I was privileged enough be able to attend the Wildrose Alliance Leadership results in Edmonton on Saturday. When we discuss the grassroots of this party I would be hard pressed to find a better group of individuals.
First off I think it has been overlooked how well the administration of the Wildrose Alliance manage throughout the leadership race. I have heard the criticism of how much better things could have been done regarding the members and the ballots. For this there are many points that need to be considered. In June at the AGM there were only about 1000 members registered with the party, by the end of the leadership race we had a total of over 11,600. With being a member in the party since 2007, I know that there were only two people on staff in the office not too long ago being Jane and Heather. If they worked only on the new members they would process 126 members per day, five day week, however this was not all there was to work on. The Calgary-Glenmore by election got thrown into the mix. Naturally all efforts were shifted to winning this riding with Jane working in Pauls office well into the morning on many days. I am fairly comfortable in placing roughly a month of her time here. Then there were countless forums that needed to be organized and attended by the office. It is fairly easy to sit back and criticize the way things were done, however I see the countless hours put in here from our office staff. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication, you are a vital part of this party.
I arrived at the convention at about 08:30 and was surprised at the number of members already in attendance. Upon walking into the room I was met by Craig Chandler who made the comment many of the Dyrholm supporters, 500 was the number he threw, had not received there ballots and what would happen if they lost by under that number. Well Craig I don't think this was an issue judging by Danielle's commanding numbers. I had the chance to meet and talk to the other bloggers in attendance being Ken Chapman, Travis Chase, and Brian Dell but unfortunately I did not see Jane Morgan and Chris LaBossiere. I mingled until just after 09:00 with the many new faces as well as the old. I have to admit I was a little bored as most of the speakers I have heard many times before. Nadeem Esmail with the Frasier Institute always peaks the crowds interest when he speaks of our health care system and how we could fix it. Ken Chapman and his presentation on social media was new and interesting although I am still surprised he chose to attend, so thank you Ken.
Lunch time hit and I have to say they put on a good spread. After walking around outside for a while I noticed a lone protester on the road by the hotel. I walked out to see what was being protested and to my surprise it was the party. His signs had Stop Hate and Homophobia is a Choice, and when I asked what he meant by them it became apparent he was not running on all cylinders and did little to satisfy my curiosity. Media was also not too hard to come by, rather hard to avoid. Don Braid had to be one of my favorites as he is one of the most opinionated columns I read, so the reporting could go either way depending on his mood. I met hundreds of new people and I without a doubt can say that mainstream is what the members are.
After lunch seemed to drag a bit partly because I had been up since 4 and also wanting to see the leader crowned. While wandering the outside I notice many very prominent political figures wandering also including Rob Anders. When the huge throw of media surrounded one I had never heard of I asked the gentleman from 630 CHED who he was, his response was "obviously your from the south", so unfortunately I can't give a name here. I was also surprised to see former legislature Sergeant-at-Arms Oscar Lacombe and Ernie Isley in attendance. Finally it was getting close to the end of the day and Jeff Calaway announced that the results would be at 4:00 pm. Mark Dyrholm was the first to arrive on stage along with his wife. Jeff cracked a joke or two while waiting for Paul Hinman and Danielle Smith to arrive.
Mark Dyrholm was the first to take the mike. I have tried to be fair with Mark on my blog even though I thought Danielle to be the right choice for leader, but I have to say wow. His concession speech was fabulous with his confidence and loyalty to the party not leaving any question. Referring to Danielle as his leader and his commitment to continue working hard for her was very genuine and believe he will be a key part in proposing policy. Throughout his speech he had the crowd at their feet applauding many times.
Danielle Smith was next to speak and it took some time for the applause to die down for her to speak. She spoke with a passion and confidence while she delivered her speech. The one part I did not care for was the repetition of the phrase a "Party of Winners", but then again I seem to catch things after the first time.The rest of the speech was very well done with my favorite quotes being:
- "While we may be given a term as official opposition, we will not run as an opposition party in 2012. We must be ready to govern. Albertans do not vote for oppositions. They elect governments."
- "Perhaps understandably, we've been doing a lot of cringing and ducking to avoid being labeled "extremist." We should now stop. It's undignified. Our grassroots party is about common sense ideas, timeless ideas that reflect the mainstream values of average Albertans."
- "But we must be constructive, not destructive. We do not disrespect the Tories - most of us may have voted for the Tories in the past. We do not impugn the motives and character of Ed Stelmach. He is a decent man overwhelmed by the conflicting demands of a new economy and an exhausted party - a once-great party whose time is over. It's time to leave the past behind and move on."
- "Ed Stelmach, you haven't even begun to imagine what's about to hit you. We are going to give Albertans back their province. We will give Albertans back their pride."
I personally am very happy with the choice of leader for this party as she will attract the members from across the political spectrum that are looking for good governance. When you have a grassroots party building policies from the common sense of it's members you are sure to appeal to most Albertans. What about the bad policies? I believe that from what I saw at the last AGM the ones that are not in line with mainstream Albertans will be quickly thrown out by it's members. The party has a unquestionable amount of work to do before it is ready to form a government of any type, however if the last six months are any indication of whether it can pull it off or not I would say it is possible.
Where the party goes now in my opinion is up to its members. We are off to a running start and if the foot gets taken off the gas for one minute the drop in momentum may cause a stall. The Tory leadership is coming up fast and the decision the members make will also play a huge part in the Wildrose. There is still a couple years before the next election and much can happen between now and then, but with Danielle's win, Alberta Politics is alot more interesting.