Progressive Conservatives sweep four byelections

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice won a seat in the legislature Monday as his Progressive Conservatives defeated all comers in four byelection races.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jim Prentice won a seat in the legislature Monday as his Progressive Conservatives defeated all comers in four byelection races.

Prentice, the 58-year-old former MP and Conservative cabinet minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, handily defeated Wildrose candidate Kathy Macdonald in Calgary-Foothills.

Health Minister Stephen Mandel outlasted NDP candidate Bob Turner and Tim Grover of the Opposition Wildrose party in Edmonton-Whitemud.

In Calgary-Elbow, Education Minister Gordon Dirks edged out rivals John Fletcher of the Wildrose party and Greg Clark, leader of the Alberta Party.

In Calgary-West, PC candidate Mike Ellis, a Calgary police sergeant held on to defeat Wildrose candidate Sheila Taylor in the tightest race of the night.

Prentice called the byelections a month ago after winning the party’s leadership race to replace former premier Alison Redford.

All four ridings have been traditional Tory strongholds.

Prentice had asked voters to focus on the changes he has made aimed at restoring public trust following the Redford era.

Redford resigned as premier earlier this year amid revelations she used taxpayer money to fund lavish travel and office perks for her and her inner circle.

Prentice has been on a whirlwind tour of announcements since taking office on September 15.

He has put the controversial government air fleet up for sale and axed changes to public-sector pensions. He has announced millions of dollars to build more schools and create long-term care beds for seniors to free up backlogs in hospitals.

He has stressed that the Redford era is over and that Alberta is “under new management.”

Opposition politicians have urged voters to not fall for second chances.

The Wildrose party aired radio and TV ads during the campaign urging voters to “send the PCs a message.”

It was a bitter campaign, particularly around Dirks, a former pastor and one-time head of the Calgary Board of Education.

Appointed to the porfolio by Prentice, Dirks had been accused by opponents of abusing his cabinet position to aid himself in the Calgary-Elbow race.

Last week, it was revealed Dirks ordered up two modular classrooms for a school in the constituency, leapfrogging other schools deemed a higher priority.

Dirks had also been photographed turning sod for future schools that have yet to find a builder.

In Edmonton-Whitemud Mandel successfully leveraged his name recognition as the former mayor of Edmonton to help win.

Edmonton-Whitemud has also been the longtime riding of former PC cabinet minister and premier Dave Hancock.

It wasn’t an easy win for Mandel.

During the campaign he dealt with public anger over lack of care beds for seniors, bottlenecks in emergency wards, and cancelled surgeries.

In Calgary-West, the Wildrose party had high hopes for Taylor, a former trustee and chair of the Calgary Board of Education. The former oil executive resigned her trustee seat with the board earlier this month when she signed up to run.

The seat came open when former energy minister Ken Hughes resigned to return to the private sector.

The byelection outcomes don’t have the potential to change the balance of power.

The Tories hold 61 seats in the 87-seat legislature when the byelections were called. The Wildrose have 17, the Liberals five and the NDP four.

A general election is mandated by law to be held in the spring of 2016.

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