Albertans 'not overly' engaged in UCP leadership race, says would-be candidate Paul Hinman

A would-be candidate in the United Conservative Party leadership race says Albertans are “not overly” engaged in the contest to choose the first leader for the amalgamated Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.

Former MLA who failed to raise deposit in time says interest would increase if voters could 'fire' MLAs

A white man in a tan suit with a blue shirt under it. He's standing outside and there is a television camera in front of him.
Paul Hinman says a lot of people are apathetic about politics in general. (Paul Hinman)

A would-be candidate in the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership race has failed to raise the necessary deposit by the deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Former Alberta Alliance and Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman was a late entry to the contest, which he says put him at a disadvantage to raise the "exorbitant" entrance fee, which in total adds up to $95,000.

"We're not going to make it, I won't be heading over there with a cheque," Hinman told CBC Tuesday afternoon.

Hinman said his last-minute campaign raised more than half of the required deposit, but the arrival of three grandchildren over the summer focused his priorities on his family, not politics.

"I'm passionate about good government, but you know I certainly enjoy my private life better," Hinman said. 

As he campaigned, Hinman said he discovered  Albertans were "not overly, at this point" engaged in the contest to choose the first leader for the recently amalgamated Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties.

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 The lack of public engagement is symptomatic of the overall attitude with politics and politicians, he suggested.

"There's just a lot of apathy when it comes to politics in general," Hinman said.

Hinman won two elections as an MLA, in the ridings of Cardston-Taber-Warner and Calgary-Glenmore, for the defunct Alberta Alliance and the Wildrose parties. He is a former leader of the Wildrose party. 

Hinman said he is alarmed — but not surprised — by what he hears on the doorstep.

"Most people, when I talk to them  … if you ask them the question, 'You think it makes any difference who you elect?', the answer is usually 'No,' " he said.

Hinman said he believes the level of interest would increase if voters had power to "fire" their elected officials, alluding to the mechanism whereby constituents could seek to gather enough names on a petition to have their MLA recalled from office.

"We need to engage and be accountable to the public," he added.

The campaign deposit needed by Tuesday amounted to half of the total $75,000 entrance fee, plus a $20,000 refundable compliance fee for following leadership-race rules set out by the party. Hinman says he raised about half the required amount. 

'Fire' politicians

But Hinman said being in the race, albeit for a short time, allowed him to raise issues, such as MLA recall which he feels has been overlooked or ignored.

"We need to be able to fire our politicians in between elections, and I don't know that it's a high enough priority with the other leadership candidates," he said.

Danielle Smith, left, and former Wildrose deputy leader Paul Hinman, right, are joined at a news conference by MLAs Rob Anderson, second from left, and Heather Forsyth after the two announced their defections from Alberta's PC party in 2010. ( (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press))

The other late entry into the leadership campaign, former Wildrose president Jeff Callaway, was initially concerned about the expensive entry fee, but his campaign says it is pleasantly surprised by the reception the candidate is getting.

"Jeff, having been party president for several years, was able to develop an expansive network of individuals who support out-of-the-box ideas," campaign co chair Cameron Davies said.

The other three candidates in the leadership campaign — Jason Kenney, Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer — all say they have paid the entry fee.

The Jean campaign issued a statement Tuesday suggesting that, because of the strong support from members, they have already paid the "full  $95,000 entrance fee" for the leadership campaign. The statement said Jean was the first to declare intentions to enter the race in July, and the first to gain access to the official party membership list a few weeks ago.

In a statement, Blaise Boehmer, a campaign spokeman for Jason Kenney,  said that team is "quite engaged," with 4,000 registered volunteers across Alberta. 

Party members will vote for the new leader over three days starting Oct. 26. The winner will be announced Oct. 28 in Calgary.