Global News’ Carolyn MacKenzie wins leadership award – Toronto

TORONTO – Global News’ Carolyn MacKenzie will be honoured by District 60 Toastmasters International for her achievement in the field of Communication and Leadership.

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An award-winning journalist who has spent more than 15 years covering the biggest stories in the GTA and Canada. Carolyn joined Global News in 2005 as weekend anchor of Evening News before moving to her current role as weeknight anchor on News Hour Final.

“We’re pleased to congratulate Carolyn on winning the reputable Toastmasters award,” said Ward Smith, Senior Director, Eastern Region, Global News. “Carolyn is a strong leader within the community, working with many charitable organizations. She brings her passion and dynamic leadership traits into our newsroom every day.”

When not reporting news, Carolyn enjoys time with her husband Chris, a Toronto firefighter, and her two children, Kate, 5, and Matthew, 2.

“I am so honoured to be receiving this award but even more proud about what it says regarding the work we do here at Global News,” she commented on the win.

“We strive to reach people, to connect with them on some level. This award proves we are doing just that, and for me, truly validates the hard work we do every day.”

Carolyn will be presented with the award Saturday, April 5 at the Communication and Leadership Award Luncheon at the Old Mill Hotel in Toronto.

The Communication and Leadership Award is given to a non-Toastmaster member of the community who has contributed to the well being of the community through their communication and leadership.

©2014Shaw Media

4 pedestrians hit by vehicles Thursday: Halifax police – Halifax

HALIFAX – Halifax police report four pedestrians have been hit by vehicles within 24 hours.

The latest incident happened at 7:45 p.m. Thursday on Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth. A 40-year-old woman was crossing at Mount Edward Road when she was struck by a vehicle turning left. She was assessed by paramedics and released.

The 39-year-old female driver was ticketed for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

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  • Man taken to hospital after being struck by vehicle

At 5 p.m. on Thursday, a 20-year-old woman was struck in a crosswalk on Spring Garden Road. The vehicle’s side mirror hit the woman, spinning her around, then the rear tires ran over the woman’s foot. She was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The 40-year-old female driver was charged in the incident. Police said heavy rain and busy traffic may have contributed to the crash.

Earlier in the day, a 24-year-old woman was hit at Upper Water Street. She was crossing at Duke Street when a vehicle swiped her; she was not injured. The 62-year-old male driver stopped to help and, so far, police have not pressed charges.

Then just before 5 a.m. on Thursday, a 56-year-old man was taken to hospital after he was hit near Citadel Hill.

The 66-year-old male driver was ticketed in that case.

©2014Shaw Media

NDP MLA takes Disneyland trip cited in audit

WATCH (above): The provincial government has released details of an audit of the Portland Hotel Society. The results have many people shaking their heads. Geoff Hastings reports. 

A New Democrat who represents a Vancouver riding has admitted she and her family took two trips cited in scathing government audits that revealed lavish spending by a non-profit group funded to look after some of Canada’s poorest people.

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Jenny Kwan said Thursday that she was concerned when she heard previous directors of the Portland Hotel Society claimed for trips.

In a statement, issued hours after the audits were released, Kwan said she and her two children joined her husband on two vacations in 2012.

“I was assured at the time by my former partner that he paid out of his pocket for the family portion of the travel expenses,” said Kwan, who has championed herself as an anti-poverty advocate.

“I would never have gone had I known that the family portion of the travel would appear to have been paid for by PHS,” she said.

Her ex-husband, Robert Dan Small, is among the executives of the society and is listed in the independent audit as the director of policy, research and fund development for the society since 1998.

A $2,600 trip for two adults and two children to the Disney resort in Anaheim, Calif., was singled out in the audit, along with several other trips to destinations including Paris and Vienna.

Kwan did not return calls requesting an interview but New Democrat caucus chairman Shane Simpson confirmed she went to Disneyland and Europe in 2012.

“I believe the European one was her ex-husband was going to participate in a conference around drug policy and the family accompanied him,” he said, adding he didn’t think Kwan would resign over the scandal.

