Wildrose steers toward the mainstream

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The Wildrose Alliance party is more sophisticated and moderate than many Albertans think, said a local member who represented the St. Albert constituency at the party’s annual general meeting in Red Deer over the weekend.

An example is the party’s rejection of a resolution that sought to make the ownership of firearms a property right, said Keith Wilson, a local lawyer and a vice-president with the Wildrose’s St. Albert constituency association.

“[The resolution] really didn’t achieve much for responsible firearms use but would fall into the hands of those who are seeking to oppose the party and try and marginalize the party,” Wilson explained.

The fact that the Wildrose is able to reject such ideas based on outside perception is a sign of a level of sophistication few would attribute to its members, he said.

“It showed that the party is more moderate than its opponents would want to characterize it,” Wilson said.

Party members defeated a resolution to support the development of nuclear power and watered down but didn’t completely shut the door on its stance on banning teachers’ right to strike.

Resolutions passed included allowing workers to opt out of unions, exploring a provincial police force, establishing an Alberta constitution within the Canadian constitution, keeping 83 legislature seats, increasing the amount of privately delivered health care and supporting health workers who, for reasons of conscience, wish to refuse to perform services like filling a prescription for the morning-after pill.

Wilson said the convention was impressive in the sheer numbers it attracted, as more than 1,000 listened to a speech by leader Danielle Smith.

Even PC president Bill Smith was quoted over the weekend as being impressed with the turnout.

A PC member until last fall, Wilson said he came to the Alliance because he was disillusioned by poor decisions from the Stelmach government and treating Alberta taxpayers “like an ATM.”

Locally, the party is attracting a broad range of members, including many who’ve never been politically involved before, he said. The common motivator is the belief the Stelmach government is making misstep after misstep.

“Everybody says the same thing. The current government has just moved away from the people,” Wilson said.

The local association formed in February with 125 members, Wilson said. A number of potential candidates have already expressed interest as the party prepares for an election.

Decisions made during the weekend convention show the Wildrose party has made the pragmatic decision to drop some of its defining qualities in an effort to be more appealing to the mainstream, observed MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah.

This approach carries the risk of losing the very essence that sets the party apart from the Tories, forcing the Wildrose to prove it can do a better job of governing while having no track record to support the claim, Mensah said.

“It essentially remains another conservative party with a good communicator as a leader. The question is, is that going to be enough for people to switch. And I have my doubts.”

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