It began Monday evening with a tweet from a conservative blogger, which broke one of the biggest news stories in the province of Alberta this year.
Wednesday afternoon, six members of the Wildrose caucus, including the leader Danielle Smith, were rumoured to cross the floor and join the Jim Prentice-led Progressive Conservatives. Prentice had a media conference scheduled for after press time Wednesday to address the situation.
Danny Hozack, the 2012 candidate in Vermilion- Lloydminster for the Wildrose party, said that he has been getting positive feedback from the party faithful in the riding, even with everything happening in Edmonton.
“A few of the people are planning on leaving, and really that’s their personal choice,” Hozack said. “The only people that are leaving the party are the ones that are getting paid. All of the supporters – who are stuffing envelopes, licking stamps, donating time, knocking on doors and pounding the pavement – are not.
“(Those members of the party) are all still here, and we are still committed to putting Albertans first.”
Hozack said that base doesn’t have any plans to go anywhere anytime soon.
Along with Smith (Highwood), she was rumoured to be joined by Rob Anderson (Airdrie), Jeff Wilson (Calgary-Shaw), Gary Bikman (Cardston-Taber- Warner), Blake Pederson (Medicine Hat) and Jason Hale (Strathmore-Brooks) who left the official Opposition and joined the PC party. As of press time, the government was still in meetings with no official announcement.
The move comes after the Wildrose suffered defeat in four provincial byelections in Calgary and Edmonton, and then lost three MLAs.
Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan both left the Wildrose earlier this month, joining the backbench of the government.
Joe Anglin left after losing the party’s nomination in the upcoming election.
With the defections to the government benches, the Wildrose is now left with eight MLAs. Four of them took to Facebook and Twitter, announcing their continued support for the Wildrose brand.
Shayne Saskiw, (Lac La Biche-St. Paul–Two Hills) announced on Facebook that he would continue on with his work as a Wildrose MLA.
“I am committed to fighting for the constituents of Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills and to advocate for our priorities and for the needs of our communities,” Saskiw wrote. “There is a rumour that I will be crossing the floor tomorrow. That rumour is false.”
Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat) said via Twitter that he was staying put, “I am 100% committed to the Wildrose party, our principles, members and voters of #cypress #medhat and Alberta ... ”
Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler), who is currently on vacation, retweeted support for his caucus members who were staying with the Wildrose.
Pat Stier (Livingstone-MacLeod), said in a Facebook post that he could not support the defection.
“When a time for change becomes necessary for elected officials, in my opinion, they should then follow a procedure that includes their electorate in the new process, prior to making such a change,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the procedure that has been pursued by some of my Wildrose caucus members would appear not to have provided the electorate such an opportunity, therefore I cannot support it.”
Moving forward, Hozack said he still believes that their is still room for the official Opposition in the province.
“There is still room for the Wildrose party, and there is still a large group of people who believe that there is work to be done.”
He compared the hiccup the Wildrose are facing now to the fall of former premier Alison Redford.
“Of course, when you lose some of the people. But it is fair to say that six months ago, the PCs were losing their leader and all reports were saying that it was the end of the PC party.
“Now we are losing our leader, and I’m saying the same thing, we might get a leader that is better or even better than the last one.”
When asked if he would be leaving the Wildrose party, he said that his home is in the Wildrose.