Calgary

Alberta Party to narrow focus on constituencies in effort to get back into the legislature

An election may still be two years away, but the Alberta Party is looking to focus its efforts as it attempts to recapture a seat in the legislature. 

Inefficient vote cited for getting shut out in all ridings in 2019, interim leader says

Former PC MLA Jacquie Fenske is the interim leader of the Alberta Party until a new one is chosen this fall. (Alberta Party/YouTube)

An election may still be two years away, but the Alberta Party is looking to refocus its efforts in an attempt to recapture a provincial seat. 

"We need to get into the legislature," Jacquie Fenske, the acting leader and former Progressive Conservative MLA, told CBC News.

Fenske said the inefficiency of the party's support — voters not concentrated enough in a small number of ridings — was a mistake in 2019 that needs to be avoided in 2023. 

The party held a couple of seats in the legislature and ran a full slate of candidates for the first time in the last election. It took about nine per cent of the overall vote but failed to win a single seat. It will be targeting that support more narrowly next time. 

"We know that we need to probably take a look at what will be done on a constituency basis. Which constituencies do we really need to put some more effort into? Where we can mobilize our supporters in that area, get them to come out and vote," she said.

The interim leader noted fundraising efforts have been more successful this year than last, and she expects to see a further increase as an easing of COVID-19 restrictions allows the party to be more visible in the community. The party's "Rebuilding Alberta" pitch focuses on jobs, communities and an economic transition in the province. 

The two other priorities this year are setting up constituency associations and getting the eventual new leader up to speed.

The leadership race opened nominations in May and a leader will be chosen in early November. Per party bylaws, Fenske is unable to make a bid.

The Alberta Party has been without a permanent leader for two years, since Stephen Mandel stepped down in June 2019 after 15 months on the job.

Fenske said it's important to better communicate what the party can offer to Albertans in 2023. 

"They voted to keep the other guy out and not because they favour one party. So we think that maybe Albertans are seeing that they don't like to vote against, they want to vote for," she said. 

Fenske says Albertans are "looking for a new political hope, than the two alternatives that are sitting in the legislature right now."

Party needs to be realistic, political scientist says

The party may have big ambitions, but Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, says there are fundamental issues to address first. 

"They still have no leader. They have no oxygen. They have no money. Does the party even still exist?" 

Voters are up for grabs as recent polling conducted for CBC News shows that 27 per cent of Albertans wouldn't vote for either the UCP or NDP if an election were held immediately.

Fenske wants the party to capitalize on those orphan voters, but Bratt thinks the window is closing.

"It's going to require getting a new leader who is young, who is energetic, who is willing to travel the province and meet with people and work on research and develop policies and do all of that without any money," he said.

"They have lost that opportunity because there is nobody running the ship."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elise von Scheel is CBC Calgary's politics reporter and the producer of the West of Centre podcast. You can get in touch with her at elise.von.scheel@cbc.ca.

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