Peter Lougheed says he had no hesitation in endorsing Alison Redford during the Alberta election campaign.
The former premier has usually stayed quiet during campaigns, but after meeting with Redford he decided to support her publicly, he told David Gray on CBC Radio’s the Eyeopener.
“I felt the timing was right and I felt very good about her. She came up to the house and we had a good visit with Jean and myself,” he said.
“We connected well and I felt her view of the future of the province of Alberta and the role the Progressive Conservative government could play within the province of Alberta... I felt very comfortable,” he said.
Lougheed said he is happy — but not surprised — that his party won another majority. He said he wasn't worried even as the polls and the experts predicted a win for the Wildrose Party.
“I had a lot of confidence about my party forming the government with a very significant majority,” said Lougheed, who was premier from 1971 until 1985.
“I was aware of something — and this is perhaps where the experts were wrong — I was aware that what had happened in the previous elections that many Progressive Conservatives had stayed away from the polls,” he said.
“And then, when they found with Alison Redford a leader they could connect with, they came back and they voted,” he said.
Lougheed said while he believes some Liberals voted PC, he feels the amount of strategic voting that took place has been exaggerated.
And the former premier downplayed the notion that the rise of the Wildrose Party signifies that small-c conservatives are divided in Alberta. Rather, he said, the Tory base is comprised of moderate voters.
“There’s this misconception that the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta in my time and today was a party of the right. They’re not. They’re a party of the centre,” he said. “That I think is where the confusion has developed.”
In the years when Ralph Klein was premier, and to some extent during Ed Stelmach’s tenure, the party drifted to the right, Lougheed said.
“But I think Alison Redford brought it back into the centre which is where we were when we were elected.”
Lougheed also said he likes Redford’s view on Alberta’s place in Canada. “We often said to the surprise of people that we were Canadian before we were Albertan, and we emphasized that. Canadian before Albertan."
“And I think that’s where Albertans are. And I think Alison Redford caught on to that ... and moved ahead with it,” he said. “And that’s what we didn’t have in the past short period of time,” he said.