Unite-the-Centre advocates “encouraged” by first meeting in Red Deer

A second meeting is being planned for next month

The “Unite the Centre” event held in Red Deer last weekend gathered enough momentum to advance to the next step.

The 55 Albertans who attended the by-invite-only meeting organized by former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel shared enough common values to plan another meeting for Red Deer in early May, said Robbie Kreger-Smith, a spokesman for the Alberta Party.

“We were encouraged by it,” he added, noting “98 per cent” of attendees agreed that fiscal responsibility as well as social inclusiveness are important principles for a centrist party.

The meeting was organized by Mandel in response to a growing “unease” in the province about former MP Jason Kenney being chosen as leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. Kreger-Smith said Kenney is a social conservative, and many Albertans are uncomfortable with having a government that does not stand up for minority rights, including the LBGTQ community.

Many who attended the Unite the Centre meeting last weekend are also unhappy with the NDP government’s decision to run a deficit that will mount to $71-billion by the end of 2019, he added.

Participants who were invited by Mandel included some Alberta Party members, some people who are “politically homeless,” and some individuals affiliated with the Liberal Party — although the party itself officially backed out of the meeting.

Liberal Party organizers could not be reached on Wednesday to explain why. But Kreger-Smith believes it doesn’t help that the provincial Liberals are in the midst of their own leadership race.

He isn’t sure how limited participation will be in the second meeting, but believes it will be more open to the public than the first one — which was by invitation “so a conversation could be started.”

Kreger-Smith liked that those present were a diverse group that “reflected what Alberta looks like,” instead of resembling what’s implied by the usual criticism of all politicians being older white men.

A second meeting date has not yet been announced.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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