Stephen Mandel confirms he will seek Alberta Party leadership

Former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minster Stephen Mandel joins three other candidates in the race: Calgary MLA Rick Fraser, Calgary energy lawyer Kara Levis and Jacob Huffman.

Former Edmonton mayor joins 3 other candidates in race to succeed Greg Clark

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel makes his way to announce his candidacy for leadership of the Alberta Party in Edmonton Wednesday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press )

Former Edmonton mayor and Alberta PC health minister Stephen Mandel has confirmed he is running for the leadership of the Alberta Party.

Mandel, whose candidacy had been confirmed by CBC sources Monday, made it official Wednesday at a news conference at the Boyle Street Community League in Edmonton. 

"Our current political leaders have tried so hard to make this a polarized province," Mandel said. "The unification of the far right and entrenchment on the left — the diverse and fair-minded small 'c' conservative values have fallen from political view."

Mandel ,72, joins Calgary MLA Rick Fraser and Calgary energy lawyer Kara Levis in the leadership race. Another candidate named Jacob Huffman says he is running, but his website suggests he is parodying the Alberta Party's connection with former PC MLAs and supporters. 

Fraser is a former PC MLA who has recently been sitting as an Independent.

In his campaign kickoff speech, Mandel cited the need for fiscal responsibility while adequately funding education, health and support for seniors. He laid out a vision for Alberta that allows people to express their culture, religion, gender and sexual orientation. 

He acknowledged some may have concerns about his age, but argued people of his generation still have energy and passion and are not ready to be put out to pasture. Nonetheless, he said his campaign would include and even focus on the youth of the province. 

'Upside-down' Alberta 

Mandel started dropping hints about his candidacy with a series of tweets on Monday and Tuesday. The tweets contained the date "Jan. 10, 2018" and upside-down pictures of various sites in Alberta, includng the Alberta legislature, the Calgary Tower and Edmonton's Muttart Conservatory. 

"It was our way to say that Alberta is currently upside-down, the same as Edmonton was when I first ran for mayor," Mandel told his news conference. "We were a city searching for a future, without a vision. And at that time, I could not sit idly by and allow Edmonton to flounder. 

"Much the same exists in our province today. And again, I cannot sit by and not do anything." 

Mandel told reporters he wasn't comfortable with the direction of the United Conservative Party, which was created last summer after a majority vote by PC and Wildrose members in favour of merging into a single entity. 

Encouraged by supporters

He said he was encouraged to run for the Alberta Party leadership by supporters. 

Mandel is launching his leadership bid two months after the death of his daughter, Rachel, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2015. 

"Our loss has been something that has been incredibly difficult to deal with but we also have to move forward with our lives," he said. "My wife is in support of me doing this."

If he wins the leadership, Mandel said he intends to field Alberta Party candidates in all 87 ridings in the 2019 provincial election. He plans to run for a provincial seat in the next election, regardless of whether he wins the leadership. 

The contest was triggered by the resignation of Alberta Party leader Greg Clark in November.

The new leader will be announced Feb. 27.