Candidates vying to be the next leader of the United Conservative Party will have to pay $175,000 for a chance to run.
The party released its rules and procedures for its leadership contest to replace Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday.
Kenney announced his intention to resign last month following a leadership review in which he eked out a 51.4 per cent approval vote. He's staying on as party leader and premier until a replacement is chosen.
A new leader is set to be elected on Oct. 6, following a vote by mail-in ballot. Party members will also be able to vote in person at one of five polling stations that will be set up around the province.
The deadline for candidates to apply is July 20.
Eight people have already put their names forward for the contest, but the party said no one will be an official candidate until they've met a number of criteria, including:
Paying a $150,000 entrance fee.
Paying a $25,000 refundable compliance deposit.
Completing a comprehensive candidate questionnaire.
Gathering at least 1,000 signatures, with 200 from each of the party's five provincial regions.
The rules also state that all leadership contestants must participate in all UCP-organized debates or possibly face a fine or disqualification.
During the 2017 leadership contest, the UCP required candidates to pay a $75,000 entrance fee and a $20,000 compliance deposit.
On Tuesday, party executives defended the higher price point for candidates this time around.
"We're in government," said David Price, chair of the UCP's leadership election committee. "We're selecting not just the next leader of the party, but the next premier of the province."
Price said the $150,000 entry fee was calculated to cover the cost of the race.
Elections Alberta rules prevent the party from profiting from candidate fees, but the party tried to factor the costs of a vote that may need to accommodate a number of new party memberships in coming months.
"We've done our best to come to the right number and it's also a number that's going to ensure we're getting good, credible candidates that show breadth and depth in terms of their campaign teams and in terms of their fundraising," he said.
Who's running for the UCP leadership
The latest leadership hopeful, former children's services minister Rebecca Schulz, kicked off her campaign Tuesday.
Schulz, the MLA for Calgary-Shaw, said she trusts that the party and committee put a lot of thought into the rules, adding that fundraising is an important part of being able to show a candidate can garner support.
"I was always committed to entering this race no matter what the rules look like, and so I will work within those parameters," Schulz said.
Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney, who resigned as transportation minister to kick off her own leadership campaign on Monday, also released a statement saying she welcomes the release of the rules and is happy to see the campaign get underway.
In a statement, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean said he's glad the rules are finally available but said he wishes they were more conducive to a "wide-open" race.
Others who put their name forward were more pointed about their concerns.
Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen said he worries the entry fee makes the party look elitist. He said it's a lost opportunity to connect to grassroots supporters.
"We could have, I think, a substantially smaller buy-in at the start and that would allow more people to be involved and give the impression that we're really listening to the to the small guy," Loewen said Tuesday.
Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer said she takes issue with a requirement to give the party access to candidate's social media accounts.
She said she has many messages from constituents and others that were sent to her with the expectation of confidentiality and added she does not intend to abide by it.
"I would ask that all leadership candidates please back me up on this because it's imperative that we protect our constituents," she said.
According to the rules document released by the party, an application must include "information necessary to provide profile holder access to any and all social media accounts of the applicant."
UCP spokesperson Dave Prisco explained that the request is for a download of account activity for vetting purposes, which he said is requested during local nomination races as well. He said the party does not ask for account passwords.
The next provincial election is scheduled for May 29, 2023.
With the cabinet departures of Schulz and former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney, who announced her campaign Monday, Kenney has announced interim replacements.
Prasad Panda has been appointed acting transportation minister and Jason Luan will serve as the acting minister of children's services, Kenney announced Tuesday in a statement.