The Wildrose Party’s troubles in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding are not over.
Board members elected during a heated annual general meeting last month are defying party bosses — who don’t recognize the new board — and plan to continue the fight, in the courts if necessary.
“It’s about democratic process,” said Edwin Erickson, who was elected constituency association president in the disputed election. “It is about what is right and what is wrong.”
Erickson said it would be easy to give up, especially since the riding’s MLA Joe Anglin quit the party on Sunday to sit as an independent. The outspoken MLA made his decision ahead of a move to kick him out of the party because of the controversy.
“But the fact is we’ve got a whole constituency full of people that are depending on somebody to do the right thing,” said Erickson.
Tensions between duelling factions in the riding came to a head at the Oct. 15 AGM. Supporters of Anglin faced off against allies of Jason Nixon, who was chosen the party’s candidate in the next provincial election last summer in a surprise challenge.
Hue and cry were raised at the AGM after pro-Anglin candidates’ names did not appear on a ballot for board elections. With the meeting at loggerheads, Nixon and supporters stormed out and a new board was elected in their absence.
A complaint was lodged with the party’s executive by unhappy riding members. An independent review found party rules had not been followed and the board was not duly elected. A new annual general meeting has been called. No date has been set.
“It’s ridiculous, to be blunt and simple,” Erickson said of the party’s move. “How can a grassroots party — or supposedly a grassroots party — override a majority vote of the constituents?”
Paul McLauchlin, vice-president of communications for the original constituency association board, said the review makes it clear the AGM was properly adjourned before the contested board vote.
“It was just a meeting that wasn’t going to meet the goals of a normal AGM. Motions were on the floor that were being put forward that were actually in contravention of our (constituency association) bylaws.”
Some of those gathered were “hostile towards the authority of the chair,” he said.
McLauchlin is confident that “cooler heads will prevail” as the party works to ensure Nixon is the riding’s next MLA.
“Jason Nixon’s our nominee and that’s what we’re moving forward on.”
Nixon, who was the former constituency association president, has the support of the board and the party.
“This is still considered a Wildrose constituency,” McLauchlin said, adding Nixon has already been playing a larger role in the riding.
“I can’t see it as a serious negative issue. I think that there will be no void, as I interpret the way Jason wants to take this on.”