Brian Jean elected new leader of Wildrose Party
Former MP takes 55 per cent of the vote in Saturday's poll
The new leader of the Wildrose says he is ready to come out of his corner swinging, ready to lead the party into an anticipated spring election against Alberta's Progressive Conservatives.
"Not only are we ready to fight, not only can we fight and will we fight, but we will win. We will take them on everywhere and we will win," Brian Jean told a crowd in Calgary after being crowned the new leader of Alberta's Official Opposition.
Jean, 52, captured 4,792 votes, or about 55 per cent of the total. In second place was Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes (40 per cent) followed by former Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk (5 per cent).
The leadership of the party has been vacant since former leader Danielle Smith crossed the floor with eight other Wildrose MLAs to join the ruling Progressive Conservative party in December.
Jean served as the MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca for eight years after being elected in 2004. He said he decided to get into provincial politics after experiencing frustration with Alberta's health-care system while caring for his 24-year-old son.
He briefly suspended his campaign a week before the vote, following his son's death from an undisclosed illness.
Jean has also taken aim at the budget presented by Jim Prentice's PC government Thursday, saying he would concentrate on curbing spending and reducing taxes in Alberta.
"I think this is a phony budget. If you look at the numbers, they don't make sense," he said. "If you realize what they are doing, you will see that what they are doing is an introduction to new taxes. And they're going to float the PST," he said.
'I would never betray my family'
Shortly after the vote, Smith was defeated in her bid for the PC nomination in her riding of Highwood. Jean, who has sharply criticized Smith for crossing the floor, said he would not follow her example.
“I don’t believe in stabbing your family in the back. This is a family … I would never betray my family."
Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth, who served as the party's interim leader until Jean's election, said she was excited to have him leading the party.
“Brian is going to just do what is right for Albertans,” she said.
The newly minted leader will have little time to settle into his new role, as Prentice is expected to call a provincial election in the coming weeks.