Jim Prentice forming team for Alberta Tory leadership race
Alberta ministers for health, education, municipal affairs among supports of bid
Jim Prentice is forming a team for a bid to become Alberta's next premier, a move one observer says is an "earthquake" for the province's politics.
A source working with Prentice confirmed the former federal cabinet minister has been talking to caucus and cabinet and has received encouragement to run for the leadership of Alberta's governing Progressive Conservative Party.
"He'll make a formal announcement in the next couple of weeks, at which time he will outline his vision for the province," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He's been getting a lot of encouragement."
Since CBC News reported that Prentice will be running in the PC leadership race, several Alberta MLAs have spoken publicly of their support for him.
Neil Brown, PC MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill, tweeted his support in reaction to Prentice's reported decision to run, saying, "If so, Jim will have my full support."
Provincial Health Minister Fred Horne, Education Minister Jeff Johnson and acting Municipal Affairs Minister Greg Weadick have also given their support.
Last week, Health Services Minister Manmeet S. Bhullar and Associate Regional Recovery Minister Kyle Fawcett, told reporters that they would support Prentice if he decided to run.
The Tories are looking to hold a leadership vote in September to formally replace former premier Alison Redford, who resigned last month amid allegations of lavish spending and party infighting.
Sources tell CBC News that Prentice had contacted Alberta cabinet ministers and members of the PC caucus in recent days to gauge support, and had been told he should run.
He has since begun putting together a campaign and finance team to make the run.
Wildrose's Smith welcomes Prentice to race
The leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party, Danielle Smith, also tweeted to welcome Prentice into the race, saying, "Welcome to the [PC leadership] race, [Jim Prentice.] We've been looking forward to you stepping into the arena."
Earlier in the day, Smith had accused Redford of trying to hold on to her Calgary seat so Jim Prentice could potentially take it in a byelection.
Danielle Smith's office said in a news release Redford is trying to use her constituents in Calgary-Elbow "in an effort to clear the way for Jim Prentice's possible leadership bid."
Redford has not attended the legislature since her resignation last month, and last week it was revealed she had informed the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature that she will continue to be absent.
If Smith's accusation sticks, political scientist Tom Flanagan said it could affect Prentice's reputation.
"The other parties will be able to interpret this as a black mark against Prentice," he said. "He's supposed to be coming in from the outside as the saviour and he's unsullied by the history of cronyism and special dealings that we've seen in the PC Party."
Prentice left federal politics three and a half years ago after holding several key portfolios in the government of Stephen Harper, including environment and aboriginal affairs.
Since then he's been vice-chairman of CIBC and, more recently, took on the role of helping Enbridge work with First Nations opposed to the company's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia.
Prentice is seen as a so-called Red Tory, but he retains strong connections and a solid working relationship with both the Harper government and Alberta PCs.
With files from the CBC's Chris Hall and The Canadian Press