Alison Redford's replacement will have to heal party divisions

The search is now on for someone to unify a fractured ruling Alberta Progressive Conservative Party after Alison Redford made the surprise announcement to step down as the province's premier.

PC party’s problems not an easy fix, says opposition

Alison Redford adviser on resignation

10 years ago
Duration 6:14
Interview with Jaime Watt, who worked on Alison Redford's leadership and election campaigns

The search is now on for Alison Redford's replacement after she made the surprise announcement to step down as Alberta premier.

The ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) Party constitution requires that a selection be made within six months of a leader's resignation.

The party announced Thursday that Dave Hancock will take over as interim premier until a new leader is elected.

The topic will probably be front and centre at the next executive meeting, which PC party president Jim McCormick says will take place Monday. He thanked Redford after she resigned for putting Alberta and her party first.

Redford, who will stay on as MLA for Calgary Elbow, said that too much time has been spent over the last few weeks on questions of loyalty, allegiances and character.

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock and Alison Redford make their way to a press conference to announce the premier's resignation in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

But political scientist Lori Williams says it's rare to see a leader pushed out of office so quickly after being elected, especially when the Alberta economy is strong and the government just passed a balanced budget.

"It's probably the best move for the party. Now the question is can the party heal from the various divisions that have emerged, or erupted, in the past few weeks," said Williams.

Calgary Tory MLA Len Webber abandoned his party to sit as an independent in protest against Redford's leadership, and associate minister Donna Kennedy-Glans followed just days later.

Williams said the party must now run a leadership race at a time when it is behind in fundraising and the Wildrose opposition seems to be filling its war chest.

"It's a huge deficit to make up," said Williams. 

In power too long?

Jack Mintz, who heads the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, says the leadership change signifies what happens when one party dominates for so long. The PCs have been in power for 43 years.

"The only way you can get change sometimes is you have to have an internal fight in order to get new leadership put in. And I think that's kind of indicative of what Alberta does as opposed to what you find in other provinces where you get one party replacing another party for a period and you have a much more competitive political landscape."

Mintz believes Deputy Premier ​Dave Hancock is well-suited to the role of interim leader — someone who has to lead the province with credibilty but doesn't want to join the leadership race.

But now the speculation begins as to who will throw their names in the ring to replace Redford and be the face of the party for the next provincial election. 

Williams says bringing someone in from the outside would be best to help renew the party's brand.

Who will run?

Many believed Minister of Service Alberta Doug Griffiths and Finance Minister Doug Horner, who both made unsuccessful bids for the leadership in 2011, would likely run.

But Griffiths told reporters Thursday morning that he doesn't think he will, saying he has family considerations.

Gary Mar, a frontrunner in the last leadership race before being overtaken by Redford, was a possible candidate but CBC has confirmed he will not be seeking the position. He is currently Alberta’s representative in Asia.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes, a former MP and Alberta health board chair, has also been mentioned as well as Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk and Energy Minister Diana McQueen.

Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice has many supporters in Alberta who would like to see him take a stab at it, even though his name is still raised as a potential successor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

One of the more interesting names surfacing in the online world of political junkies is former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel.

The leadership race will see some changes this time after the party amended its constitution last fall so that only two names will be on the final ballot.

The preferential ballot system had been in place since 1989. If a candidate failed to gain an outright majority to win on the first ballot, the top three candidates would move to a second and final ballot. It allowed political longshots a chance to win leadership race.

Meanwhile, the party has seen its fair share of leaders in the past decade.

Redford replaced former premier Ed Stelmach, who was also forced out by his party. He warned at the time of the rise of "U.S.-style negative attack politics" that focus on personality rather than on issues.

Stelmach replaced Ralph Klein, who resigned as premier in 2006 after his party gave him only a lukewarm endorsement during a leadership review.

Party can't be fixed, says opposition

"For the second time in three years, the premier of Alberta has resigned," said Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith in a statement.

"And for the third time in eight years, the PC party will be looking for a new leader." 

She says Redford was elected to change the PC party direction and was hailed as a new kind of leader that could fix their party. 

"I have no doubt she intended to be that leader," Smith said.

"I have no doubt that Albertans hoped she'd be that leader. But what we witnessed during her short 29 months as premier is the clearest indication yet that the PC party simply can't be fixed."

She says Redford's resignation in the middle of the spring session will paralyze the government.

"So for six months everything is on hold while the PCs sort out their internal bickering and I think it's unfortunate for Albertans [that] the business of the province is not getting done," said Smith.