The Alberta Party has officially opened a constituency association in St. Albert again.
On Wednesday night around 20 members gathered to start a local chapter of the provincial party.
Neil Korotash, who was elected as president of the constituency association, estimates that in St. Albert there are around 60 Alberta Party members.
“I think that there is an appetite for something centrist, for a positive centrist party. They are tired of being against something … and they are looking forward to building something positive,” Korotash said.
The new president is a former member of the PC party and was a member of the St. Albert PC Constituency Association. He said that due to the recent major changes happening on the right he no longer felt like the PC party was a good fit for him.
Korotash said that the turning point for him was the PC leadership election last spring. He said that while he was at the Calgary convention he was meeting and interacting with people who didn’t share the his values.
Robbie Kreger-Smith, spokesman for the Alberta Party said that Korotash isn’t the only one who has come to the party since Jason Kenney entered Alberta politics.
Kreger-Smith said that memberships have grown after every major event involving current UCP leader Jason Kenney during his path to becoming party leader.
“Pretty much every milestone that [Kenney] has reached – whether it’s being accepted into the race, winning the race, the unity agreement and ultimately his victory as the UCP leader – every one of those milestones we have seen a surge in membership,” Kreger-Smith said.
Although the party has a policy not to release membership numbers, Kreger-Smith said that membership in the party has tripled since March and grown by 70 per cent in the last 10 days.
Along with a growing membership, constituency associations are also opening up across the province. Right now the party has constituency associations in 63 of the possible 87 ridings. This is up from 40 in mid-2016.
The number of MLAs in the party has also grown. In October former NDP MLA Karen McPherson, who had recently moved to sit as an independent, decided to join the party. The move doubled the party’s MLAs, bringing it up to two. On Oct. 30 the party moved to seek official party status in the legislature, which is typically reserved for parties of four or more MLAs.
Kreger-Smith said that the party is continuing to try and recruit the independent MLAs to sit with their caucus. Currently Richard Starke, former leadership candidate for the PC party; Rick Frasier, former PC party member; and Derek Fildebrandt, former Wildrose financial critic are all sitting as independents.
He said the party is currently speaking with two of the three MLAs who have values that align with the party.
“We have been having ongoing discussions with them and we are hopeful that in time they will be in a position that their constituents can support a cross to the Alberta Party. I think that in terms of two-thirds of those independent MLAs there is a really good alignment in terms of values, it’s just they need to do their homework and follow a process that will enable them to come to the Alberta Party,” Kreger-Smith said.
St. Albert has previously been home to an Alberta Party Constituency Association and ran candidates in two provincial elections. Former city council member Tim Osborne ran for the Alberta Party in 2012, coming out with 1,195 votes, or six per cent of the total votes. In 2015, Trevor Love ran and earned 494 votes or 2.2 per cent of the votes.
On Friday, Alberta Party leader Greg Clark announced he would be stepping down as leader of the party to trigger a leadership election. He said that he believes this is the best way for the party to grow and attract more members before the 2019 election.
“We must jump-start the Alberta Party by selling memberships, raising money and raising our profile by inviting Albertans into our party to debate different versions for the future of our province,” Clark said in a statement.