Hughes backs out of leadership race

Politics: Former Macleod MP supports Jim Prentice as next premier

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 06:00 am

Ken Hughes, here announcing his Alberta PC leadership bid in Longview in April, has withdrawn from the race to support former federal minister Jim Prentice.
Ken Hughes, here announcing his Alberta PC leadership bid in Longview in April, has withdrawn from the race to support former federal minister Jim Prentice.
Wheel file photo

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A former Macleod MP has withdrawn his name from the Alberta Progressive Conservative party leadership race and has thrown his support to another candidate.

Ken Hughes announced on Monday he will not seek the premier’s chair and will support former federal environment minister Jim Prentice.

“We had the makings of a very strong team, we had the financial base and the organization across the province,” Hughes said. “But in listening to Albertans and members of the Progressive Conservative party, it became clear to me there was a widely-based consensus that the party needed somebody like Jim Prentice — Jim Prentice specifically.”

Hughes, who launched his leadership campaign at a ceremony in Longview on April 12, said it was important that the right leader is selected, without a lot of party infighting.

“While we could have gone through a long campaign, it’s my view that it is in the best interest of the party – and more importantly the province – that we select the right leader and we get there in a way that creates a strong and united party,” said Hughes, the MLA for Calgary West. “This is how I can contribute to this constructive outcome.”

He wouldn’t concede a loss to Prentice had he left his hat in the ring.

“If you look back over the history of these processes, they can be quite volatile and they don’t always look at the end as they do at the start,” Hughes said. “In fact, they never look like they do at the end as they do in the start… With my candidacy in the race, it was a wide-open race.”

The last two leadership runs had surprise outcomes with former premier Alison Redford defeating Gary Mar in 2011. Former premier Ed Stelmach also shocked Albertans by defeating Jim Dinning and Ted Morton in 2006.

Hughes said his stepping down from the race is also an effort to have the PCs in a good position for the 2016 provincial race.

“It is absolutely critical that the Progressive Conservatives renew, rebuild and provide leadership on both experience and a very strong renewal,” Hughes said. “So we can provide leadership for the next election.”

Hughes withdrew prior to having to pay the $50,000 nomination fee. He is a former MD of Foothills resident who was the Macleod MP from 1988 to 1993, when he lost to the Reform Party’s Dr. Grant Hill from Okotoks.

He served as chairman of Alberta Health Services from 2008-2011. Hughes was elected as Calgary-West MLA in 2012 and served as Alberta energy minister and then municipal affairs minister before resigning to seek the leadership in early April.

Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver is the lone declared candidate for the PC leadership. Prentice, who was minister of Indian and northern affairs, industry and the environment under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has not declared his candidacy.

The leadership race was needed after former premier Alison Redford gave up her post in March.

Dave Hancock is serving as premier until a new PC leader is chosen in the fall.

bcampbell@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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