EDMONTON—Alberta’s Progressive Conservative caucus has chosen Dave Hancock as interim leader and premier.
Hancock, the longest-serving minister in cabinet, has been deputy premier to Alison Redford, who is resigning effective Sunday.
Hancock, who supported Redford as she tried to weather the turmoil around her, had said he wouldn’t mind taking on the interim role to make sure the government’s plans are carried through.
After he was chosen Thursday in a meeting that lasted less than two hours, Hancock said the priority will be to restore the work of the legislature.
“We’ve a budget to pass and we’re going to pass that budget,” he said. “We are going to go into the legislature every day and do our job and we are going to go back into our constituencies every day and do our job,” he said.
“We’re all professionals. We all know our jobs. We all know what the people of Alberta elected us to do. We come to work everyday,” he said.
“We are going to continue to come to work everyday.”
When asked if he expects difficult times ahead, Hancock replied: “In this business, every day is a difficult day.”
Hancock, who ran in the 2006 leadership race that Redford’s predecessor Ed Stelmach won, has already said he doesn’t intend to vie for the permanent job.
“If we’re going to show the party as moving forward, I’m probably not the guy who epitomizes that.”
Service Alberta Minister Doug Griffiths, who ran in the most recent leadership race, said he isn’t interested in running again either. He has family considerations that need his attention, he said.
At least a couple of other ministers were hedging their bets.
Finance Minister Doug Horner said it was too early to say, but he wasn’t ruling out another run at the leadership. Horner was one of the top contenders in the race that Redford won in the fall of 2011.
“I’ve made no decisions about my future at this point,” Horner said. “Yesterday was a bit of a shock for a lot of people and we are going to take stock and make some decisions in the future about my future.”
Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, while also saying it was still early going, wasn’t discounting his own run.
He dismissed suggestions from the opposition that the party’s leadership race _ the third in eight years _ will distract from the business of government. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Redford’s resignation, which takes effect Sunday, followed weeks of open caucus fighting stemming from her lavish travel expenses and from disillusionment with her and the direction of her government.
PC party president Jim McCormick, said the steps for choosing a new leader are to be discussed Monday at a board of directors meeting in Red Deer. He said the party constitution requires a leadership race to be at least four months long, but no longer than six months.
The province, by law, must hold its next election sometime in the spring of 2016.
Redford announced her decision at suppertime Wednesday in the rotunda of the legislature, 29 months after she stood at the same spot to take the oath of office.
She said the turmoil had taken an intolerable toll and was proving an insurmountable distraction to the business of government.
The spiral to Wednesday’s resignation began weeks ago, when it surfaced that Redford had spent $45,000 on first-class air tickets and a government plane to go to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa with an aide.
Other revelations fell like hammer blows: Redford using government planes for a vacation; to fly her daughter and her daughter’s friends around; to go to a family funeral in Vancouver.
There were calls for her to repay the money for the South Africa trip. She refused to do so for weeks and only relented after tensions within her caucus spilled into the public realm.
She was punished in the polls. Some indicated that as many as four out of five Albertans had turned thumbs down on her leadership and preferred the Opposition Wildrose as the next government.
Last week, things went from bad to worse when Redford’s character came into question. Calgary backbencher Len Webber quit the Tory caucus. He said he could not longer stomach Redford’s temper tantrums and abuse of subordinates. He called her a bully and said she was “not a nice lady.”
An Edmonton PC riding association president suggested last Friday that the party could not win the next election with Redford as leader.
On Sunday, 10 government members met to debate whether to leave caucus and sit as Independents.
On Monday, Donna Kennedy-Glans, associate minister for electricity, quit, saying promised reforms by Redford were dying on the vine.
Opposition leaders say Redford was merely the symptom of a PC government that has rotted from within after more than four decades in power.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said it’s a party that craves power for its own sake, which is why it now turfs leaders at the slightest whiff of trouble.
“This party is done and it cannot be fixed,” said Smith.