Former Alberta senator-in-waiting Link Byfield officially became a Wildrose Alliance candidate last week, making him the party’s standard-bearer in the next provincial election.
Byfield was unopposed in his bid for the nomination in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and party officials officially declared him the winner after the nomination period was closed last week.
Byfield was elected as an Alberta senator-in-waiting in 2004, though he was never appointed to the Red Chamber. He was also the publisher of Alberta Report, a conservative magazine.
Now that he is officially the nominee, Byfield said he will work on building the party locally so it is prepared for the next election.
He said the party has found some interest from the community, but there is still plenty of room for growth.
“We do need more members and we need to start raising some serious campaign funds and we need to start up a campaign organization.”
He said without a firm election date, he has to be ready to take on local MLA Ken Kowalski as soon as he possibly can.
He said though the premier has indicated the election will likely be in spring 2012, he wants to be prepared long before that.
“It could come anytime really. I am hoping to be ready by next fall, but we will see.”
Byfield said the party is planning more community meetings as well as plenty of fundraising, but he also wanted to get out and meet voters.
“I have to meet many, many people in the constituency. People don’t vote for a photograph or a name they recognize. They vote for someone they have met,” he said. “Democracy is personal. People have to have a sense that they know you or their friend knows you.”
He said he still believes he can defeat Kowalski, who last won the riding with almost 70 per cent of the vote.
Byfield has been involved with the Wildrose since its early days, but said people seem more receptive to the party’s message than they have ever been.
“A couple of years ago when we started the party, it felt like rolling the boulder uphill, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore. It is spreading kind of on its own.”
He said the people he has spoken with are strongly indicating they don’t like the direction the province is going and are ready for new leadership.
“There is a realization that the need for change has come and the opportunity for change has come.”