Barrhead’s Doug Horner is one step closer to taking over from Ed Stelmach and becoming Alberta’s 14 premier.
Horner finished third in the first round of voting for the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative party on Sept. 17. His 8,648 votes represented 14.5 per cent of the votes, behind leader Gary Mar (24,318 and 40.8 per cent) and Alison Redford (11,147 and 18.7 per cent).
The vote saw close to 60,000 people participate to have a say in who becomes Alberta’s new premier. Since no candidate received 51 per cent of the votes, a run-off vote will take place in two weeks.
Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski has backed Horner since the beginning.
“He certainly knows this area better than anyone else,” he said. “He has a background as minister of agriculture, which is very important for our part of Alberta. He’s also well rounded in other things.”
Despite his third-place finish, Kowalski said Horner could still do very well in the second vote, which is slated for Oct. 1 in Edmonton.
“It’s a chance, but it’s going to be a pretty hard struggle for either him or Mrs. Redford at the moment,” he said. “Mr. Mar has a really significant lead that’s throughout the whole province.”
Horner took the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock constituency by storm, receiving 64.4 per cent of votes, with 438 in his favour out of a total 680 ballots cast in the riding. Mar came in a distant second with only 78 votes, with Redford in fourth spot with 43 votes.
In the 2006 leadership vote, the constituency saw a higher number of voters, with over 700 cast. Kowalski attributed the decline to confusion at polling stations.
There were four polling stations set up throughout the riding, including Westlock, Barrhead, Morinville and Swan Hills.
“I know at least a couple of dozen of people came to the wrong polling station and couldn’t vote there, so that had to either go to St. Albert or Redwater and I’m not sure that they did,” Kowalski said.
He said the problem lies in the new boundaries of ridings, and cautions people that they must vote in the constituency in which they live. Although he said he doesn’t think this issue will be addressed for the second vote, it is something that needs to be looked at in the future, in order to ensure Albertans are able to exercise their right to vote.
“We’ve seen people in Egypt, in Tunisia and Libya and Syria fighting with guns and bazookas and tanks for the right to have participation. We have the participation here. It’s there, all people have to do is get up and go,” he said.
The right to vote is something party members exercised during the first ballot. Although the number of voters was significantly lower than the 2006 leadership, race which saw more than 97,000 voters, it is much higher that the Liberal vote earlier this month, which saw only 9,000 votes.
“It was quite remarkable in the sense that 60,000 people participated,” Kowalski said. “There were six candidates so it was almost impossible for anybody to really get 50 per cent plus one on that first ballot. But it was quite significant.”
Historically, the second vote sees a jump in voters casting ballots. In the 2006 leadership race, more than 144,000 votes were cast — something Kowalski hopes to see again.
The race has been ongoing for eight weeks and will continue until the second vote on Oct. 1 in Edmonton.