A disconnect with the party faithful is probably the biggest reason the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta have lost ground to a newer party, say members of the Wildrose Alliance.
Dave France, who ran under Wildrose colours in the 2008 provincial election, said governments beat themselves when they start dictating policy and fail to recognize the wishes of their own supporters.
A retired corrections officer now living in Stettler, France said he is less active with the Wildrose Alliance since having a disagreement with former party leader Paul Hinman, who won the Calgary-Glenmore riding in a byelection earlier this year.
While he has stepped back as an active member of Wildrose, France said he has no problem understanding an Angus Reid poll, conducted last week, that found leader Danielle Smith and her team had captured almost 40 per cent of Alberta voters.
That compared with 25 per cent each for the Conservatives and Liberals. The poll placed the New Democratic Party at a distant third with support from only nine per cent of the respondents. The online poll randomly selected 1,000 Albertans in the last week of November. The results have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
France said the governing Conservatives have lost touch with the people who elected them.
“Right now, I believe that, I don’t know if anybody in Alberta is ready for a female premier, but it’s anything but Conservative right now. Nobody wants to go Liberal in Alberta, not very badly.”
The Alliance has promised they’ll fix things, but haven’t yet said how, said France.
“It’s very hard to defeat a government. The government will defeat itself and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Shawn Howard, communications director for the Wildrose Alliance, said its leadership is not putting too much stock in the poll at this point, although they like the message.
“They (the Conservatives) are saying what I would expect them to say, although we would agree it’s a snapshot. I also think that they will tell you, if they’re being honest, that they are concerned because there’s a number of polls that this has happened. It’s begun to show a trend,” said Howard.
Party members visiting smaller communities throughout Alberta are getting a sense that there is rising anger among people who are frustrated with a government they believe is exhausted, out of touch and doesn’t have a vision for the province, he said.
“There is a mood for change. We know that we have got a tremendous amount of work to do over the next two years to show Albertans that we’re capable of governing and that we’re going to be an alternative to the Conservatives.”