Danielle Smith says Wildrose ready for election amid Tory turmoil
Opposition leader tells fundraiser crowd fate of Alison Redford shows PCs can't change
The leader of Alberta’s opposition Wildrose Party says her party is ready for an early election.
Danielle Smith told a sold-out fundraiser on Thursday night that her party would be ready to hit the ground running if they were elected to power.
She said the mid-term resignation of Alison Redford is just the latest example of how dysfunctional the Progressive Conservative Party has become after 43 years in power.
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“For the second time in about a three-year period, the governing party has forced out a leader who had led their party to re-election with a strong majority,” Smith said.
“She was unable to make the kind of changes many of us both inside and outside of her party were hoping to see from a leader so dramatically different than her predecessor."
Smith said her party already has a competent and experienced team in place to offer Albertans a new alternative.
The government has fixed election date legislation in place — which says the vote must be held in 2016 between March 1 and May 31 — but opposition parties say the Tories could break it just as easily as they approved it.
Other parties prepared
Dave Hancock will take over as Alberta premier until a new PC leader is elected. The search is now on for Alison Redford's replacement, but one must be selected within six months of a leader's resignation.
The New Democrats say they are prepared for an early election call under the new Tory leader, according to the party's provincial secretary Brian Stokes.
"Our sense is that as soon as they get a new honeymoon with the new leader or good news polling, that they will probably want to go and that will be sooner (rather) than later." said Stokes.
The NDP is ramping up its fundraising efforts and recruiting candidates for all 87 ridings in the province.
However, Kent Hehr, the Liberal MLA for Calgary-Buffalo, said he does not expect an early election call by the Progressive Conservatives after the leadership race.
Hehr said he expects the government will break its own 2011 law on fixed election dates in order to remain in power longer. The last election was held in 2012, but Hehr thinks Albertans may not return to the polls until 2017.
"They will stay in power as long as they can and I think they will ride out the full five-year mandate," he said.
PC party turmoil
Former Conservative MP Monte Solberg, who attended the Wildrose fundraiser, said turmoil within the Progressive Conservative caucus could spell the end of the party’s long grip on power.
“If they can’t reach outside their current caucus and find someone who will breathe some new life into their party I think they’re in serious trouble,” he said.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt says the PC's famous talent for reconstructing and re-energizing themselves could still save the party.
“But they’ve never had this much internal turmoil before. And they’ve never faced an opposition as strong as Wildrose before,” he said.
Political scientist Lori Williams says bringing someone in from the outside would be best to help renew the PC party's brand.
"Now the question is can the party heal from the various divisions that have emerged, or erupted, in the past few weeks," she said.
It still remains to be seen who will throw their names in the ring to replace Redford and be the face of the party for the next provincial election.