The audits detailed more than $8,600 spent on limousine rides last year, a stay in a United Kingdom hotel that cost almost $900 a night.

It also found that society credit-card expenses for 764 restaurant meals amounted to $69,000. One bill came to $1,636 for a staff appreciation event. Travel costs expensed for trips to Vienna, Paris, Istanbul, New York City, Banff and Jasper and Ottawa amounted to $300,000.

The Portland Hotel Society provides social housing and other services, including North America’s only safe-injection site where addicts shoot up their own drugs to prevent overdoses and infectious diseases such as HIV.

Health Minister Terry Lake said Thursday that four society executives had been fired and an interim board has taken over operations of the largest social service provider in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to ensure people who need services will continue getting them.

The audits spearheaded by BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health also showed the non-profit society is in weak financial shape, is more than $113,000 into its bank overdraft and drew $1.2 million from lines of credit and a business loan.

“The findings speak for themselves and they include unsupported expenses including out-of-country travel, entertainment and catering, misuse of corporate credit cards, missing receipts, inadequate approval of expenses and unusual payments to companies set up and owned by Portland Hotel Society personnel,” Lake told a news conference.

Questions over spending by the society that received $28.5 million for the current fiscal year prompted an internal review and audit that led to an external audit covering three fiscal years, from March 2010 to March 2013.

Most of the funding for the Portland Hotel Society comes from the Crown agency BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health. The society also received Health Canada grants and $100,000 in donations in 2013.

Mark Townsend was co-executive director of the society along with his wife Liz Evans for more than 20 years. He said in an interview Wednesday that the management team had agreed to resign so there would be no interruption in services for people in the impoverished area. But he did not fully respond to questions about the society’s spending irregularities.

Lake said the government had negotiated an agreement with the society for its four managers to step aside by the end of the month and that the new board had taken over on Thursday.

“While we were prepared to ask the court to appoint a receiver the solution we have arrived at will let us avoid costs involved with court action and also help us to move quickly to address the financial and operational issues that threaten programs and services delivered by the society,” Lake said.

The society managers will get severance pay, though Lake could not provide a dollar amount.

It’s up to police to pursue any criminal charges over finances, Lake said. Sgt. Randy Fincham of the Vancouver Police Department said he was not aware of a criminal investigation involving the society.

Besides its contract for Insite, the supervised-injection site, the Portland Hotel Society handles 17 contracts, including rental of at least 12 buildings to low-income tenants.

The federal government has been criticized for wanting Insite to be shut down over concerns it promotes drug use, but the Portland Hotel Society and several drug users have won a series of legal battles against Ottawa.

WATCH: Keith Baldrey has more insight into the audit of the Portland Hotel Society

Bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox finds 200,000 missing bitcoins – National

Bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox said it found 200,000 bitcoins, which were previously thought stolen, in disused electronic wallets. Another 650,000 bitcoins still remain unaccounted for.

The Tokyo-based company said in a statement posted on its website Thursday that the 200,000 bitcoins were identified Mar. 7 after “old format” wallets were searched as part of Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy proceedings.

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The online exchange for the virtual currency was unplugged in late February as rumours of its insolvency swirled, adding to doubts about the viability of bitcoins overall.

READ MORE: 16×9: An investigation into Bitcoin’s remarkable rise

It then filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and said nearly all its 850,000 bitcoins were missing, most likely as a result of theft. About 750,000 of the bitcoins belonged to people who used the Mt. Gox exchange.

At current prices, the rediscovered bitcoins have a market value of about $120 million.

Mt. Gox’s problems have been a setback for bitcoin, a virtual currency that has grown in popularity since its 2009 creation as a way to make transactions across borders without third parties such as banks.

The restoration of some of the missing virtual currency is potentially good news for bitcoin enthusiasts who invested at Mt. Gox but also raises further questions about the running of the exchange.

Mt. Gox’s statement said the 200,000 bitcoins had been moved to offline wallets. It didn’t specify the type but offline wallets include USB sticks and paper documents.

