A St. Albert candidate is set to join the Alberta PC leadership race.
Although there has been no official announcement yet, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta has confirmed Stephen Khan has picked up a leadership application package.
Khan, 50, is a former St. Albert MLA and cabinet minister who served from 2012 to 2015 and lost his seat to NDP MLA Marie Renaud. He is set to make an official announcement on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Sturgeon Valley Golf & Country Club.
“His acceptance amongst his colleagues when he was in cabinet was very high and very broad spaced, it was throughout the province,” Gazette columnist Alan Murdock said. “He was certainly looked upon as someone (who) people wanted to talk to.”
Murdock was one of more than 50 people at a St. Albert Rotary Club meeting Friday where Khan's leadership bid was discussed.
Leadership contenders must pay $30,000 in non-refundable administration fees, and a $20,000 bond to ensure they follow the rules of the race. They must also collect 500 signatures from party members across each of the party's five regions – Edmonton, Calgary, North, South and Central. Khan has already paid his fees and started collecting signatures.
Khan and his wife both grew up in St. Albert and have raised their two children here. He attended the University of Alberta where he received a degree in anthropology.
Before becoming an MLA, Khan was an owner of Management Information Group, a St. Albert-based company that developed administrative software for schools. He has also spent time as a hockey and volleyball coach and a stay-at-home dad.
During his tenure as MLA, he was appointed Minister of Advanced Education and Enterprise and Minister of Service Alberta.
Khan will be the sixth leadership candidate in the race. The deadline for candidates is Nov. 10.
The leadership race officially kicked off on Oct. 1. The Tories will be choosing a new leader to replace interim leader Ric McIver, who stepped in when Jim Prentice resigned after the PCs lost to the NDP in the 2015 election.
Kenney was the first person in the race and has been campaigning across Alberta all summer drumming up support. He has been joined by former MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson, MLA Sandra Jansen and MLA Richard Starke.
So far, four of the announced candidates are from the Calgary region. Starke is from the Lloydminster-Vermilion region. Khan will be the first candidate from the capital region.
Former St. Albert mayor and current PC party member Richard Plain thinks any candidate out of the capital region may have an advantage in the race.
“I just think that there is a natural inclination to say what part of the province do they come from, not only what their background is. It is a longstanding rivalry between the south and north, which is the Edmonton region and the Calgary region,” Plain said.
So far, a major issue has been the question of whether to unite the right wing parties in Alberta. Jason Kenney was the first to enter the race and proposed to merge the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties as one new party. No other candidate has shown support for uniting with the Wildrose.
The final decision won't be made until March, when the party will host a delegated convention. This selection process hasn't been used by the PCs to elect a leader since 1985 and is rare in Canadian politics.
The one-member, one-vote process has been criticized for allowing “two-minute Tories” to dictate the outcome of the leadership race. Candidates were able to temporarily drum up support by selling memberships and win without the support of the party rank and file.
Party members from each of the 87 constituencies will select 15 delegates to choose the next leader. Five of the delegate spots from each constituency are set aside for local party officials. A total of 265 delegate spots are reserved for youth between the ages of 16 and 26.
All candidates will compete until March 18, 2017 when the selected delegates will cast their votes for the party leader.
Khan was attending the Jim Prentice funeral Friday and could not be reached for comment by press time.