CALGARY — A former cabinet minister who hasn’t been in politics for almost 20 years says he wouldn’t be afraid as premier to confront what he calls the biggest challenge to Alberta’s Conservative party.
Rick Orman says the fledgling Wildrose Alliance poses a very real danger to the governing Tories in the next provincial election.
“Old school is you don’t talk about the opposition, but, you know, those days are gone. We have to wake up,” Orman said Wednesday as he announced his candidacy to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as Tory leader.
“There are Conservatives who are in denial about the Wildrose and if we don’t wake up, and if we do not recognize where our principles are, then we’re going to split the party.”
The Wildrose Alliance, the right-of-centre political rival to the Tories, was founded in 2008. It has four sitting members in the 83-seat legislature, but is expected to improve on that number in the next election.
“All of our leaders have recognized that the threat to the Conservative party in Alberta is on the right. We have had movements on the right before, but we are having a movement that is moving quickly . . . ” Orman said.
“You know those people over there didn’t land from Mars. Those people were Conservatives and the reason that they’re not here is because they do not see themselves in the reflection of the Conservative party, because there’s been a blur in the principles.”
But it’s possible to persuade many of them to come back, he suggested.
Orman, 62, left the legislature in 1993 and returned to the private sector where he’s been involved in the oil and gas industry. He held three portfolios, including energy, in the seven years he was a member of the legislature. He unsuccessfully sought the leadership when Ralph Klein became premier in 1992.
Orman joked his decision is definitely a case of “back to the future.”
He said he decided to run because the party is in jeopardy.
“I’m running for the leadership because I believe we have abandoned our principles in some important ways. Our campaign is about staying faithful to them, standing up and defending them and consistently applying them.”
Orman is the sixth person in the race to replace Stelmach, who is expected to step down in the fall.
Three of Stelmach’s cabinet ministers — Doug Horner, Alison Redford and Ted Morton — left their posts earlier this year to compete. Backbencher Doug Griffiths and Gary Mar, a former cabinet minister from the Klein years, are also vying for the job. Mar left his position as Alberta’s representative in Washington so he could run.
Orman said he is shocked by allegations of intimidation and wrongdoing within Alberta’s health-care system and wouldn’t hesitate to call an inquiry if credible evidence suggested a further investigation were required.
He also is promising to repeal Alberta’s land-use legislation, which he calls “unacceptable.”
“I feel quite liberated in this. I’m not protecting anything. I’m going to do what I believe. I’m going to say what’s on my mind.”