Red Deer MLAs back Prentice in PC leadership race

Red Deer’s two MLAs have thrown their support behind Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Prentice, who formally launched his campaign on Wednesday.

Red Deer’s two MLAs have thrown their support behind Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Prentice, who formally launched his campaign on Wednesday.

Cal Dallas, Red Deer South MLA and minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski are among the list of 45 out of the 58 PC MLAs who have endorsed Prentice, a former federal cabinet minister.

“Having known Jim for some time, I’ve come to admire his approach to politics,” said Dallas. “He has a real passion for Alberta and I see the commitment he’s prepared to make. So based on my personal knowledge of him and what I’ve seen him do, I’m very happy to be supporting him.”

He said Prentice will take a common-sense leadership approach and is an avid relationship builder. With Prentice at the helm of the party, Dallas added it would also be a positive for Central Albertans.

“He understands how the economy of Alberta works, how important accessing international markets is, the importance of diversification and to make sure that the entrepreneurs, innovators have opportunities moving forward. That’s really what Central Alberta is all about . . . energy services, agriculture, manufacturing, all of that. And that comes with a very strong commitment to education and environment. These are the pieces that are important to Central Alberta.”

Dallas said while no dates have been set, he fully expects to see Prentice make a campaign stop sometime soon in Red Deer.

Jablonski, who has known Prentice for the past 12 years through government relations, echoed Dallas, saying Prentice is a “highly honourable” person.

“I know he’s done some good things with our aboriginal communities . . . and he’s very environmentally tuned in,” she said. “I think he really means what he says and that’s important.”

Prentice, a lawyer for 20 years, was elected as MP for Calgary North Centre in 2004. Over the years, he managed the federal cabinet portfolios for Industry, Environment, Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Also, while in Stephen Harper’s government, he served as the senior political minister for Alberta from 2006 until the end of 2010.

“When he ran provincially he lost to the NDP,” said Stephen Merredew, president of the Red Deer federal NDP riding association, speaking about the 1986 election. “I think most people would describe him as being shadowy.”

The race for command of the PC party began after former premier Alison Redford resigned in March.

Prentice, who filed his nomination package last Friday, was the first official candidate with his hat in the ring.

Thomas Lukaszuk, the former jobs minister, announced Thursday he will be picking up his nomination package and running for the leadership.

Ric McIver, who stepped down from his position as Alberta’s infrastructure minister earlier this month to join the race, announced he would be running a couple weeks ago but is still in the process of collecting the required 500 signatures from party members before filing his papers. Candidates have to collect 100 names from each region in the province: Edmonton, Calgary, Central Alberta, and the north and south areas.

McIver was in Red Deer on Saturday at the public market to amass more signatures and spread his message.

Alberta’s former municipal affairs minister, Ken Hughes, declared his intention to run for the leadership before McIver but dropped out of the race last week, saying he was supporting Prentice.

In addition to the signatures, candidates have to put down a $20,000, non-refundable deposit will have to pay another $30,000 when nominations close on May 30.

The party will vote on Sept. 6. Any Albertan age 14 and up who has a PC party membership is entitled to cast a ballot.

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