Alberta's next premier says she expects to foster a close relationship with the federal Conservative government in Ottawa, despite the progressive platform she took in her winning bid to lead the provincial Tories.

Alison Redford rallied from behind to deliver a stunning electoral upset Sunday morning, earning the right to become the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party's next leader -- and the province's first female premier.

Some of Redford's critics had said she was too liberal to win the position, and too progressive to maintain a close relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Redford told CTV's Question Period on Sunday that she had been a member of Conservative parties for many years, and has known Harper since he was in his early 20s.

"The relationship between Alberta and Canada is very important and it is a priority for me," she said.

"I think we are going to have a close relationship. The agenda that we need to set together really speaks to the success of Canada."

Harper released a statement on Sunday, congratulating Redford on being named premier-designate of Alberta.

"I look forward to working with premier-designate Redford on issues that matter to Albertans and all Canadians, including the challenges posed by the current global economic climate," Harper said.

Redford, 46, delivered a surprising last-minute victory in the Alberta Tories' leadership race, passing presumptive favourite Gary Mar in the last round of polling.

Redford came back from behind to win after placing second to Mar on the preferential ballot. The preferential ballot system sees each voter name a first and a second option. Votes cast for the candidate who placed third were redistributed to the voter's second option.

Mar earned 33,233 (42.5 per cent) of the original votes, with Redford receiving 28,993 votes (37.1 per cent) and third-placed contestant Doug Horner receiving 15,950 votes (20.4 per cent).

After Horner's votes were redistributed, Redford's 37,104 votes beat out Mar's 35,491.

Stelmach, who has already submitted his letter of resignation, will remain premier until Redford is officially sworn in.

"My sense over the campaign was that we were talking about issues that mattered to families, and those are certainly the issues that matter to women. If that was the case then I am proud of that; it is important to engage people," Redford told Question Period.

"We are an incredibly diverse province. We have got a young population, a well-educated population that really sees and understands what Alberta can be in Canada and the world."

Redford's professional victory comes just days after she suffered a personal loss. Her mother died from an infection on Tuesday, at the age of 71.

"She'd have a smile on her face. It would be a bit of a wry smile, because that is what she usually had," Redford said. "My mother was a hard worker all of her life, as was my grandmother. I'm sure she would be proud…. We are close family and we will think of her as often as we can."

The Alberta Progressive Conservatives' second round of leadership voting was held on Saturday, but the results were not confirmed until after early Sunday morning.

Mars' supporters cried and hugged each other as the votes were announced; Mar conceded after calling for recounts in several close ridings.

Mar, the former health minister under premier Ralph Klein, had been dubbed the front-runner after quitting his post as Alberta's envoy to Washington to enter the race.

He captured 41 per cent of the vote in the first round of balloting two weeks ago, but failed to gail a majority on Sept. 17, when the list of candidates was culled to three.

The lead had still been considered so insurmountable that some Mar supporters pressured Horner and Redford to concede for the sake of the party.

Redford ran a risky but ultimately successful campaign by connecting to "hyper-engaged" voters over social media with her own ideas and personality.

It was a strategy similar to the one used by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a campaign on which her manager Stephen Carter played a role.

Radford also campaigned, in a way, against Stelmach's record, attacking his decision not to order an inquiry into deaths in the province's health care system. She also promised to restore $107 million that had been cut from the education system.

She will now face the challenge of uniting a party that has been battered recently by the right-wing Wildrose Party of Alberta.

Since Stlemach took over the Alberta PC party, three Tory members have crossed the floor of the legislature to join the Wildrose party.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith congratulated Redford on her success, adding that she now had to focus on the province's deteriorating finances and eroding public services.

"After running a leadership campaign focused more on what is best for the party as opposed to what is best for Albertans, Redford now inherits full responsibility for these messes. It is her job to clean them up," Smith said in a statement. "If she doesn't, Wildrose will be there to remind her."

With files from The Canadian Press