Mar out front in Tory leadership race

Alberta’s 14th premier will be elected on Oct. 1.  Three contenders for the top job remain:  Doug Horner, Gary Mar, and Alison Redford.

Close to 60,000 Albertans cast their votes in the first round election. To win, the candidate needed to claim 50 per cent plus 1 vote. Mar finished the night with 41 per cent, followed by Redford with 19 per cent, and Horner with 15 per cent.

Allison Redford and candidates

Alison Redford takes to the podium as Doug Horner and Gary Mar look on.
Photo: Matthew O’Connor

 The result means Conservative party members will return to the polls Saturday, Oct. 1.

With that, the Conservatives will be busy the next two weeks ensuring that members get out to vote.

The Convention Room Floor

At the Metropolitan Convention Centre in downtown Calgary, rows of TV cameras lined the back of the room while political analysts, journalists, and anxious supporters started to trickle in. Most people expected that the vote would go to a second ballot.

Each candidate’s vote count was displayed on two giant projection screens on either side of the stage at the front of the room. As results were displayed, the crowd clapped with anticipation. Gary Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Horner were the early leaders with Ted Morton a close fourth. Doug Griffiths and Rick Orman trailed in the last two spots.

Low Voter Turnout

Early in the evening, Griffiths, in last spot, said,  “You know what surprises me the most? It’s the low voter turnout.”  In 2006, approximately 97,000 Tory members voted in the first round. Saturday’s numbers were significantly less.  “Low voter turnout usually means apathy and apathy doesn’t exactly bode well when you’re choosing the next premier of the province,” said Griffiths.

As frontrunner Mar arrived at the convention center, the crowd erupted with excitement. He grinned as one side of the room chanted, “Gary! Gary! Gary!” Redford arrived at almost exactly the same time and the other side countered with,  “Redford! Redford! Redford!”

Kelly Morrison, a Conservative supporter, watched the night unfold. She said the low voter turnout was concerning. “Is it a bigger question of where PC party members are going… as in to the Wildrose Alliance?”

Mar voiced concerns about the turnout as well. “We’ve got to work hard at earning the trust of Albertans and place faith in our party again.” He added the PC Party has become disengaged.

Horner echoed the concern about the turnout. As he entered the main hall of the convention centre, he said, “We’re going to make sure that we talk to Albertans and we’re going to make sure to listen to Albertans and we’re going to get them to the polls, that’s what we have to do.”

Others on the floor appeared less concerned by Saturday’s turnout. Bill Smith, the president of the PC party of Alberta, smiled and said  “I see at least 50,000 Albertans that showed up today to vote for the leader of our party.… You can’t help but be thrilled about that.”  He attributed the lower numbers to many rural Albertans being out in the fields, harvesting their crops.

On Oct. 1, voters will select Alberta’s next premier.

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