MLA quits UCP over 'hyper-partisan, self-centred' politics

Rick Strankman is leaving the caucus to sit as an Independent, saying the UCP is putting "unwritten party interests" ahead of grassroots conservative principles.

Strankman, who lost the UCP nomination for the upcoming provincial election, wants to sit as an Independent

Rick Strankman, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, has represented the riding since 2012. He was elected as a member of the Wildrose Party. (CBC)

A southern Alberta MLA with the United Conservative Party is leaving the party, saying "hyper-partisan, self-centred politics" have "side-stepped the direct grassroots representation of Albertans."

Rick Strankman, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, tweeted he had written the speaker of the assembly Tuesday that he wanted to sit as an Independent.

"Since the amalgamation of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that this is not including the grassroots principles of strong conservative Alberta values," Strankman wrote.

"[Albertans'] best interests are being put behind unwritten party interests. That is simply not acceptable to the hard-working Albertans within this constituency that are urging me to sit as an Independent member."

Strankman was elected under the Wildrose Party banner in 2012 and 2015.

He's just the latest to cut ties with the UCP in a public way.

Not the first to leave

Just two days earlier, Ian Donovan, a former Tory MLA, left his local UCP board citing "corruption and backroom deals going on."

Prab Gill, now an Independent MLA for Calgary-Greenway, called his former party's nominations "crooked and racist," last month.

"The grassroot UCP members have seen dozens of nomination races meddled with by the backroom party elite interested in installing yes-men who will never object to the party leader, and not the candidate who has the real support of Albertans," Gill said in the legislature in early December.

Gill left the party in July after the party investigated allegations of ballot-stuffing at the founding meeting for the UCP constituency association in the new Calgary-North East riding.

The probe was conducted by a retired judge, but the results were not released to the public.

Kenney calls news 'disappointing'

Strankman lost the UCP nomination for Drumheller-Stettler to challenger Nate Horner in September.

Strankman was one of nine Wildrose MLAs who wrote a post comparing the NDP's proposed carbon tax to the 1930s genocide of millions of Ukrainians in summer of 2016, for which they later apologized.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney said Strankman's decision was disappointing.

"Many Albertans, including myself, look up to Rick Strankman for his past service," Kenney tweeted.

"We always knew that having open, democratic nominations would create some tensions within the party. This is particularly true when an incumbent MLA is not selected by their local grassroots members … I thank Rick sincerely for his service, and wish him the very best in the future."

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