01/12/2012 04:40 EST | Updated 03/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Premier Alison Redford hints at April or May for next Alberta election

EDMONTON - Alberta politicians go back to work at the legislature Feb.7, but Premier Alison Redford says no one should expect an election campaign to start soon afterward.

Redford says she wants to pass the budget in the spring sitting before dropping the writ to begin a 28-day campaign.

By law, polling day must be held sometime in March, April or May, meaning Redford could call an election as early as Feb. 2 or as late as May 3.

She has always indicated there would be a budget introduced before an election, but hadn't confirmed until Thursday that she wanted it passed before a campaign.

Budget approval usually involves six weeks of debate in the house. That would put polling day in April at the earliest.

In a conference call from Toronto, Redford said she has been clear about her intentions all along.

"I have said that we would have a throne speech. We would bring the budget forward. We would have a spring session of the legislature and then we would go to the polls," she said.

"I've never changed my position on that."

Redford will be seeking her first mandate as premier since winning the Tory leadership and replacing Ed Stelmach last fall.

The new election law was passed by her government in the fall sitting. It followed up on a commitment she made during the leadership campaign for a fixed election date.

Opposition critics say Redford broke that promise because the law instead allows for a three-month election window that still gives the Tories the advantage of calling the vote at a time most propitious for them.

Redford has countered that the fixed window works better because it is tight enough to deliver certainty while avoiding clashes with holidays or unexpected events.