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Wildrose leader calls for policy review, better candidate screening process
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton
Published Saturday, November 24, 2012 5:32PM MST
Last Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 6:37PM MST
Alberta Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is asking members to review party policies and make changes that better reflect Albertans going forward, during the party’s annual general meeting Saturday.
She also said there would be a better screening process for future candidates prior to the 2016 election.
Smith addressed more than 600 supporters at the meeting, beginning her keynote address by congratulating the party for quadrupling their seats from four to 17, and becoming the official opposition.
“Never before have the PCs faced such a tough, relentless opposition and that is right and proper,” Smith said.
“For once in its very long life, this PC government is actually being held to account. Their feet are actually being held to the fire and oh, how they hate it.
The opposition leader slammed the Tories over broken promises and extravagant spending, promising a balanced budget when the Wildrose party forms government after the next election.
“When we form a government in 2016 that’s what Albertans will get,” Smith said.
She told supporters they need to review party policies and offer up fresh ideas for the future.
“Our policies must look forward to what Alberta will be, not what it once was. The only way we will do that is with ideas that are fresh, innovative, and forward.”
“We need to have a policy platform that's forward-looking and we need to have a team of candidates that is able to express themselves in a way that doesn't alienate Albertans.”
Incoming Wildrose president David Yager said the party learned a lot in the last election.
“We put forth what we thought Alberta needed and what we’re learning now is maybe we should put forward what Alberta wants if we really want to pull this off,” Yager said.
“A lot of issues came up about whether or not we were a centrist party. The perception is that Wildrose is much further to the right, much more small seat Conservative than we are so I think that we have to take that into consideration going forward.”
Agenda items like a provincial police force and the party’s endorsement of conscience rights are among the policies up for debate.
“I do recognize that those were some of the issues in the final days of the campaign that ended up causing us some difficulty,” Smith said.
Racist and homophobic views expressed by candidates also caused problems for the party during the last election.
“I’m hoping that we go through a process where our candidates are fully vetted,” Smith said.
Political science professor Jim Lightbody believes that’s a good start.
“What I think they are going to try and do is to refine the policy to become more of a true Conservative party,” Lightbody said.
He said the party needs to focus on keeping finances secure. He also said the best thing for the Wildrose party is Smith.
There had been rumours on social media that Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson would challenge Smith for leadership at the general meeting, but Anderson said that was a ploy to divide the party.
“Let me be clear. The only takeover in this province will be in 2016 when Albertans take back their province,” Anderson said.
Wildrose members are expected to have a new policy ready for debate by next October.
This is the party’s first general meeting since last April’s election.
With files from Amanda Anderson