Controversy has erupted once again in the contentious Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding held by firebrand Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin.
Tempers flared at Wednesday’s annual general meeting for the riding when pro-Anglin supporters’ names were removed from a ballot to elect constituency association positions.
When protests were voiced, Jason Nixon — who defeated Anglin for the party’s nomination in a controversial election last July — reportedly walked out with his supporters from the gathering in Rocky Mountain House’s Walking Eagle Hotel.
Anglin said the latest spat is just another example of his opponents breaking party rules when it suits them.
“Jason Nixon and his small crew wanted to make sure these people could not run,” said Anglin, who was in Nova Scotia at a government conference.
“What they were trying to do is what China is doing to Hong Kong. (They) are saying we’ll give you a free vote, but will tell you who the candidates are that you can vote on.
“That’s a bunch of bunk and our rules don’t support that kind of behaviour.”
Neither Nixon, nor the board, have the authority to take names off the ballot, he said. They can’t adjourn a meeting without a formal motion either — and that didn’t happen, said Anglin.
The meeting continued and later a motion was passed calling for an independent investigation of the riding hijinks.
A recording of the meeting has been sent to Wildrose Party president David Yager, Anglin said.
“Now the party will investigate. I just told the president of the party that it is important this investigation be thorough and fast.
“We’ve got to stop these shenanigans, otherwise it will reflect very badly on us.”
Yager said he is awaiting more information on what happened before deciding what the next step should be. He had not received an investigation request yet.
A provincial director was at the meeting — as is common practice — and Yager is awaiting a report on what happened.
“I’ve asked for all the material. We have a provision under the constitution that if the people (who) walked out claim the meeting was not properly constituted, they can appeal. …”
Likewise, those who believe the meeting met the rules can make their case to the party’s executive committee.
Yager said he has been in contact with Anglin and Nixon and will follow up.
Nixon and listed constituency association president Ted Bach and vice-president Pieter Broere did not respond to requests for comment.
Anglin claimed last summer that he was “blind-sided” when Nixon, his constituency association president at the time, unexpectedly stepped forward to contest the MLA nomination. A formal complaint was lodged alleging that Nixon broke party rules by not stepping down ahead of announcing his nomination intentions. The complaint was rejected by the party’s executive committee.
Nixon won the nomination handily, 242 votes to 122, and will represent the party in the next provincial election.
Edwin Erickson, who was elected constituency association president at Wednesday’s meeting, confirmed the furor started because Anglin supporters were upset that their names were not on the ballot.
“So immediately the question arose as to why those names had been excluded. The room was very adamant that that be dealt with,” said Erickson.
“The plot kind of starts to thicken when you find out that Jason Nixon, the newly nominated questionable candidate, was also chair of the nominating committee.
“That is quite unusual. I think it is probably unethical.”
A phone call from the meeting was put into the Wildrose Party’s executive committee to settle the dispute.
Erickson said he doesn’t know who was reached on the committee, but they were told to shut the meeting down.
A majority of the 70 or so gathered refused, arguing the meeting had followed procedures and quorum was met.
“At that point, Jason Nixon and his supporters left.”
Erickson estimated their numbers at 25 to 30, and Anglin supporters outnumbered them.
“So the meeting went ahead and a new board was elected.”
He fully supports an independent investigation of the riding.
“We want the truth. That’s all we want,” he said.
Erickson said the ongoing controversies have proven damaging to the party’s prospects in the riding, which was won as part of a strong showing in Central Alberta by Wildrose.
“My opinion is the Wildrose does not have a hope in hell — excuse me — to be able to elect another MLA in that riding until they really patch things up.
“There’s a lot of healing to be done.”
Whatever happens in the next few months, Anglin said he has made the commitment to his supporters that he will run in the next election. Whether it’s for Wildrose, another party or as an independent, and in what riding, are all up in the air.
“Everything is on the table.”