Alberta PCs launch leadership race in Lethbridge

Candidates will hold a debate at party’s policy conference in Red Deer

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The race to determine the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party officially kicks off Saturday night.

The party will launch the campaign at an event in Lethbridge, with the leader picked at a delegated convention in Calgary on March 18.

Progressive Conservative house leader Richard Starke and Donna Kennedy-Glans, a former PC MLA, announced their candidacies this week.

Former Conservative MP Jason Kenney and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson are also running.

The party has been without a permanent leader for about 1 1/2 years.

The last leader, former premier Jim Prentice, announced he was leaving politics after the PCs were defeated by the NDP in the May 2015 general election.

Calgary MLA Ric McIver has been serving as the interim leader.

The leadership campaign will focus not only on a new leader but also on the future of the party.

Kenney is running on a platform to dissolve the party and merge it with the Wildrose to form a new conservative coalition he says is critical to dethroning Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP.

The other three candidates say they will focus on rebuilding the party. Last spring, members voted to not merge with the Wildrose but to focus on repairing and revitalizing the organization.

The PCs are the third provincial party, with nine members in the 87-seat legislature.

The leadership candidates will hold a debate in early November at the party’s policy conference in Red Deer.