Wildrose leader Danielle Smith reflects on her party's year
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says her caucus made a difference in 2013 by holding the governing Progressive Conservatives to account.
"We have some really, really strong MLAs, who I think have done just a tremendous job, not only helping to try to improve bills through the legislative process and really dig into that, but also in holding the government to account in the legislature,” Smith said in a year-end interview with CBC News.
“And I think we've made some real strides on raising issues of importance to Albertans."
Smith said the Wildrose forced the government to delay cuts to community support programs under Persons with Developmental Disabilities and end a policy that placed seniors in facilities as far as one hundred kilometres from their families.
The Wildrose will continue to keep raising these issues in 2014, Smith said.
“We're getting a ton of stories of seniors who face neglect, abuse, even death, in facilities, and we think that this is an issue that absolutely has to be dealt with.”
Recruiting for 2016 election
As leader of the Official Opposition, Smith faces off against Premier Alison Redford in the Alberta legislature.
Although she meets regularly with Liberal Leader Raj Sherman and NDP Leader Brian Mason, Smith says she has no relationship with Redford.
“I have asked to meet with her, I think, three times formally,” Smith said. “And she's refused every time.”
In 2014, Smith says Wildrose MLAs will focus on ensuring the government doesn’t make ill-considered reductions to service.
The past year was a challenging one for Smith, as MLA for Highwood, the area most affected by the floods in southern Alberta.
Under her leadership, the Wildrose made changes to avoid some of the mistakes of the 2012 provincial election campaign. Two candidates who made homophobic and racist comments may have cost the party the election.
In the future, anyone who wants to run for the Wildrose will be vetted. So a new questionnaire will be out later this month to help screen candidates for the 2016 election.
Smith is looking forward to 2016 already as she predicts many sitting PC MLAs will step down.
"It can be more difficult to take on an incumbent in a riding and if we end up with 20 or 25 vacancies in areas that have been traditionally held by the PCs, I think that that's going to allow for a more level playing field when it comes to the next election campaign."
Smith expects all sitting Wildrose MLAs will seek re-election.