Redford's replacement Dave Hancock promises 'government Albertans want'
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 6:31AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:59PM EDT
Saying it’s been “a strange day or two,” Dave Hancock reassured Albertans Thursday that their Progressive Conservative government was moving forward, after his caucus selected him to be their interim leader and the province’s premier.
The five-term MLA was handed the post less than 24 hours after Alison Redford announced that she will step down effective Sunday. Redford had struggled to contain a caucus revolt and plummeting poll numbers.
Hancock gives a government in turmoil a steady, experienced hand. He is a five-term MLA who has served in cabinet posts such as health and education. Redford named him deputy premier during her most recent cabinet shuffle a few months ago.
“It’s been a strange day or two, but I’m humbled and privileged to have the confidence of caucus to provide leadership for the government as we go forward,” Hancock told reporters Thursday.
“We will be providing the government that Albertans want and expect, (that) they elected us to do.”
The government will get to work passing the recently tabled provincial budget and will move forward with other items on the spring legislative agenda, Hancock said. It will also not abandon the Building Alberta fund, a massive infrastructure project that includes hospitals, schools and roads, Hancock vowed.
Redford stepped down during a brief but emotional press conference at the Alberta legislature Wednesday night following months of growing voter outrage over what they perceived to be lavish travel spending, including a $45,000 trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
In recent days, two PC MLAs stepped down from caucus over leadership and other concerns.
“Quite simply, I am not prepared to allow party and caucus infighting to get in the way of building a better future for our province and for all Albertans,” Redford said Wednesday night. “And that is why I am announcing today that with a profound optimism for Alberta’s future, I am resigning as premier of Alberta, effective this Sunday.”
Redford will remain the MLA for Calgary-Elbow.
Redford did not attend the Thursday morning meeting at which caucus chose her successor. Instead, she arrived close to the meeting’s end alongside her daughter.
The search for a permanent new leader will begin after the party’s executive board meets on Monday.
“The mandate doesn’t change,” Hancock said. “It’s the mandate of government, it’s the mandate which MLAs were elected under and that’s what we will continue to do until the party finishes its process in selecting a new leader.”
The party must choose a new leader in no less than four months and in no more than six months. Voting rules have changed since Redford was selected in a come-from-behind victory in 2011. Now, if a candidate does not win an absolute majority on the first ballot, the top two candidates go to a runoff.
Several names have already emerged as potential leadership contenders, including Finance Minister Doug Horner who ran unsuccessfully three years ago.
Horner said Thursday he is unsure whether he will run again.
"Yesterday was a bit of a shock for a lot of people and we are going to take stock and make some decisions in the future about my future,” Horner said.
Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk also hasn’t ruled out making a leadership bid.
Meanwhile, Service Minister Doug Griffiths, another leadership hopeful who lost in 2011, said family matters will prevent him from running again.
Whoever wins will have a big job ahead pulling the party out of the basement of public opinion. The most recent polls put Redford’s support at a lowly 19 per cent.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who has the most to gain from a PC collapse, said the problem lies with the party, not its leader.
“This party is done and it cannot be fixed,” Smith said.
With files from CTV Edmonton and The Canadian Press