Just over a month after former leader Danielle Smith led one of the largest floor crossings in Alberta politics, the Wildrose Party is starting the process of picking a new leader to replace the struggling official Opposition.
Friday afternoon, Wildrose Party president Jeff Callaway announced to supporters, via email, that the party would be electing a new leader on June 6. “Our party is strong, united and ready to give Albertans a real, principled, grassroots and fiscally conservative option at the ballot box,” Callaway said.
“While the governing PCs talk about raising taxes, hurting economic growth and doing anything to stay in power, our party will be engaging Albertans across this province from door-to-door, talking about how to make Alberta an even better place to live.”
Candidates can only run for the leadership if they have been members of the party six months before the date of the election. The party can waive the membership requirement for individuals unable to hold a current membership due to their occupation.
Former Wildrose candidate for the riding of Vermilion-Lloydminster Danny Hozack said that while the rules laid out were in depth, it’s enough for the party to begin rebuilding.
“June 6 is the best that we can do, as Premier Jim Prentice is bringing a whole new level of integrity to politics in Alberta.”
Hozack said, with the speculation of a April vote, that Prentice is just the same old politics Albertans have come to know under the PC party.
“It’s frankly partisanship on behalf of the premier,” Hozack said. He pointed out saying that the premier is more worried about doing what is best for the PC party, rather than what’s best for Alberta.
Hozak said that he does agree with Prentice on one thing.
“I do agree with him that we are going into some difficult times, and we should be focused on the province, not an election,” he said.
“I think that people should be dealing with what to do in the uncertain times instead of clamoring about a potential election that we don’t need.”
Asked if he would potentially put his name forward for the leadership, Hozack said that was above his pay grade. “No, I will not be,” he said. “I’m still speculating about putting my name forward to run in an election for the Wildrose in Vermilion-Lloydminster.”
What the Wildrose should be looking for in a leadership contender is someone to carry on the motto of the party, ‘putting Albertan’s first,’ Hozack said.
“To me if someone is committed to Alberta then they will do quite well in the Wildrose Party.”
Hozack said the next leader needs to stop thinking about governing the province, but rather doing what is right for the province.
“I don’t think that there is any shame of having an opposition party in the province of Alberta. I think that an opposition has to hold the government to account.”
Hozack didn’t agree that Prentice needs a mandate.
“Two years ago, the people of Alberta gave the PC party a mandate of balancing the budget and no new taxes. So, the premier should know what Albertans want,” he said.
Wildrose interim leader Heather Forsyth said there is an incredible energy among party members and Albertans who are ready to rally behind new leadership, focused on putting Albertans first.
“I’ve been enormously moved by the response from Albertans ready to engage in our leadership process and move our party forward,” Forsyth said. “I encourage all Albertans who believe we can do better as a province to get engaged.”
Potential names that have been floated as successor to Smith are Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat; Shayne Saskiw, Lac La Biche-St Paul-Two Hills, and former director of the Alberta wing of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Derek Fildebrandt.
Albertans have until May 6 to sign up as members of the Wildrose Party to be eligible to vote in the leadership race.