Wildrose face 'hard conversations' at convention, says Smith

Wildrose leader says party must take closer look at candidates and policies, challenges Tory management as members meet for the annual meeting in Edmonton this weekend.

Smith says Wildrose must present good ideas in addition to attacking Tory mistakes

Wildrose members applaud in advance of leader Danielle Smith's speech at the party's AGM Saturday. (John Archer/CBC)

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says her party will do a better job of researching its candidates for the next provincial election.

"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," she said at the party’s annual general meeting in Edmonton Saturday.

"I think that’s what our membership wants."

Smith says there are many in the party who feel controversial comments by some candidates hurt the party’s chances in the last election.

During the campaign, a blog post by Edmonton candidate Allan Hunsperger surfaced where he said gay people will suffer in "a lake of fire."

Smith didn’t drop the candidate, a decision she says she stands by.

However, she says the comments opened the party up to a smear campaign from the Tories.

"I didn't think that Albertans would fall for it. I was wrong," she said.

"I thought that people would understand that having a couple of candidates who made controversial comments does not cast a pall on all 87. So next time we're going to be far more careful with our candidate selection."

Smith said the Wildrose has done well as the official opposition party and will continue to hold the government to task.

"They elected a leader who campaigned on one thing and is doing the exact opposite thing in many many ways. I think we have an obligation to show that," she said.

"But we also have an obligation to put forward our own positive policy ideas."

Smith says the party will likely consider moving away from policies that advocate setting up a provincial police force and a provincial pension plan. 

"Your party changes when you bring in more and more people, and have more and more debates."