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Ken Hughes quits Alberta cabinet, expected to run to be PCs leader

EDMONTON — Ken Hughes stepped down as Alberta’s municipal affairs minister Monday and is expected to soon launch a bid for the leadership of Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative party.

Hughes announced the decision on his leadership website but wouldn’t confirm to reporters he plans to run.

“I think this is an early indication that (a leadership bid) is likely, but there will be more about that later in the week,” Hughes said.

The first-term MLA for Calgary-West has also served as energy minister.

He was named to the Municipal Affairs portfolio in a cabinet shuffle under former premier Alison Redford in December.

He is a former MP, has launched an insurance brokerage firm, and was the founding chairman of Alberta Health Services, which is the day-to-day delivery arm for provincial health care.

He said his business experience is a key asset.

“I come from a business which is a trust business,” he said.

“I think trust is an important question in the province today. I believe confidence in the leadership of this province is an important question that will be discussed in the course of the next few months.”

No one has formally entered the race, but cabinet members including Jonathan Denis, Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver, and Diana McQueen have said they are considering it.

Interim Premier Dave Hancock took over from Redford and will run the province until PC party members vote in a new leader in September.

Hancock has said he expects his ministers to leave cabinet while running for the top job in order to avoid a conflict of interest.

The party called the leadership race after Redford resigned March 19 amid a spreading scandal over lavish travel expenses, flights, and perks for herself and her inner circle.

Those perks included work on a penthouse retreat for Redford on top of a government building on the legislature grounds.

The retreat, dubbed the “Sky Palace” by critics, has now been abandoned.

“There have been some decisions that have particularly come to light in the last few months which are completely and utterly indefensible,” said Hughes.

“Those are not consistent with my values, they are not consistent with ... the PC Party’s values and they’re not consistent with the values of Albertans.”

Lethbridge member of the legislature Greg Weadick will take over for Hughes in the Municipal Affairs job.

Redford remains a backbench MLA for her Calgary-Elbow riding.

She has a new desk in the legislature chamber, at the end of the second row on the government side near the media gallery overhang.

She was not in the legislature Monday, but the backbencher next to her, Yvonne Fritz, used her desk for paper overflow.

Hancock said Redford’s future is up to her.

“She has obligations to her constituents and she will, as a member elected by her constituency, fulfil her obligations in the way she thinks is appropriate to do so,” Hancock told reporters.

“She’ll make her decisions as how to participate and when to attend.”

He said he has not discussed the matter with Redford.

 
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