Thomas Lukaszuk, 45, was arguably the highest profile candidate during the leadership campaign but not necessarily for his policies or promises. As deputy premier under Alison Redford, the Edmonton MLA gained a reputation as a Question Period attack dog, viciously defending unpopular government decisions.
The veteran MLA was the target of damaging document leaks late in the race that he suggested were the work of rival campaigns. One leak sent to an Edmonton newspaper contained documents that could only have come from inside government. They detailed a $20,000 cellphone bill Lukaszuk racked up while on a personal trip to Poland in 2011.
The other damaging information was sent anonymously to the CBC. It revealed that while an MLA and minister, Lukaszuk had taken his daughter on government aircraft seven times between 2007 and 2011. Shortly after a scathing report this summer by Alberta’s auditor general, Lukaszuk reimbursed the province for the flights. The use of the government plane prompted accusations of hypocrisy by the other candidates who accused Lukaszuk of being part of the problem in the administration of Alison Redford.
Since the start of the campaign, Lukaszuk has framed himself as the anti-establishment insider who was demoted after speaking out about the problems in the Premier’s office. He has gathered support from Edmonton’s ethnic community and if chosen leader, Lukaszuk would become Alberta’s first immigrant Premier.
Ric McIver draws the bulk of his support from southern Alberta and Calgary where he previously served as on city council for three terms. As a rookie MLA in 2012, McIver, 56, held two cabinet portfolios before stepping down to seek the leadership of the PC party. Early in the campaign, he created headlines after participating in the annual “March for Jesus” organized by by an outspoken Calgary street pastor. McIver referred to the pastor as his friend and later admitted he “didn’t do his homework” when the church’s extremist views on homosexuality, abortion and divorce became widely known.
As Infrastructure Minister, McIver boasted it was his decision to “kill” the Skypalace, a private living quarters for Alison Redford atop the renovated Federal Building in Edmonton. A damning report by Alberta’s Auditor General revealed the project was never stopped but that plans for bedroom furniture and finishings were replaced by office furniture.
McIver’s platform includes listening to his “bosses” as premier, and pledging to maintain the operation of the Michener Centre, a residential care facility for severely disabled adults earmarked for closure by the Alberta government. The day before voting began, McIver’s campaign team released an attack-style radio commercial criticizing Jim Prentice for giving away party memberships.
Jim 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.
He’s currently on an unpaid leave of absence. Prentice, 58, has never been an Alberta MLA and has campaigned as an “outsider” who will clean up the mess left behind by the Alison Redford government. As the only candidate from outside the caucus, he has secured the support of every sitting PC MLA and most of the PC party establishment.
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. If chosen as the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, Jim Prentice’s first order of business will be to call a byelection to run for a seat in the Legislature.