Calgary

Wildrose AGM hopes to avoid past blunders, reinvigorate membership

The Alberta Wildrose annual general meeting is under way in Calgary this weekend but it’s members-only for most of it so it can be a safe space to discuss policy, the party leader says.

Party says public blunders are behind them and they’re ready to appeal to a broader conservative base

Wildrose leader Brian Jean addresses media hours before the party's 2015 AGM gets under way in Calgary Friday. (CBC)

The Alberta Wildrose annual general meeting is underway in Calgary this weekend but it's members-only for most of it so it can be a safe space to discuss policy, the party leader says.

"I have a different management style," said Brian Jean addressing media ahead of the convention Friday.

"This is an opportunity for members to fully debate policy issues and positions. I want to make sure our membership have the opportunity."

The party's 2014 AGM, which was open to media, showed a very public dispute within the party over the issue of equal rights for all regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and other differences.

"We needed a definitive statement to protect the equality of all Albertans, including our friends in the LGBTQ community. So we drafted and we passed one," then-leader Danielle Smith said in a speech before the AGM vote.

The party voted 148-109 against the resolution endorsed by Smith.

Jean says, the party has gotten past that place and are ready to take on the governing NDP.

"No party in the history of Canada has seen the types of trials and tribulations that we have over the last few months and we have come out very strong with a brighter and more optimistic future," Jean said.

"We truly represent every part and every corner of our great province."

Wildrose MLA Jason Mixon defends the party's decision to keep the AGM off limits to media. 4:55

The meeting policy proposals were posted online leading one political analyst to draw comparisons to a previous right-wing party.

"They look like old Reform party type initiatives," said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.

She says items like privatization of essential government services, competition in health care and taking control of the federal firearms act could scare off centrist voters.

"A little bit more radical if you like, a little less moderate or centrist. Less appealing to ordinary Albertans," Williams said.

But for Wildrose party member Justin Thompson at the convention, he likes what he sees in leader Brian Jean.

Justin Thompson says he likes what he sees in Wildrose party leader Brian Jean, at the party's AGM Friday in Calgary. (CBC)

"We have got to stay on message and really stay out of fights that are none of our business, pick our battles and just keep strong," Thompson said.

"Just keep spreading the message and hopefully the people will come around and realize that the Wildrose are a true conservative party and the best choice for Alberta as a province."

Resolutions discussed Friday night will be voted on Saturday but Jean came out on top in a leadership review, with 78 per cent support from members.

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