©2014The Canadian Press

Thai court rules February election invalid – National

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s constitutional Court ruled Friday that a general election held in February was invalid, setting the stage for a new vote and dealing another complication to the country’s political crisis.

The judges voted 6-3 to declare the Feb. 2 election unconstitutional because voting was not held that day in 28 constituencies where anti-government protesters had prevented candidates from registering. The constitution says the election must be held on the same day nationwide.

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“The process (now) is to have a new general election,” Pimol Thampitakpong, the court’s secretary-general, said at a news conference announcing the decision.

There was no immediate indication of when new polls might be held. The date is normally set by the government in consultation with the Election Commission.

The ruling would appear to have little practical effect in either alleviating or worsening Thailand’s political crisis, which began late last year when protesters demanded that the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be replaced by an unelected “people’s council” to implement reforms they say are needed to end corruption and money politics.

Yingluck refused to resign and called early elections in a bid to ensure a fresh mandate. But the protesters tried to prevent the election from taking place, physically blocking and intimidating both potential candidates and voters. It was their efforts that prevented voting from being completed on the same day.

At the same time, the main opposition Democrat Party – closely linked to the protest movement – boycotted the polls. Because voting was never completed, no results were announced, even for areas where there were no problems.

The Democrats indicated earlier this week that they would boycott fresh polls if held under Yingluck’s caretaker government.

Even if new polls go smoothly, Yingluck faces several legal challenges that could force her from office, faced with a judiciary which has a record of hostility toward her and her political allies.

The protesters, whose main strength is in the Democrats’ southern strongholds and Bangkok, have maintained constant, sometimes violent street demonstrations in the capital. In turn they have been the target of gun and grenade attacks by unknown parties. The attacks, along with street battles against the police and political rivals, have left at least 23 people dead and hundreds hurt.

Police Col. Kamthorn Auicharoen said Friday that two grenades fired overnight from an M79 launcher landed on houses near a constitutional Court judge’s residence in Bangkok, injuring one man. It was the latest in a series of such incidents, with most but not all targeting opponents of the government.

Thailand has seen political conflict since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have since taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle.

The constitutional Court issued its ruling after being petitioned by the state ombudsman, who accepted a complaint lodged by a university lecturer.

©2014The Canadian Press

Microsoft admits to snooping blogger’s Hotmail account – National

LOS ANGELES – Microsoft Corp., which has skewered rival Google Inc. for going through customer emails to deliver ads, acknowledged Thursday it had searched emails in a blogger’s Hotmail account to track down who was leaking company secrets.

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John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, said in a statement Thursday that the software company “took extraordinary actions in this case.” In the future, he said, Microsoft would consult an outside attorney who is a former judge to determine if a court order would have allowed such a search.

The case involves former employee Alex Kibkalo, a Russian native who worked for Microsoft as a software architect in Lebanon.

According to an FBI complaint alleging theft of trade secrets, Microsoft found Kibkalo in September 2012 after examining the Hotmail account of the blogger with whom Kibkalo allegedly shared proprietary Microsoft code. The complaint filed Monday in federal court in Seattle did not identify the blogger.

READ MORE: Former Microsoft employee arrested for leaking trade secrets to blogger

“After confirmation that the data was Microsoft’s proprietary trade secret, on September 7, 2012, Microsoft’s Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account,” says the complaint by FBI agent Armando Ramirez.

The search of the email account occurred months before Microsoft provided Ramirez with the results of its internal investigation in July 2013.

The email search uncovered messages from Kibkalo to the blogger containing fixes for the Windows 8 RT operating system before they were released publicly. The complaint alleges Kibkalo also shared a software development kit that could be used by hackers to understand more about how Microsoft uses product keys to activate software.

Besides the email search, Microsoft also combed through instant messages the two exchanged that September. Microsoft also examined files in Kibkalo’s cloud storage account, which until last month was called SkyDrive. Kibkalo is accused of using SkyDrive to share files with the blogger.

Kibkalo has since relocated to Russia, the FBI complaint says.

Frank said in his statement that no court order was needed to conduct the searches.

