RED DEER, Alta. - Alberta's Progressive Conservative party will pick its new leader, and the province's next premier, in September.
The party's board of directors, after a meeting Monday night, announced that party members will cast their ballots on Saturday, Sept. 6.
If no single candidate wins a majority of votes, the top two candidates will move on to a run-off ballot on Sept. 20.
"Every Albertan over the age of 14 who has purchased a PC membership will be eligible to vote," party president Jim McCormick told reporters after the three-hour meeting of the party's board of directors.
"Each candidate will have to pay a $50,000 non-refundable deposit as part of their nomination.
"We expect a tremendous group of qualified candidates to put their names forward."
No nomination deadline has been set yet.
The leadership race was called after Alison Redford resigned as premier last week.
Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock will serve as premier until the party picks its new leader, but has said he won't run to become party leader.
While no one has formally announced their candidacy, a number of cabinet ministers have said they're considering it.
Earlier Monday, Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes said he's interested in running for the leadership, but wants to set up a committee and a website to gauge public support before he commits.
"It's not clear that I am going to run. I'm prepared to have a thoughtful conversation with Albertans. I'm prepared to listen," Hughes said.
"I think it's really important that the PC party and the government of Alberta to date demonstrate that they can listen and are prepared to listen to Albertans."
Hughes said he started receiving emails and phone calls from supporters encouraging him to run immediately after Redford's resignation.
He said he'll probably have an answer about his support in about two weeks.
"What I need to determine is whether ... there is a material amount of support in caucus from all corners of the province. In order to be a leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the premier of Alberta you need to be a leader within caucus."
Hughes, who just turned 60, wouldn't reveal what kind of support he has right now.
He served as a member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993. He was the chairman of Alberta Health Services from 2008 to 2011, and was first elected to the Alberta legislature in 2012.
Hughes served as energy minister before taking over his current portfolio.
Hancock has said he will respect the tradition that any ministers who decide to run for the top job must resign from cabinet to prevent any candidate from having an unfair advantage.
NDP critic Rachel Notley suggested that means Hughes should immediately step aside as municipal affairs minister. She said his media conference in Calgary made it obvious he planned to entered the race.
"To say he is gathering input from Albertans is just another way of saying he is gathering support, resources and troops on the ground to become the leader of the PC party," Notley said in a release.
In another development, a website popped up urging the public to draft Conservative Sen. Scott Tannas for the job. The site scottforleader.com describes him as a respected businessman, listener and consensus builder and says he would bring a "fresh approach to leadership."
Tannas, a resident of High River, south of Calgary, did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
By law, the next provincial election will be held in the spring of 2016.
— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary
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