ed-elzinga

Longtime Alberta Tory Peter Elzinga is endorsing his friend Jim Ford in the federal race for Edmonton-Sherwood Park. (CBC)

A prominent Alberta Tory is publicly supporting the Independent candidate who is running against the Conservatives in the federal riding of Edmonton-Sherwood Park.

Peter Elzinga, who was president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in the 1980s, chief of staff to former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and an MP, MLA and provincial cabinet minister, is throwing his support behind Jim Ford.

Ford, a longtime party loyalist, is running as an Independent because he was unhappy with the way the national party handled the nomination of Conservative candidate Tim Uppal in November 2006.

Elzinga admitted he wrestled with his decision, but in the end decided to support Ford, who's been his friend for more than 30 years.

"Jim is a Conservative. He's running as an Independent Conservative and, for that reason and because of the personal loyalties and his community contributions, I'm supporting Jim," Elzinga told CBC News Monday.

Unlike some other prominent Edmonton-area Conservatives, Elzinga has publicly endorsed a candidate.

Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans, and Premier Ed Stelmach, whose provincial ridings are either entirely or partly within the federal riding of Edmonton-Sherwood Park, have not endorsed anyone in the race.

Elzinga has written Ford a cheque to help with his campaign and will let his endorsement be used in campaign pamphlets.

However, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Tony Vandermeer, who is supporting Uppal and is on the federal riding association for Edmonton-Sherwood Park, told CBC News last week he felt Ford is doing the national party a disservice by running as an Independent.

"Sometimes you have to think of the big picture not just in your own community and in your own constituency. This is for the Conservative Party of Canada, not just our constituency," he said.

But Elzinga rejected that argument when asked whether his endorsement of Ford could hurt the Conservatives in an election where every seat could count toward them forming a majority government.

"One constituency, I don't believe it's gonna make the differences to whether [Conservative Leader Stephen Harper] has a majority or not,"  Elzinga said.

With files from John Archer