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The Wildrose Party (legally Wildrose Political Association, formerly the Wildrose Alliance Political Association) is a conservative provincial political party in Alberta, Canada. The party was formed by the merger in early 2008 of the Alberta Alliance Party and the unregistered Wildrose Party of Alberta. The wild rose is Alberta's provincial flower.
It contested the 2008 provincial election under the Wildrose Alliance banner, and was able to capture seven percent of the popular vote but failed to hold its single seat in the Legislative Assembly. Support for the party rose sharply in 2009 as voters grew increasingly frustrated with the Progressive Conservative (PC) government, resulting in a surprise win by outgoing leader Paul Hinman in an October by-election. In the fall of 2009 Danielle Smith was elected as leader and by December the Wildrose was leading provincial opinion polls ahead of both the governing PCs and the opposition Liberals. Wildrose's caucus grew to four members in 2010, after two former PC members of the Legislative Assembly defected in January and an independent MLA joined the party in June of that year.
In the 2012 election, while the party failed to have the breakthrough predicted by most media pundits (many predicted it would become the government), it did increase its vote and seat totals and become the official opposition.
In December 2014, nine Wildrose MLAs including leader Danielle Smith left the party to join the Progressive Conservative caucus under its recently elected leader Jim Prentice. All of the defectors to the PCs who sought re-election in the 2015 general election lost their seats, through either losing the nomination process in their riding, or losing the general election to the Wildrose challenger.
Effective February 3, 2015 the party's registered name was changed from Wildrose Alliance Party to Wildrose Party.
Founding and 2008 general election
The Alberta Alliance Party voted to change its registered name on January 19, 2008 to the Wildrose Alliance after it merged with the unregistered Wildrose Party of Alberta. The name officially changed to Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta after being approved by Elections Alberta on January 31, 2008.
The two parties had similar policies and the Wildrose had key personnel previously involved with the Alberta Alliance. They hoped that a union would allow the new party to present a stronger front for an anticipated election in the spring of 2008. Paul Hinman, the party's only sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) remained leader after the merger. During the 27th Alberta general election, the Wildrose Alliance attempted to position itself as a conservative alternative to the governing PC party, and released a platform that promised fixed election dates, increasing personal tax exemptions, elimination of health care premiums, the creation of an Alberta Pension Plan, and a reworking of the controversial changes the PC government made to the oil and gas royalty regime.
An anticipated backlash against the governing PCs failed to materialize, as Premier Ed Stelmach extended his party's seat total to 72 from 60. While the Alliance finished second in eight ridings across the province, they failed to win any seats as Hinman lost his Cardston-Taber-Warner riding by just 39 votes. Running candidates in 61 of the province's 83 ridings, the Alliance took 6.78% of the vote, fourth behind the PCs, Liberals and New Democrats.
2009 leadership election
Hinman announced on April 20, 2009 his intention to step down as leader. He remained the party's leader in an interim capacity until the leadership convention. Former Canadian Federation of Independent Business provincial director Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm, a chiropractor in Calgary, announced their candidacy at the June convention. The party viewed the leadership campaign with optimism, announcing that its membership was growing rapidly as Albertans grew increasingly frustrated with the Stelmach government's performance.
Growing opposition to the government's oil and gas royalty program, a record $4.7 billion deficit in 2009, and the PC's "liberal spending" facilitated the growth of the party. The party began to attract former Reform Party of Canada supporters along with high profile former members of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, including former premier Ralph Klein's father. Using the slogan "Send Ed a message" as a rallying cry, Paul Hinman sought to take advantage of public discontent as he ran in a September by-election in the Calgary-Glenmore riding. He surprised political observers by capturing 37 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Liberal opponent Avalon Roberts to win the election and gain the Wildrose Alliance its first seat in the legislature. The Tories, who had held the riding uninterrupted since 1969, fell to third place. Political observers argued the result was more a protest against the Stelmach government than firm support for the Alliance, though it gave the party momentum as it prepared to vote for a leader.
Smith and Dyrholm both attempted to capitalize on the party's election win, proclaiming that Albertans wanted change and that each of them would lead the Wildrose Alliance to a victory in the next general election. The party experienced a considerable growth heading into the leadership election, announcing it had 11,670 members at the beginning of October, compared to 1,800 in June. Smith was elected the new leader at the convention held in Edmonton on October 17.