“Courts do not issue orders authorizing someone to search themselves,” he said. “Even when we have probable cause, it’s not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves.”

Hotmail’s terms of service includes a section that says, “We may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications, in order to … protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers.”

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has taken a defiant stand against intrusions of customer privacy, in the wake of National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden’s revelations of government snooping into online activities.

General counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post in December that Microsoft was “especially alarmed” at news reports of widespread government cyber-spying.

Microsoft also has a long-running negative ad campaign called “Scroogled,” in which it slams Google for scanning “every word in every email” to sell ads, saying that “Google crosses the line.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Chimp attack victim asks again for right to sue – National

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut woman disfigured in a 2009 chimpanzee attack asked state lawmakers Friday to grant her the ability to sue the state so she can pay her medical bills and “have a chance to live a comfortable life.”

“The state knew what was happening and failed to protect me,” the woman, Charla Nash, said at a public hearing before being guided back to her seat by her college-age daughter, Briana, who later fed her a banana with a spoon.

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Nash’s lawyer Charles Willinger contends the state’s environmental agency “failed miserably” in its mission to keep the public, especially Nash, safe, by not seizing the 200-pound chimpanzee when it had the chance. That inaction, Willinger argued, led to Nash’s life being irreparably harmed.

“Today, Charla’s world is basically one of darkness. She sits in a room without eyes, without hands, without her own face. She is obviously, permanently scarred, not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically,” he said. “She cannot see Briana, and in my way of thinking, even worse, she can’t embrace Briana.”

The sight of Nash and her daughter appeared to move some members of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which is considering her request.

“The simple words spoken by Ms. Nash rang loudly, I think for all of us,” said Sen. John Kissel, the top-ranking Senate Republican on the committee, who acknowledged he questions whether Nash has legal standing to sue the state. “There doesn’t seem to be any bitterness. There doesn’t seem to be any grudge. It seems to be a woman trying to do the best she can with the horrific circumstances she endured.”

The committee is considering a bill that would overrule a decision last year by State Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr., who refused Nash’s request for permission to sue the state. It’s a last-ditch effort by Nash’s attorneys to recoup damages from the state, which generally is immune from lawsuits unless allowed by the commissioner. The panel has until April 2 to act on the bill.

Kissel suggested there may be a way for legislators to assign a monetary value to Nash’s claim, without her having to go to court, and vote on that proposal this session, which ends May 7.

Nash’s lawyers have asked for $150 million, but Willinger said she would be willing to settle for less, possibly half that. He also said Nash would accept a settlement that could be paid out over years, reducing the impact on the state budget.

The 200-pound chimpanzee, known as Travis, attacked Nash on Feb. 16, 2009, when she went to the Stamford home of its owner, Sandra Herold, to help her friend and employer to lure the animal back inside. The chimp went berserk and Nash lost her nose, lips, eyelids and hands before the animal was shot to death by a police officer.

Nash resides at a Massachusetts convalescent centre, where she is awaiting a second attempt at a hand transplant.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen told lawmakers the state cannot be held responsible.

“I am not here to diminish Ms. Nash’s suffering. It has been and will continue to be horrific,” said Jepsen, also acknowledging the former Department of Environmental Protection’s actions were not “flawless.” Nash’s lawyers have pointed to a memo from a DEP biologist who warned that the chimpanzee was “an accident waiting to happen.”

“Rather, my argument is this: Regardless of the extent of Ms. Nash’s injuries, or whether in hindsight DEP could have done things differently or better, the law does not support this claim,” Jepsen said. “Nor is it in the public interest to grant it.”

Jepsen warned that overruling Vance’s decision would create a dangerous precedent for the state and “open the floodgates” for other claims, an argument dismissed by Willinger as “a Chicken Little response.”

Nash reached a $4 million settlement in 2012 with the estate of Herold, who died in 2010. Her attorneys say that will only cover a small portion of her medical costs, which are estimated to be in the millions. While she receives Social Security disability and Medicaid payments, Nash’s housing, treatment and meals at the nursing home cost about $16,000 a month. That doesn’t include outside medical care, medication costs and surgeries.

