Jim Prentice waltzed to victory in Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party leadership race, but the strength of his mandate remains an issue.
With the announcement of his transition team Sunday, which will be led by a former CEO of Imperial Oil Ltd., Mr. Prentice hopes he will persuade Tory supporters and voters the party can still lead the province.
His transition team will be chaired by Tim Hearn, Imperial Oil Ltd.'s former chief executive. The rest of the team includes former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, who said he would consider running for a seat in the legislature under Mr. Prentice; Sarah Raiss, who is a director at a number of Calgary oil companies, including Canadian Oil Sands Ltd.; Robert Seidel, the managing partner of Davis LLP; and cabinet minister Robin Campbell.
The party's new leader captured 77 per cent of the votes cast Friday and Saturday, although voter turnout hit rock bottom. The larger problem is that if those votes came primarily from Calgary, he will be seen as the city's premier rather than Alberta's premier, said David Taras, a political analyst at Calgary's Mount Royal University.
In order to win over Albertans, the party must do a regional analysis of the votes, Mr. Taras said.
"Their future strategy will have to take into account where the votes didn't come from," he said.
Mr. Prentice painted himself as a homegrown boy with gritty roots, rather than touting his time in Ottawa, in an effort to appeal to rural Albertans.
"I was raised in the coal-mining towns of this province," he said in his acceptance speech Saturday evening in Edmonton. "And I worked under the bins in the coal mines of those communities, sometimes breaking rocks for 16 hours a day."
Mr. Prentice garnered 17,963 votes in the leadership race, while challengers Ric McIver collected 2,742 votes and Thomas Lukaszuk amassed 2,681 votes. Members voted online and over the telephone Friday and Saturday – a new system that caused confusion, accusations of cheating, and may have resulted in some members being unable to vote. In order to be eligible to vote, Albertans had to have purchased a PC party membership before Sept. 4.
Doug Horner, the minister of finance, said the confusion over the cutoff date contributed to low voter turnout. (Roughly 23,000 members voted). Many seniors, he said, did not participate.
"If you view the first time in memory that a candidate gets a first ballot 77 per cent [support] as a bad thing, I guess that's a half empty view," he said Sunday. "If we were running it as a convention, there would have been a lot less votes as the old system only allowed delegates to vote."