01/09/2015 03:13 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Prentice: Election Will Be Based On Albertan's 'Best Interests'

Bloomberg via Getty Images
James 'Jim' Prentice, Canada's minister of the environment, speaks during a session of the 21st World Energy Congress in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010. The theme of WEC Montreal 2010 provides a framework to address the four major challenges, accessibility, availability, acceptability, and accountability, facing the energy community, global leaders, and general public. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CALGARY - Alberta's financial situation is as bad as it has been in decades and the timing of the next provincial election will be determined by what is in "the best interests of Albertans," Premier Jim Prentice said Friday.

"I've not turned my mind to the timing of an election but I'll tell you this — the timing of an election and when it happens will be driven by what is in the best interests of Albertans — not what is in the best interests of any political party," Prentice said.

While the vote is set by legislation for the spring of 2016, Prentice has refused to close the door to holding it as early as this spring.

Speculation ramped up after former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith resigned and crossed the floor along with eight other members of the Opposition to join the Progressive Conservative government.

The move left Wildrose with just five members and an interim leader. The official Opposition party has just 19 of 87 candidates in place for the next election.

Wildrose house leader Shayne Saskiw said Thursday an early election would be a mistake given that Prentice promised during last year's PC leadership campaign to follow the fixed-election law.

"People of this province expect all MLAs right now to be focused squarely on dealing with issues at hand, such as the looming financial crisis (of low oil prices),'' he said.

Prentice said the collapse of oil prices to below US$50 a barrel are going to make things tough in the province.

"The circumstances that we are in are the most serious financial circumstances we have seen in this province in 25 years, if not 50," Prentice said. "Certainly they will affect every Albertan ... it's inescapable."

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