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Grassroots parties emerge in Alberta

Although the Progressive Conservatives have held an overwhelming majority in the Alberta legislature since 1971, a changing political scene in Alberta may open the door for two emerging grassroots parties in the next provincial election.

Although the Progressive Conservatives have held an overwhelming majority in the Alberta legislature since 1971, a changing political scene in Alberta may open the door for two emerging grassroots parties in the next provincial election.

“I think the political landscape in Alberta is undergoing a drastic transformation,” said Doreen Barrie, a political scientist with the University of Calgary.

“For the first time, we have a party to the right of the Conservatives, the Wildrose Alliance party, and then we have the Alberta Party to the left (of the Conservatives).”

Both parties have been working to establish a stable foundation in Alberta over the last few years. The Wildrose Party elected leader Danielle Smith on Oct. 17, 2009 and has since been working on developing and revamping party policies.

The Alberta Party held its leadership convention on May 28 where they elected Glenn Taylor as the head of the party.

“The Wildrose Party has been around for much longer then the Alberta party and having just elected a leader they have a lot of work to do,” said Barrie, adding that one of the concerns of Wildrose may be that they peaked too soon, having gained a lot of momentum in 2009 and 2010.

Barrie believes the emergence of both parties has a lot to do with how long the Conservatives have been in power in Alberta.

“They been in power for so long they have taken the public for granted. There are now members leaving the party and revealing what goes on behind closed doors,” said Barrie.

“After 40 years you would think even Albertans might be thinking it is time for a change.”

Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson defected from the Conservative Party, crossing the floor to become a member of the Wildrose Alliance on Jan. 4, 2010, along with Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth.

Although these newly established parties have been attracting attention across the province, Barrie is not yet counting out the Liberals or the NDP in the next election.

Barrie said that she is expecting a new Liberal party to emerge by the next election under the leadership of the current Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Swann, and also said that the success of the NDP in the federal election may also show in the provincial polls.

Luke Ouellette, the current Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA will be running again in the next election and has already been nominated by the Alberta PC’s, said Ouellette. Ouellette was first elected in 2001 and said that he is confident the Conservatives will not have a problem maintaining a majority in the next election. He is currently serving as the Minister of Transportation in the Legislature and won the 2008 election with more than 60 per cent of the vote.

“The fight on the right will be the Wildrose versus the Conservatives and the fight on the left will be the Alberta party, the Liberals, and the NDP,” said Barrie.

“It will be an exciting election for the first time (in a long time) and people will be going to the polls.”

The last provincial election was held on March 3, 2008, meaning that the next election can be held no later then March 13, 2013. Although some were predicting the government to be calling an election in March of 2012 the announcement by Premier Ed Stelmach that he will be stepping down as the conservative party leader will mean an election will have to wait until after a conservative party leadership race.