The fight for the right will soon have a new contender.
Born from the ashes of the Wildrose Party, the Alberta Advantage Party has submitted over 8,600 signatures to Elections Alberta — they needed 7,878 to qualify for party status.
“It’s really just starting to sink in,” said leader Marilyn Burns. “Initially it was a numbness, we didn’t know if we were going to get there until this past weekend, then suddenly people started giving us signatures by the hundreds.”
While the AAP awaits Elections Alberta’s vetting the signatures, the party now sets its sights on establishing constituency associations and finding candidates for the 2019 provincial election.
“Now that we know we are wanted, we have a lot more relationship-building to do,” said Burns. “We need to contact all our canvassers and give them our personal thanks. We had dozens and dozens of canvassers all over Alberta.”
Burns added it was largely thanks to the efforts of local members in the Westlock area that the party has got this far.
Though they’ve yet to find a candidate to run in the new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock riding, local representative Sarah McCollough said there’s been interest.
“This will be a riding we have a candidate running in for sure,” she said. “Albertans were clearly tired of the PCs and the UCP is showing itself to be that same party. It wasn’t a merger, it’s the old boys PC club.”
She said the AAP is distinct from the United Conservative Party or the Freedom Conservative Party, now headed by former Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt, for a number of reasons. The party has already established a platform for the upcoming election – making them the first to have one she noted.
Focusing on three planks, the AAP will push for recall legislation, improving training of rural sheriffs to be able to fill in for RCMP as needed and working towards greater tax autonomy for the province.
The party will also eliminate the NDP’s Gay-Straight Alliance legislation and revise the province’s education curriculum to focus more on academic and practical skills.
Burns pointed out the platform was determined by the membership, taking a jab at UCP leader Jason Kenney, who stepped back from the party’s “grassroots guarantee” following their founding AGM in May.
She pulled no punches against her political opponents, noting that the recently announced FCP was a separatist party that simply had an image makeover.
She noted Fildebrandt actually approached the AAP first with a similar proposal as he did with the FCP, but they turned him down.
However, her sights are firmly set on the two dominant parties.
“Neither the UCP or the NDP are a good option for Albertans,” said Burns. “Jason Kenney is here for the best interests of the elite Conservative Party of Canada old guard who want power back in Ottawa. He is not here for the best interests of Albertans.”
As the party moves to tie up loose ends, the next big event will be their second AGM, scheduled for Nov. 17, though the location is yet to be determined.
In the meantime, McCollough said she’ll continue to work on getting the party’s message out and ensuring voters uncomfortable with either the UCP or the FCP have a home.
“There are only seven months until the next election, so we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “A lot of Albertans are not aware there’s another conservative alternative, so if we get our name out there I think we have a good chance.”