Jim Prentice has been named the new leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and premier designate.
Prentice received 17,963 votes on the first ballot, easily defeating Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk, who obtained 2,742 and 2,681 votes respectively.
“I’m standing here as an Albertan with a sense of pride and feeling of humility,” Prentice told a cheering crowd after the results were announced at the Expo Centre in Edmonton.
Calling his victory “a new beginning for Alberta,” Prentice said he would prioritize restoring Albertans’ trust in their government.
“Let me say, as your leader and the person that represents those promises, there will be no excuses,” he told the gathered crowd.
Prentice also thanked his two competitors in the race: “These men worked hard for the summer and I want to thank them and everyone that worked on their behalf.”
As premier-designate, Prentice will step into the role that has been filled on an interim basis by veteran MLA and cabinet minister Dave Hancock since Alison Redford stepped down as premier in March amid party turmoil over her expenses and leadership style.
Prentice told reporters afterward that there will be a week-long transition period where it will be decided when he will be sworn-in as premier.
He will now have to seek a seat in the Alberta legislature.
During the campaign, he said that he would not run in Calgary-Elbow, which became vacant when Redford resigned her seat last month. On Saturday, he deflected questions about when or where he would run.
As for the 2016 provincial election, Prentice said he planned to win back Albertans, who have soured on the PC party amid the spending scandals of Redford’s time in office.
“This is a viable party with a future,” he said. “Albertans will see that immediately and we will re-earn trust and respect one vote at a time. And I intend to start that tomorrow morning.”
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McIver congratulated Prentice and said it was now time for the party to come together and be a team.
He also addressed rumours that he would jump to the Wildrose Party if he was unsuccessful at winning the PC leadership.
“I can assure you I will be part of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta team. I will be supporting our new premier, Jim Prentice.
“I’m on the team. You can look for my name on a PC ballot in 2016.”
As for Lukaszuk, he was not seen in the conference centre after the results were announced. Instead, he sent a message out on Twitter.
“To every single Albertan and all volunteers … thank you,” he wrote. “I will continue to serve you any way I can.”
Read Prentice’s full speaking notes:
Reaction pouring in
Moments after the announcement was made, Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Prentice on his victory.
“I look forward to working with Mr. Prentice on issues of importance for Albertans and all Canadians, including the economy, responsible resource development and job creation,” he said in a statement.
Other Alberta politicians soon followed suit, with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi writing, “Congratulations to Premier-designate Jim Prentice. We have a lot of work ahead of us on many important issues that matter to all Calgarians. The new premier will have an eager partner at City Hall.”
Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason commended Prentice’s personal commitment to his campaign, but appeared to remain cautious about the party’s future.
“It is my hope that now that this leadership race is over we can return our focus to the issues that matter to Albertans, and away from the petty mud-slinging and infighting that we’ve seen from the PCs over the last few months,” he said in a statement.
Mason’s sentiments were echoed by Wildrose Party of Alberta Leader Danielle Smith.
“Mr. Prentice has a tremendous road ahead of him in order to rebuild trust with Albertans and get a grip on a government that has spiralled out of control,” she said. “Albertans will now look to him to start repairing the government’s damaged reputation and making progress on the many challenges we face as a province.
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith said he hoped Prentice would continue Hancock’s efforts to regain the trust of provincial workers.
The two days of voting were plagued by troubles with an electronic voting system used by the party for the first time. People complained about getting the system to work so they gave up.
In all, 23,000 votes were cast, a considerable drop compared with first ballot in 2011 when 59,000 party members voted.
Party executive director Kelley Charlebois told reporters the low turnout can be explained by the “challenges” faced by the party.
“You guys have covered the stories that have hurt us over the past year — over the last couple of years. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
As for the new e-voting system, Charlebois said that the matter will likely be up for discussion at the party’s AGM in November.
“You talk to folks in the room tonight. Some of them say, ‘One minute and my vote was cast and it was great.’ You talk to some others, they say they were very frustrated with the process, ‘Let’s go back to paper balloting.'”
Prentice is a Calgary lawyer who became a Conservative member of Parliament in 2004 and held several cabinet portfolios. He left federal politics in 2010 to become an executive with the CIBC, where he is currently on an unpaid leave of absence.
Prentice has never been an Alberta MLA and campaigned as an “outsider” promising to clean up the mess left behind by the Redford government.
As the only candidate from outside the caucus, he secured the support of every sitting PC MLA and most of the PC party establishment.
Throughout the leadership campaign, Prentice has run a typical front-runner style campaign. He travelled through Alberta meeting with stakeholder groups and party supporters, while carefully managing his media exposure.
His campaign briefly tripped up when it became known that party memberships were being given away by his campaign team, prompting criticism from the other candidates that Prentice was ‘buying votes.”
In the midst of the controversy, Prentice announced that if selected, he would impose term limits on MLAs and the premier’s office – a suggestion that was quickly decried as unconstitutional and unfair.
CBC reporters Michelle Bellefontaine (@MBellefontaine), John Archer (@cbcarch), Briar Stewart (@briarstewart), Terry Reith (@TerryReithCBC) and Paul Moore (@PaulMooreCBC) tweeted from the floor of the Edmonton Expo Centre.
You can read their tweets here: