CALGARY - Jim Prentice says it was disappointment with previous Progressive Conservative administrations in Alberta that ultimately led him to re-enter public life.
The incumbent Tory premier didn't mention any of his predecessors by name in an interview with the Canadian Press as his campaign bus rolled through southern Alberta last week.
But he made it clear his concern wasn't limited to former premier Alison Redford, who resigned after her government was rocked by a series of spending scandals.
"I was disappointed by what I was seeing in our government over the last several years before I ran," Prentice said. "Albertans were disappointed and so was I."
Prentice is the seventh person to serve as premier since the Progressive Conservatives took power in 1971.
He will attempt to extend that four-decade dynasty May 5, having just brought down a budget that hikes taxes for the first time in years and runs a record $5 billion deficit.
He pitched his plan as an attempt to get the province off the roller-coaster of oil prices that has dictated the government's fiscal fate in years past.
Prentice was asked if he felt any anger towards his predecessors, particularly Redford and the controversies that surrounded her use of government aircraft.
"Yeah, I was very concerned, the same way all Albertans were concerned," he said.
"I was concerned about what was going on with the airplanes and everything else, and so we were all disappointed and clearly our province was headed in the wrong direction and it was time to set things right and that is why I ran."
He shrugged off criticisms from the first week of the campaign about his decision to call the vote early — one year sooner than required under the province's fixed election law.
He was blasted by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for spending millions to hold an early vote after refusing to restore funding for more child death investigations by the children's advocate late last year.
"I'm accustomed to sticks and stones, so I just intend to press on with our agenda. If you've been around politics as long as I have you develop a pretty thick skin," said Prentice, who spent time in Stephen Harper's cabinet before taking over as Alberta premier.
"The election is going to cost $30 million whether we do it this year or next year. Whether we do it now or eight months from now it's going to cost exactly the same," he said, noting that money will be saved by avoiding several pending byelections.
Prentice was also hesitant to talk about Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who also served in Harper's government and who, last week, accused Prentice of trying to undermine the prime minister in an effort to take over the top job. Jean later apologized.
" I think the things he said are strange, very strange. I can't explain what he said or why he said it," Prentice said.
"The political ideology I reflect is to put a realistic plan in front of the province that is very honest about the choices we have.
"He'll have to speak for himself and what they're doing and how they're going to possibly do what they're suggesting."
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