Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes is asking Albertans to let him know if they think he has the right stuff to be the next Progressive Conservative premier of the province.
Mr. Hughes told The Globe and Mail that over the next couple of weeks he will be listening to what Albertans think about his credentials for the job. This will be facilitated through a website his nascent campaign has set up and an "exploratory committee" he has established.
But in an interview, Mr. Hughes sounded every bit like someone who intends to be part of the race to succeed Alison Redford.
"Leading Alberta is a serious business and I'm a serious business kind of person," said Mr. Hughes, reading from a statement he'd cobbled together. "An exploratory committee would address questions like: Am I the kind of leader they [Albertans] would want? Are they looking for someone who has demonstrated personal strength of character, team leadership skills, judgment about risk, common sense, the ability to listen, a frugal approach to money, a business builder who makes things happen, an ability to dream big and then deliver and someone who has not spent most of their last 15 years in and around politics."
That last statement would seem to be a gentle shot at some of the potential leadership candidates inside the PC caucus who have been in provincial politics for years. Mr. Hughes's resume includes considerable time in the business world, where he founded a successful insurance brokerage firm. He served from 1988 to 1993 as a federal Conservative MP before returning to the private sector. He ran for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and won in the 2012 election, serving as energy minister before being handed the municipal affairs portfolio earlier this year.
Mr. Hughes is likely to face stiff competition for the job. Cabinet ministers, including Thomas Lukaszuk, Doug Horner and Jonathan Denis, have not ruled out running. Nor has now-independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans. Former PC party president Bill Smith is apparently interested in the job. Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel is another potential candidate, as is Klein-era treasurer Jim Dinning, who lost the 2006 leadership race to former premier Ed Stelmach.
However, Alberta's envoy in China – former cabinet minister Gary Mar, who lost the 2011 leadership race to Ms. Redford – said in an e-mail: "I have no plans at this time to seek another office."
Mr. Hughes said he grew up the youngest of six children in an Alberta ranching family, whose roots in the province go back to the 1890s. He said his parents were people whose views about money were hardened by their experiences during the Great Depression.
"How you use money has always been important in our family," he said. Going forward, he said the PC government needs to conduct itself with "humility" and demonstrate "that we are worthy of the responsibility we have been provided."
He said the "listening phase" of his decision-making process will likely last a couple of weeks before he makes a final decision. But right now, Mr. Hughes sounds like someone who believes he's the right person to rebuild his party's broken relationship with the Alberta public.