While much of the debate for the upcoming provincial election is focused around the big two provincial parties, there are some smaller parties hoping to make a splash in the spring.
Don Petruka is the St. Albert candidate for the newly formed Alberta Advantage Party, which is led by former Wildrose Party founder Marilyn Burns.
Petruka, who has lived in St. Albert for 20 years, said he was a supporter of the merger between the province's two former conservative parties and the creation of the United Conservative Party but began to grow frustrated after it felt like they had lost their “grassroots guarantee.”
“It’s more of a do as I say, not as I do,” Petruka said, adding some of the behaviours that have bothered him over the past year include having the party select candidates to run in ridings and not allowing MLAs to vote freely on issues.
The candidate has never run for office before but was inspired to do so because he doesn't like the direction the province is heading in. Petruka, a heavy-duty mechanic who runs a small business, has been impacted by the economic downturn of the last few years.
“Because of the way my business was affected by the downturn in the oil and gas industry, I became very interested in (getting) more involved with politics about four or five years ago,” he said.
Rather than take to the streets to protest, Petruka decided to file his nomination for this upcoming election. Around a year ago, he began researching parties and found his views aligned with the Alberta Advantage Party.
One of the big things he likes about the party is that they have a people’s right to a referendum, brought on by a petition.
“If 10 per cent of the population come forward with a petition ... and it could be anything from Daylight Savings Time to Western separation ... we would be obligated to hold a province-wide referendum and base our governance on the outcome of the referendum.”
Petruka noted, though, that his party is not a separatist party.
The grandfather said he also likes that the party has a policy for recalling elected officials.
The biggest issues facing the riding, and the entire province, Petruka said, is the high costs of healthcare and students not getting an adequate education.
Overall, Petruka would like to see better financial management of Alberta's public cash.
Petruka said that he feels like he has an uphill battle trying to educate the public about what the new and relatively small party is about but he said he believes people are frustrated with the current and former big parties in the country and want to see change.
“I think that people are waking up and I think that people are realizing that and looking for different options,” Petruka said.
Petruka will be facing off in the spring election against St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud, UCP candidate Jeff Wedman, Alberta Liberal Party candidate Kevin McLean and Green Party candidate Cameron Jefferies.
So far, the Alberta Advantage Party has candidates registered in nine ridings across the province.