Rick Strankman, the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, said in a press release that when he first learned that his colleagues — including Wildrose leader Danielle Smith — “had decided to abandon their responsibilities and obligations as members of the Wildrose caucus, preferring the promise of political baubles from a (Progressive Conservative) government that is not yet three or four months old, I was incredulous.”
Strankman had left the country, for an earlier planned vacation, the day before the Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor.
He returned to Alberta late Monday evening and issued a statement.
“Just weeks ago, at a caucus meeting in Calgary, Rob Anderson and Danielle Smith used their influence to cajole a statement of unanimous support from caucus members. Their objective was to avoid a leadership review. Now, only weeks later, the two of them led a revolt against their own party and against their own leadership, and in the process, persuaded seven of their colleagues to go along with their duplicitous act,” Strankman said in the release.
“Not one of the 87 Wildrose constituency associations, nor any of the party’s nearly 25,000 members, nor any of the men and women who serve on the party’s province-wide executive council, has perpetrated this act of betrayal. Their hands and their consciences are clean. The two people who did perpetrate the betrayal are Rob Anderson and Danielle Smith. The seven who decided to support them, placing the promise of personal political gain ahead of obligation and duty, are collaborators.”
“These nine individuals joined the (Progressive Conservative) Party. … they did so with the objective of destroying the party they were elected to represent and defend. They showed disdain for the men and women who made up their own constituency associations. They publicly scorned the army of volunteers who worked for them, and the donors who gave money on their behalf. The more than 400,000 Albertans who voted in favour of the Wildrose Party in the last provincial election certainly didn’t do so in anticipation of this kind of betrayal,” Strankman said.
“A betrayal by nine does not negate the wishes and aspirations of thousands. As one of the many thousands of Wildrose Party members who has stuck to principle, who has not betrayed the public trust, and who has not sold out in exchange for the promise of political baubles, I look forward to the rebirth of the Wildrose Party.”
The other seven MLAs who crossed included two Central Alberta MLAs — Rod Fox (Lacombe-Ponoka) and Bruce Rowe (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills). Another Central Alberta Wildrose MLA, Kerry Towle (Sylvan Lake-Innisfail) crossed the floor about three weeks ago.
Heather Forsyth, MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek, has been named interim Wildrose leader.
On Tuesday, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky ruled that Wildrose would retain official Opposition status.
The party is now tied with the Liberals at five seats each.