On Friday, Jepsen said if Nash is allowed to sue, claiming the state was negligent in not seizing the animal, others will likely pursue lawsuits concerning alleged negligence involving millions of state permit and license-holders. Jepsen said there are cases awaiting a decision on Nash’s request.

©2014The Canadian Press

Edmonton conservationist Al Oeming dies at age 88 – Edmonton

EDMONTON – Edmonton conservationist Al Oeming has died of complications after heart surgery.

Oeming’s son, Todd, confirms his father died in hospital earlier this week.

Oeming, 88, was well-known in the province for his Alberta Game Farm, later known as Polar Park, 25 kilometres east of Edmonton.

He opened the massive 500-hectare facility in 1958 and closed it in 1998 after admitting that animal-rights activists were becoming increasingly successful at dissuading people from going to zoos.

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In the early 1970s, the game park was home to about 800 species and 3,000 animals and drew thousands of visitors a day.

By the time it closed, amid criticism from groups such as Zoocheck Canada, there were just 500 animals and maybe 200 visitors in a weekend.

“No regrets, but I wouldn’t do it again,” Oeming said at the time. “It’s the colossal costs. You’re also beset with much tougher regulations.”

Oeming was a Second World War veteran and a boxer, held a PhD and spent decades touring elementary schools across Canada with his cheetah named Tawana, presenting award-winning nature films and promoting conservation.

At the height of his fame, he was the subject of a TV series called “Al Oeming — Man of the North,” co-hosted by actor Leslie Nielsen.

After closing his exotic animal park, Oeming turned his attention to collecting and auctioning horse-drawn carriages and sleighs.

“His express wishes were that there would be no funeral,” said Todd Oeming.

“He wanted to have a cremation done and he wanted his ashes placed in a certain portion of our land known as our Spruce Box in order that his spirit can go on (amid) the continued growth of the trees.”

With files from CHED

Marois tells Quebecers there will be no referendum until they are ready for one

WATCH: The leaders of the four main political parties in Quebec faced off for the first election debate. Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports on how each of them performed.

MONTREAL – A Parti Quebecois majority government will not hold an independence referendum until Quebecers are ready for one, Leader Pauline Marois told a televised audience Thursday night.

But Marois refused to confirm in a debate with her political rivals there won’t be a referendum if her party is re-elected on April 7.

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  • Who do you think won Quebec’s first election debate?

“You know that (Liberal Leader Philippe) Couillard, in order to have people forget the Liberal years, would have you believe that this election is being fought on the issue of another referendum,” she said during the leaders’ debate.

“False. There will be no referendum as long as Quebecers are not ready.”

With polls repeatedly suggesting that a majority of Quebecers do not want another referendum, the debate provided Marois with a perfect opportunity to reassure voters that a PQ victory would not spark an immediate vote on the province’s future.

But, just like many previous PQ leaders who can’t afford to alienate hardline sovereigntists in the party, Marois refused to say there wouldn’t be a referendum in the next four years.

WATCH: Political analyst Bruce Hicks summarizes the first Quebec election debate and shares insight on how all four candidates performed.

Marois reiterated that a PQ government would launch an extensive consultation period with Quebecers before making any decision to send them to the ballot box to vote on creating a country.

READ MORE: Who do you think won Quebec’s first election debate?

Couillard’s basic strategy in the televised debate was clear: cast the PQ as a party that fosters political uncertainty at the expense of economic prosperity.

“The choice is clear,” he said. “Do you want to elect the Parti Quebecois, which will prepare another referendum, or a Liberal government that will attend to the economy, jobs, education and health?

“With the PQ, Quebec lost 66,800 full-time jobs in 2013 and what is Madame Marois doing? She’s building a team with another referendum in mind.”

Marois also made it clear a PQ government would push ahead with the party’s controversial charter of values, which would prevent public-sector employees from wearing religious clothing and symbols on the job.

Although the charter has divided Quebecers, Marois is hoping it will attract support from many small-c conservatives who can help the PQ win ridings currently held by Francois Legault’s Coalition party.

