September 13, 2013 6:49 pm
Updated: September 13, 2013 9:36 pm

Alberta Party to pick new leader


EDMONTON – On September 21, Alberta Party members will pick a new leader. While both candidates have high hopes for the party, an uphill battle awaits the winner.

“There was no traditional political party out there that fit my values, and I look at the Alberta Party as a bit of a startup,” says leadership candidate Greg Clark, an entrepreneur. “I’m really excited about that.”

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“I think a lot of times people think that you need to be the CEO of Disney… I think people who are regular Albertans have a lot to add to the conversation,” says Troy Millington, the other leadership candidate. Millington is a stay-at-home dad.

You can watch the raw interviews with both candidates below.

In the last provincial election, the Alberta Party was shut out completely.

In the wake of that disappointment, the party even debated dissembling. However, members decided not to turn it in.

“Alberta is in a time of transition,” says Clark. “I think that, like a lot of people, I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper and get pretty angry about what I see sometimes… At the same time, I’m really optimistic for the future. As a born and raised Albertan, there’s a lot of great things about this province.”

Both Alberta Party leadership candidates are Calgarians, and that is not their only common ground.

“One of the things I’m focused on … is a renewed focus and clarity with respect to the natural resource revenues,” says Millington. “They’re very variable in this province. We’ve gone through boom bust, boom bust. They make up a third of our provincial budget and yet nobody seems to be willing at the political level to truly address that.”

“Using this, basically windfall revenue that we’ve been relying on for a couple of decades is insane financially,” he stresses.

He compares the province’s approach to budgeting to gambling in Las Vegas.

“All of a sudden, three, four dollars difference in the price of oil and our class sizes in our high schools are going to jump from 35 to 40 students in one year. That is absolutely crazy.”

Millington would like to see royalty revenue put into savings, and find other revenue sources to pay regular expenses.

(View the full interview with Troy Millington here.)

“I think Alberta has an expenditure problem,” says Clark. “I think we need to throw the doors open and shine a light on government inefficiency and waste. But I also think we have to have a really good discussion about the revenue side of things. We have to get off this resource revenue roller coaster.”

Clark feels it is crucial to find a balance between supporting the energy industry and enforcing regulations.

“I understand the importance of the energy industry to Alberta. At the same time, I think we need to find a balance. As the world transitions into a low carbon future, that presents challenges for Alberta, but it also presents enormous opportunity.”

“I think Alberta can and should be an environmental leader, and that will allow us social license to continue to produce our core products.”

Clark believes the current regulations are good, but that they need to be “strong and equally enforced.”

(View the full interview with Greg Clark here.)

Both candidates admit they face a challenge in growing the party, and differ somewhat on how quickly they feel they can accomplish that growth.

Clark is focusing on a two-election strategy.

“The Alberta Party needs to earn the trust of Albertans. I think we do that by starting with realistic expectations in the next elections. We need to elect MLAs the next time.”

Millington says he wants the party to go from “zero to 50” in 2016.

“If we get a non-audacious result where we have one, two, three, four MLAs, what difference does it truly make?”

He believes fast growth of the party is within reach.

“Sometimes there are critical points or critical inflections where things can change stunningly rapidly… when people are ready to change, they are ready to change. And I believe we need to be there and present ourselves.”

Spreading the word about what the Alberta Party stands for is a priority for both candidates.

“Albertans are looking for an alternative,” explains Clark, “a moderate, sensible, fiscally responsible, but socially moderate alternative. And that is, to me, what the Alberta Party is.”

Millington’s description is similar.

“Fiscally conservative, socially nice,” he says.

The party’s president says the Alberta Party isn’t meant to fit a label.

“Essentially, it’s a very new idea that’s kind of hard to come to grasp with, ‘well if you’re not left and you’re not right, what the heck are you?’ Well, we’re both, because I don’t want to be wrong half the time my whole life,” explains William Munsey.

Political Scientist Chaldeans Mensah agrees that approach will appeal to Albertans, but says it’s crucial the party get its message out clearly.

“This is a long-term project for this party,” he says. “There is political space in Alberta for a party like the Alberta Party. It can build support of centrist voters, and there are a lot of those voters here in the province.”

Mensah believes it will take some time to establish the party and connect with Albertans.

“In the short term, this party is not going to make any headway.”

“If they see this as a long-term project, we could see perhaps a realignment…and all of a sudden you have a real alternative.”

“What they have to do is try to get at least one member into the legislature, then that could be a platform for broadening the appeal of the party.”

With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News

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