By Trevor Busch
No official date has yet been fixed, but the probability of a nomination campaign to select a new Wildrose candidate for the Cardston-Taber-Warner riding by spring 2015 is high, according to party officials.
“I’m sure it will be in the next three months,” said Dave Wright, vice-president of communications for the Cardston-Taber-Warner Wildrose constituency organization.
“We have to work with the party headquarters, and once that’s confirmed — I would imagine no more than two or three months.”
A Wildrose nomination race for the constituency has been mandated due to the defection of MLA Gary Bikman, who crossed the floor to the ruling PC government in late 2014 along with eight other Wildrose MLAs, including former leader Danielle Smith.
“Anyone that wishes to put their name forward can do so, and we will have a competitive nomination race,” said Wright. “I’ve heard of one person interested in putting their name forward, but since it’s not really out there yet, I don’t think we’ve generated that much interest.”
The controversial move to cross the floor effectively emasculated the official opposition party, leaving it with only five sitting MLAs in the provincial legislature and landing a heavy body blow to Wildrose aspirations of ending more than four decades of PC domination in 2016.
“Unlike 2012, I think it’s pretty apparent forming government for Wildrose, in my own personal opinion, I think that’s off the table,” said Wright.“Certainly down the road, I wouldn’t say that’s off the table, but right now, I think the main message that we can deliver to voters is government still needs to be watched. We could have Gandhi as our premier, but he still needs to be watched — we still need checks and balances in government, and we don’t have that right now. We need more people closely watching government. Accountability can only happen with this PC government from the outside.”
Although the Wildrose Party may be bowed in early 2015, they are still far from broken, according to Wright.
“I actually think it’s the only viable alternative to the PCs, if you’re coming at government from a centre-right perspective, as I think the majority of Albertans do. I still think there’s great value in having people with centre-right fiscal policies keeping track and watching government closely. The crossers nearly gave that responsibility to the Liberals.”
Wright pointed to significant negative opinion amongst local party members with regard to MLA Bikman’s decision to defect to the Prentice PCs.
“I think in general, people are not happy about it. As with many of the crossers, he’s taken a few supporters with him, and that’s to be expected. Overall support for his crossing was not strong amongst Wildrose supporters.”
Albertans should not be surprised if Premier Prentice makes additional moves in an attempt to further eviscerate the opposition Wildrose in 2015, added Wright.
“I know with the legislated election dates, that is supposedly set in stone from anywhere from March to May 2016. If Prentice changes that, he’d be breaking his own law. From what I know, he’s quite anxious to move things forward and show that he has his own mandate, but I also think he has the motivation to further crush any opposition, which I don’t think is good for Alberta.”