In a road show spurred on by voter discontent, Danielle Smith, new leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party made her way through the valley to garner political and financial support.
Smith was in Delia on Thursday night, April 8 to speak at a fundraiser dinner. Before that, she was in Drumheller and then Hanna, to hear some of the issues on the minds of voters. The momentum the party has gained in such a short time surprised her.
“I certainly didn’t expect there would be this kind of interest, but I think that is a reflection of the level of discontent,” said Smith. “We’re talking today about some of the ways people are feeling disconnected from the government. People want to be consulted about the direction the province is taking in legislation, regulation on policy, more than once every four years during an election, and that’s the message we are getting loud and clear.”
“Every time I go to a new community, I hear of new issues, but the same problems keep coming up again and again, we have a tired, arrogant government that isn’t listening. They are making mistakes; they are refusing to admit it. They’re changing course and making more mistakes. I think part of the reason is they are not consulting properly. We’re going to correct those problems. We are interested in hearing what people have to say because we trust that an average Albertan has generally a good idea of the direction their government should take.
Her observation on political culture in Alberta is that politicians have lost a sense of public service.
“People used to have this sense of going into government so they could make a few important changes, represent their constituents and then get back out into the private sector,” said Smith. “That’s the type of person we are hoping to attract to run for our political party. There will need to be people of course that have experience in government, that have been in cabinet, but generally speaking we want to attract people from the private sector and all walks of life that don’t look at this as a career, but as a public service and want to get back as soon as they can after making some important changes.”
While these are the qualities the party is looking for in a candidate, that search has not yet begun.
“We’re trying to do things in the right order,” she said. “One of the things that (Peter) Lougheed did when he began, was he realized you have to build your grassroots constituency associations.
“When I became leader, it was a priority for us to establish that party infrastructure. We had 15 constituency associations when I became leader, we are now close to 65, and we are hoping to have all 83 in time for our June AGM in Red Deer. And then we begin the process of holding our candidate nominations. We are hoping to start our first candidate nominations in the fall and have a number done in the spring.”
On her recent travels, one issue that has come up is the realignment of electoral boundaries.
“I am hearing it a lot, especially in the smaller municipalities that tend to be rural. There’s a concern that the rural communities are being lumped in with some of the towns and creating an imbalance in their representation. I think there is reason to be concerned about that. When I go into the rural areas, they really feel like the centralizing decision making under the dome in the legislature is impacting the services in their communities and that is only going to get worse if they don’t have a electoral boundary drawn in a way that is going to preserve the rural character of some of those ridings,” she said. “At this point, how much can be done to change it is an open question. I think that we have to see it wind its way through the process.”