Wildrose Party at a ‘crossroads’: Smith

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith offered up her political head if the party fails to win government in the next election.

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith offered up her political head if the party fails to win government in the next election.

“My time as leader of the Official Opposition is coming to an end, one way or the other, in about 500 days,” Smith told about 500 party faithful gathered at the Red Deer Sheraton Hotel on Friday night.

“If we don’t win the election in 2016 it will be up to you as Wildrose members to choose a new leader.

“Either way, we are in for a big change in 500 days.”

Smith told the crowd at the party’s annual general meeting that Wildrose is at a “crossroads.”

While recent disappointing byelection losses in Calgary have been by some as a crisis, Smith prefers to look at it as an opportunity.

In those byelections, voters were not given enough reasons to cast a ballot for Wildrose, In the 2012 provincial election, the party gave voters too many reasons to vote against them, she said.

Since then, much has been done to broaden the party’s appeal. New policies have been adopted, unpopular positions dumped and stronger candidates recruited.

Smith then rhymed off a dozen points that make her party a significant departure from the ruling Tories, hitting many touchstone issues such as balanced budgets, property rights, low taxes, regionalized health care, better municipal relations and free votes in the Legislature.

“Our program for change could not be more different than what we’re seeing in the current governing party,” she said.

However, the challenge is to get the party’s message out to Albertans, who don’t want junk mail, spam emails, robocalls and don’t come out to town hall meetings or follow the party on Facebook.

The mainstream media cannot be counted on to deliver the party’s message, she said.

Smith rolled out a five-point plan, starting with a call to make “politics fun once again,” even suggesting each constituency association could appoint a board members as the local “fun police.”

The party needs to make it enjoyable for people to come out to Wildrose meetings.

“I am giving you permission to fire obnoxious board members,” she said, adding that rudeness and disrespectful behaviour should not be tolerated anywhere in the party.

While no examples were given, it was an interesting comment in light of the recent controversy in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding, that saw a recent annual general meeting collapse amid internal rivalries.

The controversy led to the resignation of the riding’s MLA, Joe Anglin, ahead of a move to drop him from the party.

Edwin Erickson, who was voted constituency president in an election since nullified by the party, said on Friday the Wildrose executive is breaking its own rules.

Smith called on 1,000 ambassadors to step forward to deliver the party’s message to 1,000 people over the next 500 days.

Another 100 “voices” were called on to write letters to the editor, phone in to radio talk shows and start up blogs to push the Wildrose advantage.

“One thousand Wildrose ambassadors and 100 Wildrose voices will do far more to get our ideas to Alberta voters than any press conference or advertising campaign.”

There are other ways the party can make its mark at the local level, she continued.

“In the spirit of fun and service, we need to create a Wildrose service corps.”

The party could make its local mark organizing food and toy drives, snow clearing crews for seniors, or delivering “baskets of hope” for women’s shelters.

Once in power, the party will ask for 100 changes it can make in its first 100 days.

The annual general meeting continues today.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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