Wood Buffalo mayor Melissa Blake says she's a non-partisan mayor, but she showed her love for New Democrats on Saturday as she recounted her terrifying escape from Fort McMurray.

“I know captains go down with the ship, but do mayors burn with the city? The only thing that mattered was what was in my car,” said Blake, as she took centre stage at the NDP's annual convention for a tribute to Fort McMurray.

Blake and her family were part of an evacuation that drove more than 80,000 people from their homes as a massive wildfire threatened to engulf the oilsands hub in the northern part of the province. The evacuation was the largest in Alberta's history.

Jokingly, she said her kids, who initially went to oilsands camps in the north, now want to grow up to be camp workers because the “food is pretty darn good.”

“While the camps were doing that, our First Nations were opening their doors and welcoming our citizens. They accommodated the people of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo.”

Many camps were half-occupied at the time. The town, which is at the heart of Canada's oilsands industry - making up part of the planet's third largest crude reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela - was already suffering from slumping global oil prices before the fire struck.

Her city’s unemployment rate hit 10 per cent and vacancy rates in Fort McMurray rose as high as 30 per cent, Blake said.

But once the fire struck, the work camps camps filled quickly, offering ample space to evacuees fleeing the flames.

She said that while she’s a non-partisan mayor, she is “particularly NDP-loving” today, commending the government’s response to the fire. She praised their emergency response teams, who allocated resources vital to evacuation and rebuilding following the fire.

She said “this has truly been an extraordinary introduction to the Alberta NDP.”

Calgary's Naheed Nenshi applauds NDP's pro-oilsands plan

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi also addressed the delegation early on the convention’s second day, promoting government investment in Canada’s cities, joking “welcome to Calgary. Spend money, support local businesses.”

That means getting the most out of the province’s declining resources, oilsands in particular. Nenshi called the province’s rich reserves something that should make people proud rather than being ashamed. He applauded the NDP’s commitment to getting Alberta’s oilsands to market.

Nenshi pointed out that, in his six years as mayor, he’s worked with five different premiers. And it sounds like he has a favourite.

“I have never had such an open, consistent and collaborative relationship with the government than in the last year.”

Wildrose in turmoil

The warm words for the NDP came as its main rivals in the provincial legislature, Alberta's Wildrose party, was tearing itself apart in a crisis. In a blog posted on Friday, former leader Danielle Smith, now hosting a Calgary radio show, said party leaders were working behind the scenes to remove their leader, Brian Jean, who recently lost his Fort McMurray home in the wildfire.

Brian Jean, Derek Fildebrandt, Wildrose
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean campaigns with Derek Fildebrandt before 2015 Alberta election. Facebook photo.

"Brian Jean has spent the last year trying to build a big tent party that would attract more centrist voters and build a large enough coalition to be able to win the next election, and a portion of the Wildrose party faithful don’t want to go there," Smith wrote in the blog. "So they want to turf Jean as leader."

But after this news started to spread, a local Wildrose constituency association (CA) in the riding of Lac la Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills - that had initially called for Jean's resignation backtracked.

“We have been impressed with what Brian Jean has been doing and will stand with him unconditionally as will our CA," the local Wildrose chapter posted in a note on its Facebook page on Friday.

“The motion the CA advanced was specific to the Wildrose policy amendment as part of the party AGM process and procedures and in no way reflected the board's lack of approval for Mr. Jean.

“If other comments were made they would have been done personally and do not reflect the opinions of the Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills Constituency Association.”