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Alison Redford Leadership Vote 2013: Majority Support For Premier

RED DEER, Alta. - Alberta Premier Alison Redford received a strong vote of confidence from members of her Progressive Conservative party in balloting at the party's convention Saturday.

Redford received 77 per cent of the vote in secret ballots cast by 1,197 delegates.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," said Redford, as the hundreds of delegates in the ballroom gave her a standing ovation and chanted "Redford! Redford! Redford!"

"I'm so proud to be a member of this party and all that we've accomplished together."

The vote, required within two years of an election win, has become a potential trap for Tory leaders ever since then-premier Ralph Klein received just 55 per cent support in 2006 and quit the job soon after.

The 77 per cent Redford received matched the figure that her predecessor, Ed Stelmach, received in 2009. Stelmach was out as premier within two years, resigning after he could not quell infighting over his leadership.

The voters included past and present legislature members, youth delegates and 15 representatives from each of the 87 constituency associations.

The delegates voted on the question of whether to hold a leadership race. Of the 1,197 delegates who voted, 920 said no to the race.

Heading into the vote, Redford never said what she considered would be an acceptable number. Party supporters had said they would consider anything over the minimum 50 per cent plus one acceptable, but worked hard to get the vote out.

At the conference, supporters handed out stickers urging delegates to vote for Redford. Buttons that read "I'm With Alison" were plentiful.

On Friday night, Redford was introduced like a rock star prior to her keynote speech to delegates.

She came down the aisle to a spotlight as her name was announced with a drawn out "Alissssson Reddddforrrrrd!!!"

There was also a long video of testimonials to Redford's leadership with pictures of her talking to Albertans or viewing flood devastation. One person on the video said while the leader is known as Redford to the province, to the party "she's Alison."

Redford avoided criticizing opposition parties in Friday's speech, but in a Saturday question-and-answer session prior to the vote count, accused them of hindering flood recovery efforts after the catastrophic rains in southern Alberta this summer.

"One thing that this opposition has done throughout this flood issue is they've tried to politicize it, they've tried to tear people down, they've tried to undermine and pit community against community," said Redford.

Political opponents have criticized the Tories for not implementing flood mitigation measures that had been called for after floods hit southern Alberta in 2005.

Redford, answering a question about her party's zero tolerance approach to bullying, also spoke about getting bullied as a child.

"I was bullied. And I tell you that to this day still when I'm in groups of people, doesn't matter how old we get, I can kind of tell the people who were bullied.

"When you've been in those shoes, you have a different appreciation for everybody else, and that's important for us to remember."

Party members debated resolutions behind closed doors and did not make the resolutions themselves available to the media.

The party affirmed Redford's promise to not bring in a sales tax. They also recommended the province do more to bring in more workers, pursue flood preparedness issues and review the proportion of how much students pay for post-secondary education versus how much the government pays.

Red Deer Tory MLA Cal Dallas said delegates also voted to look at bringing back health premiums, but he said it's only a discussion topic for now and will not be part of the next budget.

While Redford promised delegates that her team would now get back to work to win the 2016 election, recent polls suggest they have some work to do.

The PCs have been neck and neck with the opposition Wildrose party while Redford has trailed Wildrose leader Danielle Smith in personal popularity.

Last month, Wildrose members gave Smith a 90 per cent vote of confidence in their leadership review.

The PCs ended 2012 almost $800,000 in debt, and in the first nine months of 2013 have raised $1.4 million compared with $1.9 million for the Wildrose.

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