Wildrose Party members say too much time has been spent attacking the ruling Alberta Progressive Conservative party instead of sending their own message.
In the reverse bear-pit session at the Wildrose annual general meeting party faithful dug deep as they answered panel questions from the leadership about what’s working and not working.
The Opposition members did not hold back when they expressed their dislike for the “Send the PCs a Message” slogan used during the campaign which many saw as too negative and advertising for the Tories. Some said it stopped voters from casting a ballot for the Tories but didn’t necessarily send them to the Wildrose.
Rod Fox, Wildrose MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, said they weren’t clear or efficient in getting the Wildrose message out to the public.
Another delegate suggested the party did not prove that is was ready to fulfill the promises if elected.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said during a media conference that there are challenges in doing that as an official opposition.
Smith said before Peter Lougheed won in 1971, he created a detailed map for the changes that he would make and the different ministries when he formed government.
“Maybe the lesson for me is that’s what we need to do,” said Smith addressing the media on Saturday afternoon. “We need to follow a lesson from Peter Lougheed in making sure we are clearly articulating exactly what our ministries would be and exactly who would be in those ministries… how we would restructure government. I think that it’s a good lesson. It’s not enough to just have the high level policies of what you want to do.”
Smith said the members are asking them to dig down a little deeper and demonstrate how they would implement the policies that they are campaigning on. Smith said there are some committee working on this right now.
Smith stressed the importance of recruiting 1,000 ambassadors armed with the information they need to give a convincing argument to why someone should vote Wildrose. Smith mentioned this in her keynote address on Friday evening.
“A third of Albertans want Wildrose to form government,” said Smith.
“I think that was affirmed in these last byelections. If you’re actually going to win government, we have to be able to move about seven or eight percentage points to get people to vote in enough of our members to be able to form government,” said Smith, in response to a validity of comment that she isn’t connecting with Albertans which is hurting the party. “To me a lot of that change is going to happen at the local riding level with excellent candidates doing the work in their ridings, talking to people in their community.”
Smith said she would do whatever she can to support the candidates and the ambassadors doing the important work.
“I certainly cannot do it alone,” she said. “I have to rely on the help of a solid team of candidates and a solid team of volunteers.”
“We were being held to account at the moment,” said Kerry Towle, the MLA for Innsifail-Sylvan Lake after the bear-pit session. “We’re going through some hard discussions as a party. We’re hearing very clearly that they didn’t like the negative messaging in the campaign or the slogan.”
Central Alberta member Lee Eddy told the party that there needs to be more focus on the candidates because people may not vote for the Wildrose but they would vote for Kerry Towle.
A few members pointed out that the party is getting moving away from its grassroots.
“There are some serious issues that we’re not dealing with enough and we’re getting sorta bogged down in the weeds,” said Towle. “I trust what our membership says and I think this is what Albertans said during the election.”
Towle said there is some work to do and the party is up for the challenges ahead.
About 500 party members gathered at the Red Deer Sheraton Hotel during the annual conference on Friday and Saturday.