EDMONTON — Former Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Stephen Mandel is the new leader of the Alberta Party.
Mandel collected 66 per cent of the vote Tuesday on the first round of voting on a preferential ballot, defeating Calgary legislature member Rick Fraser and energy lawyer Kara Levis.
Mandel said the goal now is nothing less than forming government in the 2019 election.
“The Alberta Party is not just here to be an alternative. We’re not here to be an also ran. We’re not here to talk about (the election in) 2023,” Mandel told cheering supporters after the results were announced on the University of Alberta campus.
“We’re here to earn your vote in every single Alberta community and to be the first choice for government in the next election.
“Winning in 2019 means winning the hearts and minds of Albertans in every corner of our province.”
Mandel captured 3,045 of the 4,613 votes cast online or by phone by party members over the last three days.
Levis finished second with 838 votes, for 18 per cent. Fraser was third, with 729 votes for a 16 per cent share.
It’s the third go-round in politics for Mandel, 72.
He was mayor of Edmonton for about a decade, ending in 2013, overseeing the revitalization of the downtown, including a new arena for the Edmonton Oilers.
He then moved to provincial politics, serving as health minister in the previous Progressive Conservative government but was voted out, along with the party, in the 2015 win by Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP.
Mandel inherits a party which has three members in the legislature but won just two per cent of the popular vote in 2015.
The leadership vote was called after current leader Greg Clark announced in November he was stepping down.
The race jump-started membership. The party had just 1,024 members late last year, but now has more than 6,500.
In the 2012 election, it ran 38 candidates but polled just 1.3 per cent of the vote and got shut out. In 2015, it ran three fewer candidates and polled 2.2 per cent, but did manage to elect Clark in Calgary Elbow.
“Let’s get to work,” said Mandel.
“We must significantly ramp up our efforts in fundraising, candidate recruitment and, most importantly, building constituency associations.”
The party bills itself as a true centrist alternative — socially progressive and fiscally conservative — compared to Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP and Jason Kenney’s right-centre United Conservatives.
The caucus has grown due to floor-crossings.
NDP backbencher Karen McPherson joined last October and Fraser left the United Conservatives last month to sign up for the party and the leadership race.
A new board of directors has been in place since November, with representatives from across the province.
New blood has come on board including former progressive conservative strategists Stephen Carter and Susan Elliott, as well as former PC party president Katherine O’Neill.