Edmonton

Reform party registers with Elections Alberta, vows to woo right-wing voters

​A provincial arm of a Prairie protest movement that ascended to the role of Official Opposition in the federal Parliament is now officially registered with Elections Alberta as a political party.

New political party signals further divide on right side of political spectrum

The conservative right in Alberta is became little more crowded this week with the Reform Party of Alberta joining the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose. (Kim Trynacity/CBC)

A provincial arm of a Prairie protest movement that ascended to the role of Official Opposition in the federal Parliament is now officially registered with Elections Alberta as a political party.

The Reform Party of Alberta filed its papers and a supporting petition containing 8,100 signatures. It joins the list of 10 political parties that can legally raise funds and field candidates in future provincial elections.

"We went to rallies. We went to coffee shops. We stood at hockey games, football games," said party organizer and leader Randy Thorsteinson, whose political pedigree goes back decades.
Randy Thorsteinson leads the Reform Party of Alberta. (CBC)

Thorsteinson was leader of the Alberta Social Credit Party before creating and leading the Alberta Alliance, the forerunner to the Wildrose Party. He's now pinning his hopes on a new, although familiar, party for provincial voters.

"We're looking at creating a new party that's going to be a home for principled conservatives across the province," he said.

Thorsteinson said he believes the Wildrose is trying to be all things to all people.

"The problem with the middle of the road is that you get run over."

He said that when he was president of the Red Deer chapter of the Reform Party of Canada in the 1980s, he tried to convince leader Preston Manning to create a provincial Reform party.

"He wouldn't do it. He just wanted to focus on federal politics," said Thorsteinson, who is convinced Albertans are hungry for a new conservative choice.

Thorsteinson's move comes in the midst of a battle between the centrist Progressive Conservatives and the more right- leaning Wildrose to become the choice of voters seeking an alternative to the governing NDP.

Then there's Jason Kenney, the federal Conservative MP said to be pondering a move to seek the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.

"I think it's just a return of Jim Prentice. We already went down that road," Thorsteinson said.

"I don't think Jason Kenney is going to make a difference and that's why we're doing what we're doing."

Bad blood

On that point, some Alberta PC supporters are in agreement.

Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine, waded in on Twitter with a not-so-subtle jab at the leadership of Jim Prentice.

"Jason Kenney for PC leadership," Kelly wrote. "Cause the last federal Conservative flighted in to save the PCs and unite the right worked out so well."

Former PC MLA and cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk said news of Kenney's possible entry into provincial politics was all the talk in Calgary earlier this week.

Lukaszuk was among invited guests at an annual pre-Stampede garden party Tuesday hosted by business leader Brett Wilson.

Kenney was also a guest, and "he shook everyone's hand except mine," Lukaszuk said.

"We didn't have the pleasure to talk to each other but we acknowledged each other's presence."

The two have a rocky history dating back to the days when both handled cabinet posts with immigration portfolios.

In June 2012, Kenney was caught sending an email to Conservative MPs referring to Lukaszuk as "a complete and utter a--hole." Kenney later apologized.

Lukaszuk said he has moved on since then, but pointed out there are clear policy differences between the Alberta PC party and the federal Conservatives.

"He (Kenney) would have to convince a lot of PC party supporters why an individual who voraciously for the last two decades worked against the PC party should now lead the party."

And he said a new Alberta Reform party doesn't appear to be much different.

"Holy shit, what a gong show," Lukaszuk said.

It's for these reasons that a merger between the Wildrose and PCs is a pointless exercise, said Thorsteinson. He said the history of bad blood between the two parties is too deep.

"They are so acrimonious towards each other that half of the members of each party won't join with the others," he said.

Even someone like Jason Kenney can't make it happen,he added.

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