It has been a rough few months for the Wildrose Party.
The party, that only six months ago looked as though they could be heading into the government offices, is now struggling to maintain that lead.
Danny Hozack, who ran for the Wildrose Party against MLA Richard Starke in 2012, said in an interview with the Lloydminster Source that while the party is seeing rough times, the base support is still strong.
“There was recently a poll conducted that asked respondents if there was a role for the Wildrose to play and 34 per cent of the respondents said yes,” he said.
“I think that 34 per cent voted for us in the last election.”
Hozack said that he believes that percentage of Albertans, and possibly more, are looking for a positive change in the province.
“Albertans want a party that will stand up and articulate the needs of living within our means, shrinking the size of government and executing resources to the front lines,” he said.
The former candidate said that in a time when oil prices are dropping, a renewed need for some of those priorities will increase.
Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party, has been dealing with some issues around her leadership style and the direction of the party.
With four losses in byelections in the last two months, calls for Smith’s resignations are loud.
Hozack said that Smith has done a wonderful job in recent months, but there are still kinks to work out in the party.
“We made a few missteps in the last election, and we have made some missteps in the last few months as well,” he said.
“I think that we are getting our story straight, and she has continued to articulate a positive alternative to the government since the return of the fall session.
“I think that she and the entire Wildrose caucus have been doing a good job holding the government to account on prioritizing their spending.”
One of the biggest blows to the Wildrose Party in the last two weeks has been the defections of two of the members to the governing PC Party.
Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan both announced at the end of November that they would be leaving the Wildrose caucus to sit with the governing PC Party. Hozack said that the former Wildrose members did what they did for political reasons.
“Kerry Towle is a lovely lady, but quite frankly, I disagreed with her on a number of issues wholeheartedly that she was proposing.”
Hozack pointed to the seniors advocate that Towle was proposing.
“To me that proposal is one that grows the size of the government,” he said.
“And to me, it’s policy that was contradicting every principle that the Wildrose stands for.”
As for how to overcome the surging PC Party, Hozack said that by staying true to the core principles of the Wildrose Party, they will defeat the PC Party in the next general election.
“I don’t think the answer is to shift to the centre at all, we had 34 per cent in the last general election without making a single promise besides honest government,” he said.
“I think that there is a constituency out there that want that honest government, and I think there are a lot of people out there, in the centre of the political spectrum, that are disillusioned with big government,” he added.
“I think that we are exactly where we need to be on that spectrum.”
Hozack said that by articulating smaller government, local decision making, and allocating money to the front lines, will make people re-look at the Wildrose Party.
He admitted that people are looking to the current premier for change.
“Every time that people look at Premier Jim Prentice, they are thinking that he is doing a good job of getting the finances of the province under control,” he said.
“He cancelled the license plate fiasco, kept the Michener Centre open. But I want to tell people that a lot of those ideas came because the government has a strong opposition party.”
Here in the local riding, Hozack said that the grassroots movement is growing stronger every day.
“Here in Vermilion-Lloydminster, we are building a strong party, so that we can build a better province,” he said.
“Quite frankly, as long as we end up with a better province, we will give credit where credit is due.”
Asked what the future holds for the Wildrose Party in the province of Alberta, Hozack was blunt.
“I’m continually optimistic,” Hozack said.