11/22/2013 07:09 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Alison Redford Leadership Review: Premier Delivers Pep Rally Speech Ahead Of Party Vote

CP/Jeff McIntosh
RED DEER, Alta. - Alberta Premier Alison Redford, facing a crucial vote on her leadership, delivered a pep rally speech to party faithful on Friday night.

"You are the very reason that we won in 2012, and you are the very reason that we will win again in 2016," Redford said to applause from 1,500 Progressive Conservative party delegates at the party's annual general meeting.

"We stick together through thick and thin, and we've done so through multiple generations with a shared vision for our province that's based on our compassion for Albertans and a profound passion for Alberta."

Redford told them their party is family, one that has grown and adapted through four decades in power, starting with former premier Lougheed on through Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and then Redford.

"The Alberta that we enjoy today comes from the support of generations of Progressive Conservative governments with vision, common sense, and the strength of their convictions," she said.

She said their work is the envy of the nation.

"We are Canada's economic engine, the place that others look to for inspiration because of our natural advantages, our people, and our resources."

The speech was different for Redford in that she didn't attack her political opponents, particularly the Wildrose party.

In speeches and scrums in her role as premier, Redford has often criticized the Wildrose, saying the Wildrose promise for prioritized spending on infrastructure is a "build-nothing plan."

In the lead-up to the convention, Redford mocked the Wildrose in speeches, noting the 550 delegates at the recent Wildrose convention pales compared with the Tories' 1,500.

The key event of the convention will be a secret vote by delegates on Redford's leadership.

Under the party's constitution, the vote must be held within two years following an election win.

Delegates — which include past and present MLAs, candidates, youth delegates and 15 representatives from each riding — vote to either endorse the current leader or to hold a leadership vote.

The vote has become contentious since 2006, when then-premier Ralph Klein received just 55 per cent support and decided to step down earlier than he originally planned.

In 2009, then-premier Ed Stelmach received a respectable 77 per cent but was out within two years due to party infighting.

Redford has not said what approval number she would be happy with, but some supporters have said they would be happy with even a simple 50 per cent plus one majority.

The voting results are to be announced Saturday afternoon.

Over the weekend, party members will also debate policy resolutions in closed door sessions.

Fundraising is expected to be one of the key topics. The PCs ended 2012 almost $800,000 in debt, and in the first nine months of 2013 have raised $1.4 million. The Wildrose by comparison has raised $1.9 million.

Some delegates who arrived late Friday afternoon were greeted by 150 protesters demanding Redford reverse the plan to close Red Deer's Michener Centre.

Braving chilly temperatures, the protesters, led by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, waved signs and chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Redford has got to go!"

Some of the motorists driving by in the afternoon rush hour honked their horns in support.

NDP Leader Brian Mason joined the protest.

"They (the Tories) are throwing people out in the cold, so maybe it's not a bad thing that we come out and endure a bit of the cold ourselves," said Mason.

"It's important to get a message to (the Tories) that what they're doing to the people in Michener is not acceptable. It's heartless and it's unnecessary."

The Michener centre is home to 125 developmentally disabled people, who are to be moved out to long-term care homes and supportive living facilities.

The government says this will provide better care for residents by getting them out of an institution, but the patients and their families say it's a plan to save money at the expense of decent patient care.

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