When the Alberta Legislature returns on Nov. 17, you will be facing a changed governing party after a very tumultuous year. What is your take on the past year of Alberta's politics?
It's been very sad for Albertans that we haven't had stability in government for a number of years, not just the last year. We've had a Progressive Conservative Party mired in its own leadership battles while some pretty big issues have been left on the table. We continue to rack up deficits and debt. There are no solutions from this government on how to fix a health-care system that continues to underperform. There are huge issues on market access [for Alberta's energy exports] and making meaningful progress on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Despite all that turmoil, how are you going to convince Albertans that they need to stay engaged in the political process?
When you see a government acting the same as its predecessor that erodes confidence. Governments often change when they run out of steam. This particular government has been mired in scandal and they are completely out of ideas. They wouldn't know what to do if the opposition didn't tell them what the priorities are.
We will continue to see that they won't make progress on balancing the budget or health-care reform. I'm hopeful that they will make progress on market access, but they can't do that unless they are serious about environmental issues. There's been a lot of rhetoric but no progress and the international community sees that.
There have been allegations of bad form against the Wildrose, specifically that you've targeted attack ads against Premier Jim Prentice in his by-election and broken unwritten rules of civility. What was the point of running those ads?
Any time you have an election you do contrasts and talk to Albertans about what you'd do differently and why they shouldn't vote for the other guys. It's all fairly routine. Jim Prentice himself ran attack ads against Stéphane Dion when he became the new [federal Liberal] leader. I'm surprised he's complaining after the same light of scrutiny has been turned on him.
I always look for the early signs that we'll see problems down the road and we've already seen signs with this leader. He's continued to behave in the way that Alison Redford did, making announcements on the fly without seemingly consulting with anyone. That's fine with popular decisions, but it gets you in trouble when you make difficult decisions.
Despite premier Redford's resignation, many in your party expect that the Progressive Conservatives will sweep the four seats up for by-election next week. What's the best result you're hoping for?
We hope we'll be at least second in all of them and we are looking to narrow the lead the government had in previous elections. Who knows? We might win one or two. That would be a good outcome.
We want to demonstrate with these by-elections that we are the only party that can compete with the government across the province. Some parties have strength in Edmonton, others in Calgary. We are the only party with strength in Edmonton, Calgary and the rural areas.
What does the next year look like in Alberta politics – will there be co-operation or campaigning?
We're going to continue to be a party of ideas, as we have been since I became leader. Whether or not Albertans hand us the keys in the next election and let us sit in the driver's seat, we want to demonstrate that we've got the people for the job. If the government wants to steal a few of those ideas, then that's good for Alberta.
This interview has been edited and condensed.