BANFF, Alta. - Alberta Premier Jim Prentice delivered an upbeat message to convention delegates in his first convention speech since becoming PC leader and served notice on the opposition that the party is once again a force to be reckoned with.
"This party is back my friends. There's nobody writing obituaries of this party, this weekend," he said to loud applause Friday evening.
Prentice stressed that there's plenty of hard work still ahead but said the party has pulled together over the past 10 weeks.
He touched only briefly on the PC winning all four byelections last month but warned the same kind of hard work will be necessary in the next election.
"As we look to 2016 we aren't going to take any constituency in Alberta for granted," Prentice said. "We will earn it."
The new premier took a couple of shots at the opposition Wildrose and leader Danielle Smith, who are at their annual general meeting in Red Deer, Alta., trying to sort out what led to their losses in the byelections.
"We're having fun this weekend. Not everyone is having fun this weekend," Prentice said to loud laughter from the audience.
Prentice also noted that the PCs aren't in the same vulnerabe position they were in even six months ago.
"We have a great team and it is getting better," Prentice said. "We are raising money and we are united. So bring it on."
It was just a year ago that former premier Alison Redford received a strong vote of confidence from party members.
Months later, the Progressive Conservatives were in disarray, Redford was gone and a series of financial and political scandals put the party on the ropes until they brought in the former federal cabinet minister as her replacement.
Prentice put on a white Alberta jersey with the number 16 (he is the 16th premier in Alberta) Friday afternoon for a spirited game of ball hockey.
The leader not only scored the first goal but picked up a hat trick as his team prevailed 8-7.
"I got a Gordie Howe hat trick. I scored a goal. I got an assist and I picked a fight with the toughest guy on the ice," said Prentice, who jokingly took on hulking party whip George Vanderburg late in the game.
Prentice is to make a major speech Saturday outlining the party's plans for the next year.
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