EDMONTON — Alberta PC party members began casting their votes for a new leader at 6 a.m. Friday.
The three-way race between Jim Prentice, Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver hasn’t been without a few missteps by the candidates.
Early on, McIver came under fire for participating in the March for Jesus in Calgary.
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The march was supported by Street Church, which, on its website, described last year’s devastating flood in southern Alberta as “a tear that came from the eyes of God … weeping for the perversions of homosexuality.”
McIver apologized and blamed himself for not doing his homework before taking part in the event. Despite calls for him to take a step back, he remained in the race.
READ MORE: Ric McIver apologizes for taking part in March for Jesus
A couple of months later, it was Prentice’s turn for the spotlight. The former Calgary MP and cabinet minister promised to introduce term limits for Alberta premiers and MLAs.
Prentice said two terms for premiers and three for MLAs — limits that would be a first in Canada — would ensure a steady stream of fresh voices in government.
“We want to see more new young faces brought into politics. I hear a great deal of support for it.”
His opponents immediately attacked.
“Term limits? Really?” said fellow candidate Ric McIver. “I believe in democracy. Albertans should decide who sits in the legislature. We shouldn’t tell them who they can elect and who they can’t.”
Lukaszuk called the idea an “American-style” solution that wouldn’t work in the Canadian context.
“Either you have integrity or you don’t,” he said. “If you don’t know it intuitively, you surely will find a loophole. Term limits are not the answer.”
Other critics pointed out that term-limit legislation might not stand up to a Charter challenge, and Prentice was forced to back down, saying he could achieve them through party policy, instead of legislation.
READ MORE: Prentice promises Alberta political term limits
Most recently, Lukaszuk had to defend himself after a $20,000 cell phone bill was leaked to the Edmonton Sun. Lukaszuk racked up the roaming charges while on a personal trip overseas in October 2012.
Lukaszuk said a call from a distressed cabinet minister, and emails and video conferences to deal with the situation contributed to the big bill.
“I did what I felt was morally the right thing to do. There is no code of conduct on how to deal with a distressed cabinet minister calling me in the middle of the night, but I did what I could to assist.”
READ MORE: Lukaszuk says call from ‘distressed cabinet minister’ contributed to $20,000 cell phone bill
NDP MLA Rachel Notley said the bill adds weight to her call for a public inquiry into all government spending.
“What this indicates is that another minister didn’t care, didn’t take the time, just assumed that it was a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ dollars for their disposal.”
According to the Edmonton Sun, the bill was sent to them by courier with a Calgary resident’s name fraudulently used on the package. The Calgary Police Service has launched an investigation into who sent the bill. Both the Prentice and McIver campaigns denied they had anything to do with it.
POLL: Has a P.C. leadership candidate proven he can move party past controversies?
The winner of the party leadership will become Alberta’s 16th premier.
For extensive coverage of the race, visit Global Edmonton’s PC leadership race webpage.