As 3,800 United Conservative Party members descend on Calgary for the party’s annual convention, key organizers are describing a fight for the heart and soul of conservative politics in Alberta.
“We’re trying to remind the people in power that they serve the people,” said David Parker, the founder of Take Back Alberta. “They’ve kinda forgotten that and I think they need to be regularly reminded of that. That’s why democracy was built the way that it was.”
Parker claims Take Back Alberta’s efforts are responsible for “about half” of the total convention delegates, many of whom were registering on-site even by Saturday.
“After this annual general meeting, the grassroots of the UCP will be in charge,” Parker said.
The AGM is where the party elects its governing board and votes on official party policy. While the UCP government is not bound by any of the policies adopted at the convention, they reflect the “spirit of the party” and Danielle Smith ought to listen, Parker said.
Take Back Alberta has promoted a slate of board candidates to its members to support, with some mainstream media commentators lamenting the UCP is likely to be “Take Back Alberta‘s party” by the end of the weekend.
Take Back Alberta has been particularly focused on resolutions to do with protecting bodily autonomy and banning electronic vote tabulation.
Another organizer, Craig Chandler of the Progressive Group for Independent Business, says getting people engaged in the process before elections is important for the party’s longterm success.
“We want to influence policy but we also want to get people engaged,” said Chandler, who claims to have 573 delegates at the convention. “If we get them engaged now, we can train better people so for the next election we actually have people who are trained.”
While Chandler’s group and Take Back Alberta are endorsing different board candidates, they are aligned on several of the key policy resolutions, including on parental rights and freedom of speech.
While Take Back Alberta was instrumental in the effort to oust former UCP leader Jason Kenney, Parker was quick to say he supports Premier Danielle Smith – but wants to make sure she stays the course.
“I actually want this to be a show of support for the premier,” Parker said. “I think she’s done amazing things. Everyone I talk to is very happy with her. We’re not happy with some of the people around her (though).”
These concerns were echoed by Chandler, who warned that a split, as happened when the Wildrose Alliance formed in protest of Ed Stelmach’s PC government, is likely if the UCP government loses its way.
“This convention’s the most important convention ever,” Chandler said. “It’s really about who we are as the soul of the party. We’re at a fork in the road: Are we going to include people or are we going to just become Liberal light and give people a reason to vote the other way anyway? People want real conservatism.”
Parker is married to a True North reporter who did not contribute to this story.