seeing on a daily basis and which the media has focused on.”
On May 8, a record 1,800 people turned out for a $500-a-plate party fundraiser in Calgary – something that was attributed in part to burgeoning interest in a Prentice candidacy.
For six years between 2004 and 2010, Prentice. who is 57, was the Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North, serving under Prime Minister Stephen Harper in three cabinet portfolios.
He left politics three years ago to take an executive position with CIBC but was persuaded to run for the leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party after Alison Redford quit the job in March over spending scandals and accusations of poor leadership.
Only official candidate to date
Prentice, who filed his nomination papers on Friday, is currently the only official candidate in the race.
Former Alberta cabinet minister Ric McIver intends to run but, as of Monday, was in the midst of collecting signatures.
Ken Hughes had originally planned to join in the leadership race, but withdrew in order to support Prentice’s campaign.
Other potential candidates, including cabinet ministers Doug Horner, Diana McQueen and Jonathan Denis, have announced they will not run.
Nominations will officially close on May 30. The leadership vote will take place in September.
Jim Prentice identified five major issues he would focus on if elected. They are:
1. Commitment to conservative fiscal principles
“We must never lose sight of the fact that fiscal prudence is the foundation of good government … and it will be the cornerstone of my government,” he said.
“This is Alberta. We will not run deficits to finance the basic operations of government. We will not have a sales tax, and we will save for the future.”
In order to do that, Prentice promised to update the province’s capital infrastructure plan in order to address the changing needs of Albertans while maintaining transparency over costs.
Prentice also said he planned to reduce the size of the province’s cabinet.
2. Restore bond between Albertans and their government
Acknowledging that trust between the PC Party and Albertans had been damaged, Prentice promised to be a servant of the people of Alberta
“Under my leadership, we will restore public trust in our government by improving accountability and governance and ... by putting an end to entitlements,” he said.
3. Maximize use of natural resources
If elected, Prentice said he would take action to ensure Alberta’s agricultural, forestry and oilsands resources be used in a manner that would maximize benefits for both current and future generations of Albertans.
“Our economic future depends on our competitiveness, it depends upon our access to global markets, it depends on access to global capital, global technology and global labour markets.”
While his comments focused mainly on improving Alberta’s global stakes, Prentice said moving forward would not come at the cost of private property owners.
“Our prosperity has always depended on a healthy balance between the rights of farmers and ranchers on the one hand, and the oil and gas industry on the other,” he acknowledged, adding, “I will restore that balance.”
4. Make Alberta an environmental leader
“Albertans care deeply about the environment,” said Prentice, as he identified his fourth talking point.
Saying it is time for Alberta to become a global player in the energy industry, Prentice promised to work to harmonize environmental standards with Ottawa and the United States to allow for the continued responsible expansion of the oilsands.
5. Improve quality of life for Albertans
“Our province should aspire to be nothing less than the best in public education, the best in public healthcare, the best in care for our seniors and the best at skills training for future generations,” said Prentice amidst applause.
“We should accept nothing less.”
To accomplish this goal, Prentice said he planned to set targets that would ensure Albertans are put first when it comes to education, care and training.