Danielle Smith leadership
Upon her election, Smith sought to continue the party's growth, focusing her efforts on fundraising and a search for strong candidates. The Wildrose Alliance's growth was evident in the polls. Shortly before Smith's election, a Return on Insight poll found that the Alliance had the support of 22 percent of respondents. By early November, the party had improved to 28 percent according to an Environics poll, firmly in second place and six points behind the Conservatives. By December, they topped the Tories, leading with 39 percent support according to an Angus Reid poll, while the Conservatives had fallen into a second place tie with the Liberals at 25 percent. The party revealed at the same time that it had grown to over 13,000 members.
Amidst this wave of popularity, Smith announced on January 4, 2010 that two former Conservative MLAs had crossed the floor. Rob Anderson and former cabinet minister Heather Forsyth announced that they had joined the Wildrose Alliance after growing frustrated with Ed Stelmach's leadership, accusing the Conservative government of being undemocratic. The defections moved the Wildrose Party past the New Democrats to become the third largest party in the Legislature, Guy Boutilier joined the Wildrose Alliance on June 24, 2010. The fourth Wildrose MLA, Boutilier took the party over the threshold for recognition as an official party in the Assembly. He was unveiled at the party's annual conference, which was attended by 700 people: up from 175 the previous year.
In late July 2010, a controversy developed between Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and Smith over the future of the city-centre airport. Smith argued that a vote on closure of the airport should be added to the October civic elections ballot. Alberta Liberal and NDP politicians also opposed the closure.
For much of the run-up to the 2012 provincial election, it looked like the Wildrose would defeat the Tories in a landslide. Polling immediately before the election suggested that the gap had narrowed somewhat, but that the Wildrose was still poised to end the PCs' 41-year tenure in government. In the general election, however, the Wildrose took 17 seats out of 87, well behind the Tories. This was mainly because its support was confined to rural areas. The Wildrose only won two seats in Calgary (while losing the two seats it held there at dissolution) and were completely shut out of Edmonton. Nonetheless, it tallied 34.3 percent of the popular vote, a healthy increase from 2008. This was, however, enough to make the Wildrose the Official Opposition for the first time.
In 2014, Allison Redford stepped down as PC leader following numerous scandals, and polls began to show a resurgence in Wildrose support. Jim Prentice then won the PC leadership and called four by-elections to get his new cabinet, which included former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, seats in the Legislature. The Wildrose was expected to win two out of the four seats; however the PCs retained all four. The by-elections were seen as a test of both the PC Party under its new leader and Wildrose. As a result of the by-election losses, Smith asked the party to conduct a leadership review. On November 2, 2014, after Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin left the Wildrose caucus to sit as an independent due to the party's "turmoil" and after making criticisms of Smith's leadership team internally., the remaining members of caucus unanimously pass a resolution asking Smith to withdraw her request for a leadership review; Smith agreed. At the party's Annual General Meeting on November 15, 2014, Smith pledged to resign as Wildrose leader if the party did not win government in the next provincial election. Also at the AGM, members voted 148-109 against a resolution supporting equal rights for all minority groups, regardless of race, religious belief, sexual orientation or other differences. This vote reversed a party policy supported by Smith which had been adopted the previous year and signified a shift by the party towards social conservatism resulting in resignations by more moderate party members.
On November 3, 2014, Joe Anglin (Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre) quit the caucus to sit as an Independent MLA stating that he had found out he was out to be expelled due to his public criticisms of Smith's advisers. Anglin had previously lost his bid to be renominated in his riding as Wildrose's candidate for the next provincial election.
On November 24, 2014 Kerry Towle, (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake), and Ian Donovan, (Little Bow) crossed the floor to join the ruling PC Party's caucus giving the turmoil within the Wildrose Party, uncertainty about Smith's leadership and confidence in Prentice as reasons for their move.
On December 17, 2014, Smith confirmed she and eight other Wildrose members — Rob Anderson, Gary Bikman, Rod Fox, Jason Hale, Bruce McAllister, Blake Pedersen, Bruce Rowe and Jeff Wilson — would cross the floor to the Progressive Conservative caucus, with Smith saying "Under Premier Prentice’s strong leadership, I believe we can work together to lead Alberta with a renewed focus on the values and principles that we share." The action followed several days of rumours and a PC caucus meeting in which that party agreed to accept the Wildrose members on terms which have not been officially disclosed. This leaves five MLAs still affiliated with the Wildrose Party. In a letter to the party executive, Smith asked that all party members vote on a "reunification resolution" to merge the Wildrose and PC parties; a request which the party executive rejected. This development angered many party members and provoked widespread controversy. Wildrose has stated that "At no time has the Wildrose Party been approached by any representative of the PCAA regarding a merger, combination, partnership or alliance. Yesterday’s events are confined to nine former Wildrose MLAs who opted to cross the floor without consulting the Wildrose Party."
