Wildrose to remain Alberta’s Official Opposition, speaker rules

WATCH: After a week of research, speaker Gene Zwozdesky decided the Wildrose will keep Official Opposition status. Tom Vernon reports.

EDMONTON – Speaker of the Legislature Gene Zwozdesky decided Tuesday that the Wildrose party will remain the province’s Official Opposition.

Zwozdesky said he personally spent 40 hours researching and, including the time staff spent, about 300 hours were spent looking into this situation.

“Based on a thorough review of authorities and precedents across Canada, I have determined that incumbency is the key factor in the case of a tie and that the Wildrose caucus shall continue as the Official Opposition,” he explained.

In his five-page decision letter, Zwozdesky stated that “when faced with the issue of designating an Official Opposition in the event of a tie in caucus standings during the life of a Legislature, the key factor is incumbency or, put another way, which caucus was previously the Official Opposition.”

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Wildrose House Leader Shayne Saskiw released a statement online, thanking the speaker for this ruling.

“Given prior precedent, it is our belief this ruling strengthens our democracy. In the last election, over 440,000 Albertans overwhelmingly voted for the Wildrose to be their voice in the legislature, a strong mandate neither the third nor the fourth parties received,” Saskiw wrote.

Raj Sherman, leader of the Alberta Liberals, called the ruling “disappointing.” He argued that “two conservative parties opposing each other is bad for democratic dialogue.”

Last week nine Wildrose MLAs, including former leader Danielle Smith, crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservative government, leaving the Wildrose party with five MLAs.

READ MORE: Wildrose leader, 8 others join Alberta’s PC party

The Alberta Liberals, who also have five seats in the legislature, made an argument they should hold the title of Official Opposition.

Both the Liberals and Wildrose sent the speaker letters asking for the role. The Wildrose said it believes it has precedence on its side to keep its status.

On Monday, the Wildrose named Heather Forsyth as its interim leader. Forsyth is a former PC MLA, who crossed the floor to the Wildrose in 2010.

READ MORE: Preston Manning apologizes for giving Wildrose wrong advice on PC merger

Wildrose party executives said they’ve already begun the process of selecting a permanent leader. More details are expected on that in January.

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“Under our new leader, Albertans will see a rejuvenated opposition that will never give up the fight for Alberta,” Saskiw’s statement read. “We remain strong, capable and determined as ever.”

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