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Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford speaks during a leadership debate in Calgary on Sept. 7, 2011. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Alison Redford speaks during a leadership debate in Calgary on Sept. 7, 2011. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

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Alberta PC leadership candidate Alison Redford to pause campaign after mother's death Add to ...

Four days before Alberta’s next premier will be chosen, one of the final candidates has left the campaign trail after the death of her mother.

Helen Redford, mother of candidate Alison Redford, passed away around 9 p.m. local time Tuesday after being admitted into hospital in High River, Alta., earlier in the day. She was 71. The campaign said only the “very sudden downturn” in the mother’s health was due to an unspecified, pre-existing condition.

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Tuesday was also the advanced voting day, and though turnout was low – about 4,800 in Edmonton and Calgary combined – the Redford camp had been elated Tuesday morning in the belief they’d had a strong day at the polls. Then came the health problem.

“To be honest, it’s a bitter sweet day. We had a fantastic day at the advance poll. We were feeling incredibly upbeat,” Ms. Redford’s campaign manager, Stephen Carter, said Tuesday evening. “And then we get this news, and it’s really disheartening.”

The death comes at the peak of an eight-month race to take the helm of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party. The younger Ms. Redford still plans to participate in a final debate with fellow finalists Gary Mar and Doug Horner on Wednesday, but will otherwise stop campaigning until, at least, the end of Thursday. Her staff and supporters will continue to work. The final ballot is Saturday.

“Alison’s going to take a little bit of time but the campaign is going to continue. It’s the only thing to do, to continue. She is going to attend the debate. Her sisters sand her mother wanted her to be there,” Mr. Carter said.

The younger Ms. Redford, 46, is a former justice minister who finished second with about 19 per cent of the vote on the first ballot on Sept. 17. The frontrunner, Mr. Mar, earned 41 per cent and swept the endorsements of three other candidates who didn’t earn a spot on the final ballot.

Ms. Redford has, however, pressed on with her campaign and received the news of her mother’s sudden hospitalization while in a live web-based debate with her two rivals over the noon-hour.

“I am sorry, we are going to have to cut this debate short,” she wrote. However, she wrapped up the online debate’s final 15 minutes and the campaign later announced the elder Ms. Redford had been suddenly hospitalized with a “serious” health issue. She died hours later.

Her daughter had spent the final days of the campaign focusing largely on health care and seniors care. The campaign, however, has no plans to invoke the tragedy in their messaging. “Absolutely not. It’s fair to say anyone with an aging parent has views on health care, but this isn’t political now. The campaign continues but I think the politics kind of stops,” Mr. Carter said.

The news spread quickly over Twitter. “Very sad to hear this. My prayers are with Alison and her family,” wrote Mr. Mar’s campaign manager, Elan MacDonald.

Alison Redford and her sister, Lynn, were at their mother’s bedside when she passed away. Their sister Melody is flying back from Malaysia, where she works, the campaign said.

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