The political landscape of Alberta has been shattered with the recent announcement of Premier Ed Stelmach’s retirement, quickly followed by Ted Morton stepping out of caucus and Liberal leader David Swan also announcing his retirement.The Wildrose Alliance has also been on the road publicly establishing itself as an alternative government ready to make a strike when an election is called.
Another group has also been mobilizing, but over coffee, in kitchens and even online.
Preceding the shake up at the legislature, Dave Taylor, Liberal MLA, announced he would be joining the Alberta Party, a name that has been around for years, but has a found new currency on the political landscape.
Interim leader of the Alberta Party Sue Huff and organizer Michael Walters were through Drumheller on Monday, February 7. They met with Drumheller town councillors.
“We have a municipal governance policy, it is a new policy we are working on and we want to get feedback from municipal councillors, mayor and reeves,” said Huff on their visit. They have been through a number of communities in Alberta with this goal in mind.
The Alberta Party has been on the fringes of Alberta politics for years, first formed in 1985 from fragments of the Social Credit movement and even some separatist sentiments. About a year ago, a new movement began under the Alberta Party moniker.
“We are a party that builds our policies on the values of Albertans and believes that in order to build good policy you better listen, and listen well, to what Albertans want,” said Huff.
In fact, listen in what they say they have done over the last year. They even called it the “Big Listen.”
Walter explains that a year ago the part membership was about 40 strong.
“Our party started from scratch, any policies we did have we suspended because we didn’t want them to bias the process, we didn’t want to sell policy that was pre-existing based on a small group of people,” he said. “In just over a year we have moved from 40 members to almost 900 today.”
Huff said the party takes a moderate balanced approach.
“(We) believe that government should be pragmatic rather than ideological, and the best ideas come when you listen to a lot of people, and are willing to acknowledge that good ideas exist everywhere. Good ideas come from across the political spectrum,” said Huff.
“Grassroots" is a term bandied about in politics. Another political movement under the banner of the Wildrose Alliance also went to the “grassroots” to form tips policy.
“We started the conversation in a very different place, we started from values…we asked three questions - what pressures are you facing, what are your hopes for the future and what are you grateful for living in Alberta,” said Huff.
Walters adds, “Before anyone had heard of the other party, they had a leader and were well financed, that is a significant difference. They came up with a product and a brand to sell.”
With the change in the political climate in Alberta, the party is working hard to be ready for an election whenever it comes. Currently they have 29 constituency associations organized and are aiming to have 50 in place by mid-March. After associations are formed there will be a push for candidates.
“We have a restrained sense of urgency. We know it (the election) is coming but we are not going to cut corners for political expediency. We are preparing to run candidates in every riding and build the infrastructure in every riding. If we find the right candidate who is local and committed…we are not going to parachute anyone in to be a candidate,” said Walters.
More on the party can be found at www.albertaparty.ca.