Campaigning for the undecided conservative vote
Big Valley Jamboree brought more than country music fans to Camrose.
The two newest provincial party leaders were both in the city for the BVJ Kickin’ Country Parade to start the festivities on Thursday morning, hoping to pick up splintered voters from the recent merger of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Party.
A recent poll by Mainstreet Research and Postmedia showed 27 per cent of the 2,100 polled voters were undecided in their support. Both Alberta Liberal Party leader David Khan and United Conservative Party interim leader Nathan Cooper were purporting their parties to be one for all Albertans, however, UCP leadership candidate Jason Kenney’s stance on Gay Straight Alliances and a parent’s right to know made headlines again on Aug. 2.
“It’s extremely concerning that he still thinks that school boards or individual teachers should have the power to out these vulnerable children at such a dangerous time in their maturity to their parents,” said Khan. “I think that shouldn’t be left to a case-by-case basis. Their joining a GSA or important matters like their sexuality should be kept private.”
Khan noted the only time a school counsellor can contact parents about the content of a meeting is if they believe the student poses a risk to themselves or others. He said roughly 50 per cent of kids that end up on the street are LGBTQ , and usually end up there after they come out or are outted by someone else to their family and are not received well.
Cooper said one of his main objectives until a leader is elected on Oct. 28, is to reach out to the LGBTQ community and to make sure they know they are welcome in the party.
“I don’t think it’s a big concern, we’re building an open and inclusive United Conservative Party that doesn’t discriminate on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Cooper.
The Wetaskiwin-Conservative riding went NDP for the first time in its history in 2015 as Bruce Hinkley was elected, previous to that it had been PC since it was created in 1993.
With no real defined policy in place for the UCP, beyond their 14 points in their principle of agreement document, there is no answer to where policy will land, and how far right socially and fiscally it will be. Khan says the Liberal Party should be a natural landing spot for the red Tories who did not sign on for the UCP. He adds that he has reached out to Richard Starke — the lone MLA that did not go with the PC/WRP merger — but is giving him time and space to make a decision if he should choose to cross the floor.
“He would be a great asset,” said Khan. “I have a lot of respect for him, he’s one of the most respected MLAs and a really good guy as well. He’s a social progressive and a fiscal moderate and that’s what Liberals stand for.”
The WRP and the PCs voted with a 95 per cent approval from the membership of both parties to merge. But it was not just the red Tories who did not sign on for the merged party. There were enough disgruntled former WRP members who refused to join to form a new party on Aug. 1 called the Alberta Advantage Party, at a meeting in Nisku.
“Change is obviously difficult for lots of folks, and I think that it’s very important that we speak to all of those individuals,” said Cooper. “This was a grassroots process that the grassroots were in charge of.”
The merger came about through the desire of both the WRP and the PCs to remove the NDP from power, with massive job losses, particularly in the energy sector, clumsily implemented policy like the carbon tax, and an economy that has failed to get going again, despite recent reports that it is about to turn the corner.
It is also the reason Khan is hopeful for a rebound in Liberal numbers, offering a landing spot for disgruntled progressive voters who voted NDP for the first time. The Liberal Party receive just 4.19 per cent of the vote and one seat in the legislature in the 2015 election.
Khan points to the fact that they were the opposition party as recently as 2012 and the federal liberal party went from being cleaned out to back in power with an overwhelming majority.
“That poll does not reflect my leadership and the new direction and the revitalization of the Liberal Party because it has only been a couple of months and the oxygen has been sucked out by all of the UCP shenanigans, so I think we’ve got a great opportunity to grow.”