ALBERTA

Alison Redford Leadership Vote: Premier Won't Speculate On Outcome

11/20/2013 05:05 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Alberta, Canada, Premier Alison Redford speaks to reporters as she arrives for meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she's not dwelling on a party leadership vote this weekend.

"I really haven't given it any thought," Redford said Wednesday after reporters asked her about the vote coming up at the Progressive Conservative party's annual general meeting in Red Deer.

"We're really busy with the business of government right now, and the number will be what the number will be."

Delegates to the meeting will vote by secret ballot starting Friday on whether to have a leadership race. The party's constitution says the vote must be held no more than two years after an election win.

Redford needs more than half the delegates to support her to stay on as leader.

Results are to be announced at the convention Saturday afternoon.

The vote has grown in importance since former premier Ralph Klein stepped down after receiving lukewarm support of 55 per cent in 2006.

Redford's predecessor, Ed Stelmach, received 77 per cent support in 2009, but was out within two years due to widespread dissatisfaction and squabbling over his leadership.

Redford has not said what number would make her comfortable.

Those who vote include the party's past and present members of the legislature, 15 delegates from each riding and youth delegates.

While Redford isn't making predictions, her political opponents say she has nothing to worry about.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Redford's team has been out twisting arms to make sure those who cast their ballots vote the right way.

"I'm sure they've got it all sewed up," said Mason.

"We know Tories who can't get a delegate spot because they're not supporting the premier. It's been fixed already and I'm expecting she'll do pretty well."

Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith agreed.

"I don't anticipate she's going to have any trouble," said Smith.

"It would look pretty terrible on the PCs if they switched leaders yet again two years after this one was chosen (and) after she won a majority mandate."

Smith said if Redford does get a low approval rating, part of the reason will be that people are losing confidence and trust in her.

"It's because she campaigned on one thing and then seems to have thrown over all of the promises that she made since she got elected."

Redford has been praised for her handling of flood recovery in southern Alberta and for working with other governments to open markets for Alberta's resources.

But she has been criticized for promising to balance the budget in the last election, then running up billions of dollars in debt to pay for infrastructure.

She also promised to invest in post-secondary education but instead cut $147 million in the last budget. About $50 million of that has since been put back in.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the issue is not the leadership review.

"Changing the leader does not fix the problems that Albertans face," said Sherman.

"It's an old, tired, outdated government that needs to be removed."

About 1,200 delegates will hear Redford speak on Friday night. They'll debate and discuss policy and fundraising issues on Saturday.

The Alberta Union of Public Employees has said its members will be in front of the hotel where the leadership convention is being held on Friday to protest closure of the Michener Centre in Red Deer.

The closure affects 125 Albertans with severe developmental disabilities.

Last month, Smith received a 90 per cent approval rating in a vote by Wildrose members at the party's annual convention.

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