Legault, whose party is struggling in opinion polls, said his government would do “great things” for Quebec, reduce taxes for the middle class and manage public funds in a more responsible manner.

“Quebec needs to start over, move forward,” said Legault, who has admitted he is fighting the battle of his life. “I refuse to give up. I am convinced that we can do great things.

“The Parti Quebecois and the Liberals, since the beginning of the campaign, have talked about a referendum. In my opinion, they are disconnected from your reality.”

Francoise David, whose leftist Quebec solidaire has two seats in the 125-member assembly, spoke about the importance of more equality in the province.

“For the past 40 years, two parties (the Liberals and the PQ) have formed the government. Isn’t it time to look elsewhere? Isn’t it time to choose Quebec solidaire?”

The leaders debated four topics: the economy; social issues such as education; public finances and integrity; and identity and the national question.

The debate was considered key because a large segment of the electorate was expected to tune in ahead of the election.

READ MORE: PQ leader envisions sovereign Quebec keeping the dollar, having seat at Bank of Canada

Opinion polls indicate the Liberals and the PQ are locked in a virtual tie in popular support, with the Coalition and Quebec solidaire in a distant third and fourth place respectively.

Although Marois had initially said she would participate in only one debate, she and the other leaders will also face off again next week on TVA, the television network owned by star PQ candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau.

There will be no English-language debate.

The debates are considered a chance for the leaders to set the tone for the remainder of the campaign, while a strong performance can energize a party’s troops.

©2014The Canadian Press

Who will become the next leader of the PC Party of Alberta?

EDMONTON – For the third time in eight years, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives will be on the hunt for a new leader, following Premier Alison Redford’s resignation, which takes effect on Sunday.

While several names have been thrown around — including former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and former leadership hopeful Jim Dinning — many politicians say it’s simply too soon to speculate.

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“It’s too early to be talking about this,” said Justice Minister Jonathan Denis. “I want to thank the premier for her service today, and I am going to be going back to my constituency tomorrow to talk to a lot of my key supporters and we’ll go from there.”

“It’s too early to think about it, and definitely too early to talk about it,” added Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Thomas Lukaszuk. “The fact is, we still have a premier until Sunday, we have an interim premier that will be sworn in, the party has to make some very crucial decisions on what the process will be for the selection of a new leader.”

“It’s too early to even think about those things,” said the Honourable Diana McQueen, Minister of Energy. “What I’m concentrating on is doing the job at hand for my constituents and as the Minister of Energy.”

Thursday morning, Deputy Premier Dave Hancock was named interim leader of the PC Party. The party will now have four to six months to elect a new leader.

READ MORE: Dave Hancock will serve as Alberta’s interim premier

While many say it’s too soon to name names, Redford’s former campaign manager says it doesn’t matter who the party elects. Speaking candidly to Global News, Stephen Carter said the PC Party may be too far gone.

“I’m really concerned about how the leadership is going to unfold. In the next six months we’ll elect a leader, but I’m not sure that that leader is going to be able to move the party at all.

“I think the Progressive Conservative Party as we know it has done its time.”

Watch below: Stephen Carter speaks about Redford’s resignation

While time will only tell who will become the PC’s next leader, those inside the legislature say they’ll have a big job ahead of them.

“Obviously we need somebody that’s going to be a team player and that’s going to involve every single one of us as caucus members,” said Neil Brown, MLA for Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill.

“I think they need somebody who can really drive change and support that,” said Independent MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, who recently left the PC caucus. “I think they need a changed leader, somebody who will implement changes.”

READ MORE: Another Alberta MLA resigns from PC Caucus

The process has been altered since Redford was elected leader of the PC Party. According to a recent update to party rules, if no candidate earns a majority vote in the first ballot, only the first and second candidate will move on to the second ballot vote. Previously, three candidates would have moved on.

If those rules were in place in 2006, Ed Stelmach would have been eliminated after the first ballot. In the 2011 leadership race, Redford would have only faced Mar in the second ballot.

Follow @CaleyRamsay

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.

©2014Shaw Media