The defections placed Wildrose in a tie with the Liberals for the second most seats but the Speaker ruled that Wildrose would continue as the Official Opposition based on prior precedent. Official Opposition status comes with additional funding and privileges.
Brian Jean was elected Wildrose leader on March 28, 2015. Days later, Premier Jim Prentice called a provincial election for May 5, 2015 which resulted in an upset victory by the Alberta New Democratic Party under Rachel Notley, returning an NDP majority government. Despite its lack of preparedness, due to the caucus defections and having to organize an election campaign on the heels of a leadership election, Wildrose was able to rally and win 21 seats, 16 more than the five seats it had at the dissolution of the legislature, and four more than it had won in 2012, allowing the party to remain the Official Opposition. Prentice's Progressive Conservatives, however, collapsed and lost 60 of the 70 seats it had at dissolution, returning only 10 MLAs, finding itself out of power for the first time since 1971 and coming in third behind the NDP and Wildrose. Wildrose's popular vote fell by one-third, however, from 34% of the vote in 2012 to 24% in 2015.
Wildrose on Campus
Following the Wildrose Party's jump to official opposition status in 2012, undergraduate students Chris Bell, Braden Meunchrath, Keean Bexte, Samantha Hossack, and Alex Szojka founded the first campus branch of the Party's youth wing on November 12, 2013. Often abbreviated "WROC", the youth branch does not enjoy official status under the party constitution, although they have worked in an unofficial capacity passing party policy, hosting debates, and engaging campus communities. The only Alberta campus to currently have a branch of the campus club is the University of Calgary, the current president is Ben Robinson. The branch is run by an elected board consisting of a President, Vice-President Internal-Affairs, Vice-President External-Affairs, Vice-President Events, Vice-President Membership, and Vice-President Operations and Finance.
Policy and identity
|This section needs to be updated. (July 2016)|
Election reform is a focus of the Wildrose Alliance. The party proposes to set fixed election dates rather than the current format which allows the Premier to call an election at any time. It would allow more free votes in the legislature and would seek to elect the province's Senators rather than have them appointed by the Prime Minister. The party also plans to introduce a bill giving voters the right to recall their MLA. The Wildrose Party proposes numerous changes to how the province delivers health care, which it claims will remain compliant with the Canada Health Act, as well as controls on government spending. Smith is also critical of international climate change treaties, believing climate change science remains inconclusive.
Smith stated that controversial social issues would not play a part in the party's election platform.
Polling indicated that the party retained the support of a quarter of the electorate throughout 2010 as the party further attempted to define itself as not just a protest party but a party capable of forming government. By July 2011, the Wildrose's support had fallen to 16 percent, while PC support had risen to 51 percent.
However, by March 2012, the Wildrose was polling the support of four-in-ten Albertans, showing significant improvement and a credible challenger to the PCs.
In the wake of the mass floor crossing, new leader Brian Jean stated that each candidate must sign a contract, under which they would need to pay a $100,000 fine if they intend to cross the floor to another party.
- Randy Thorsteinson 2003–2005
- Eleanor Maroes 2005 (interim)
- Paul Hinman 2005–2009
- Danielle Smith 2009–2014
- Heather Forsyth (interim) 2014–2015
- Brian Jean 2015–present
- Brian Jean – Fort McMurray-Conklin
- Leela Aheer – Chestermere-Rocky View
- Wayne Anderson – Highwood
- Drew Barnes - Cypress-Medicine Hat
- Nathan Cooper – Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills
- Scott Cyr – Bonnyville-Cold Lake
- Derek Fildebrandt – Strathmore-Brooks
- Dave Hanson – Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills
- Grant Hunter – Cardston-Taber-Warner
- Todd Loewen – Grande Prairie-Smoky
- Don MacIntyre – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
- Jason Nixon – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
- Ron Orr – Lacombe-Ponoka
- Prasad Panda – Calgary-Foothills (by-election)
- Angela Pitt – Airdrie
- Dave Schneider – Little Bow
- Mark Smith – Drayton Valley-Devon
- Pat Stier – Livingstone-Macleod
- Rick Strankman – Drumheller-Stettler
- Wes Taylor – Battle River-Wainwright
- Glenn van Dijken – Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock
- Tany Yao – Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
|2004||Alberta Alliance||Randy Thorsteinson||83 / 83||77,506||8.70%||
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|2008||Wildrose Alliance||Paul Hinman||61 / 83||64,407||6.78%||
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|2012||Wildrose||Danielle Smith||87 / 87||442,429||34.29%||
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|2015||Brian Jean||86 / 87||360,101||24.23%||
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