Alberta cabinet minister taking cautious approach to Tory leadership decision

Alberta’s municipal affairs minister says he’s interested in running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to commit.

CALGARY — Alberta’s municipal affairs minister says he’s interested in running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to commit.

Ken Hughes said Monday that he has set up a committee and a website to gauge public support before he dips more than his toe into the leadership pool.

“It’s not clear that I am going to run. I’m prepared to have a thoughtful conversation with Albertans. I’m prepared to listen,” Hughes said.

“I think it’s really important that the PC party and the government of Alberta to date demonstrate that they can listen and are prepared to listen to Albertans.”

Hughes said he started receiving emails and phone calls from supporters encouraging him to run immediately after Alison Redford announced last week that she was resigning as premier.

He said he’ll probably have an answer about his support in about two weeks.

“What I need to determine is whether … there is a material amount of support in caucus from all corners of the province. In order to be a leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the premier of Alberta you need to be a leader within caucus.”

Hughes, who just turned 60, wouldn’t reveal what kind of support he has right now.

He served as a member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993. He was the chairman of Alberta Health Services from 2008 to 2011, and was first elected to the Alberta legislature in 2012.

Hughes served as energy minister before taking over his current portfolio.

In another development, a website popped up urging the public to draft Conservative Sen. Scott Tannas for the job. The site describes him as a respected businessman, listener and consensus builder and says he would bring a “fresh approach to leadership.”

Tannas, a resident of High River south of Calgary, did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

PC party officials were to meet Monday night in Red Deer to set out details for the leadership race.

Longtime political veteran Dave Hancock was sworn in as premier Sunday night. He will serve in that role until the party selects a permanent replacement for Redford, but has said he will not be a leadership candidate.

Hancock has also said he will respect the tradition that any ministers who decide to run for the top job must resign from cabinet to prevent any candidate from having an unfair advantage.

NDP critic Rachel Notley suggested that Hughes should immediately step aside as municipal affairs minister. She said his media conference in Calgary made it obvious he planned to entered the race.

“To say he is gathering input from Albertans is just another way of saying he is gathering support, resources and troops on the ground to become the leader of the PC party,” Notley said in a release.

Under party rules, the leadership race must last at least four months, but cannot go longer than six.

Hughes thinks Albertans would favour a shorter race.

“As Albertans we’re keen to get on with life, usually, and to move forward, and I would encourage people to do that.”

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