This week saw the leadership race to replace Paul Hinman as leader of the Wildrose Alliance party move into northern Alberta and Edmonton for the first time. In keeping with the the sequence of the race so far, it was Danielle Smith who made the first move by holding a public meeting at the Nisku Inn just south of Edmonton. Following a presentation by oil industry expert Dave Yager, Danielle spoke at length about the PC government's mismanagement of Alberta's oil industry and called for an overhaul of the New Royalty Framework. A memorable line from Danielle's speech was that that "People will say we look like an oil patch party, but someone has to defend this industry." And she announced that she wants to lead the Wildrose Alliance party to become "a center-right party that is fiscally conservative and socially moderate." Interestingly enough, some attendants spoke about their disappointment that the federal Canadian Alliance fell apart when it merged with the PCs to become the Conservative Party.
Only sixteen hours later Mark Dyrholm attended a breakfast meeting at Whitespot's on Calgary Trail in Edmonton hosted by the Progressive Group for Independent Business. After the local chapter of the PGIB concluded its business, Mark addressed the table about the need to provide a true conservative alternative to Albertans and return the province to its Reform Party roots. Following on that theme, he gave a radio interview on Edmonton's CHED radio in which is remarked "I believe we're at a crossroads...you talk to PC people behind the scenes they are deeply discontent and they want something else to vote for..."I've been a lifelong Conservative. I've been a constituency president. I've sat on many different levels but right now he has moved away from the values that Albertans have voted for. And what we're putting on the plate is a different way of voting for these same Reform values." Attendants expressed particular interest in cutting regulations that increase operating costs of health care and small businesses.
The leadership race between Smith and Dyrholm seems to have provided the spark the Wildrose Alliance needed to begin making inroads into Edmonton and Northern Alberta. In Alberta's provincial election last year, the party received a lesser percentage of the vote in Edmonton than any other part of the province. No doubt both campaigns are paying attention to Edmonton as the leadership convention is scheduled to be held in the city on October 17 of this year. Although vote will be conducted by mail-in ballot, but the effect of having more supporters on the convention floor will no doubt help get out the vote in those final crucial hours. This week Danielle kicked-off the leg of her campaign in northern Alberta by addressing oil industry workers in Nisku, while Mark began by speaking with small business owners in south Edmonton. Let the battle of northern Alberta begin!