By JOSH ALDRICH
There are two schools of thought about the increased entry fee to run for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party — it’s too limiting or it separates the serious contenders from everyone else.
Former PC MLA Luke Oullette for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake falls into the latter category.
Oullette said if the candidate cannot afford to come up with $50,000 to enter, how can they expect to properly finance a campaign?
“It’s very, very expensive to run a campaign,” said Oullette, noting it is costly to travel around the province to meet people and advertise.
Oullette said if someone is serious about running, they will find the money, and that includes leaning on supporters who will become essential to winning the leadership race.
The party also needs the extra cash to put on the election, after donations have fallen off.
The increased fee to enter the race was one of the decisions made at Monday night’s board of governors meeting for the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta in Red Deer.
The meeting set out the parameters to elect a new leader to replace Premier Alison Redford, who officially resigned on Sunday.
Dave Hancock was sworn in as the new interim premier on Sunday, but he has already said he will not run for the full-time position.
One of the biggest changes made was increasing the cost to enter from $40,000 in the 2011 leadership race to its new level.
Oullette, who lost his seat in the 2012 election to MLA Kerry Towle of the Wildrose party, says the party needs a “white knight in shining armour,” who is not tainted by controversy.
“We need a real common sense person that’s there to represent all Albertans and is there to represent the common person.”
Oullette, 60, also said he was undecided about whether to run for the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake seat again in 2016.
Dave Baugh, the head instructor of Red Deer College’s political science program, says the party needs to cast as wide a net as possible for its new leader, they need a “big tent” mentality.
Instead, Baugh views the entry fee as hindering the party’s ability to do that, especially when compared to similar recent leadership races.
“At face value they look less welcoming and more exclusive, and that was the criticism of them,” said Baugh.
The Alberta Tories have jumped the fee from $15,000 in 2006, to $40,000 with $15,000 refundable in 2011, to $50,000 non-refundable this year. The Alberta Liberal Party had an $10,000 entry fee in 2008.
The only other province where entry fees have hit $50,000 is Ontario, where the Liberals in 2013 and the Tories in 2009 hit $50,000.
The other notable change made Monday night was in the two-vote system. If a second vote is needed — a candidate requires more than 50 per cent of the vote to win on Sept. 6 — there will be a second vote between the top two vote-getters on Sept. 20. Previously, the top three candidates moved on to the second vote.