SUNDRE – The outgoing past president of the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding’s UCP constituency association said membership has soared in the span of about a year.
Gerald Ingeveld told the Albertan during a Jan. 17 phone interview that the association’s membership has since near the end of 2021 increased to roughly 3,300 from about 600.
“With the interest of having a special general meeting and a leadership race, there’s a lot of people joined up and got involved,” said Ingeveld.
The constituency association held its annual general meeting (AGM) on Monday, Jan. 16 at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #223 in Sundre with a limited agenda to review financial reports and elect the board of directors’ new executive, he said.
“The UCP’s not very old, but this is the largest turnout we’ve had,” he said. “Also, it’s the largest membership that we’ve ever had.”
The large crowd had been anticipated, as indicated by a post on the UCP’s website featuring information about the constituency association.
“Having been advised of greater-than-usual numbers for our AGM, our board executive had attempted to secure a larger venue in Sundre,” reads a portion of the statement.
“The board has lined up extra seating capacity via a heated tent with a sound system set up in it as an overflow seating option in case it is needed.”
Ingeveld was among the hundreds who attended.
“The entire board and executives is elected each year,” he said. “I served for a year, and now there’s a new board in place.”
The new president is Aryn Werezak, with Floyd Brown serving as chief financial officer while Monica Rosevear was re-elected secretary.
In a brief written statement posted on social media dated Jan. 18, Werezak did not mention any specific policy goals other than to help the UCP “defeat the NDP in the spring election.”
Also expressing gratitude to those who stepped up to put their names forward, Werezak concluded by stating further comments or interviews would be declined until the new board has had an opportunity to meet.
Tim Hoven, whose previous bid to contest Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding MLA Jason Nixon’s nomination had been denied by the UCP over past comments that he had posted online that were deemed inappropriate by party leadership, was also among the estimated 700-plus people who participated in the process.
Overall, there are 27 members on the board, among them a 14-year-old, said Hoven.
The executive can have up to seven positions but requires a minimum of three: the president, financial officer and secretary, said Ingeveld.
Other positions such as vice-president and communications are generally selected once the new board has its first regular meeting, he added.
Although the venue was packed, Ingeveld described the meeting as otherwise fairly quiet.
“People turned out, drank some coffee and cast some ballots,” he said.
Take Back Alberta could split right wing vote
According to Hoven, 25 of 27 people on Take Back Alberta's preferred candidate list were elected to the board.
He wrote in one of numerous social media posts about the meeting that Take Back Alberta (TBA) is not a political party, and “exists to educate Albertans on how their political process works and to get them more involved in politics at all levels.”
Hoven described the scene inside the legion hall as “organized chaos” but added people were respectful and orderly, leaving promptly after voting “which made the venue workable for the number of people that stayed.”
“It's not about TBA sweeping a board,” he said. “It is about democracy and people having their voices heard.”
Although Nixon could not be reached for an interview, the Albertan was provided with a brief statement from his office that read, in part, “All members in this riding have a common goal of keeping our province conservative this spring and we can see that the membership is engaged and excited to get involved.”
The statement also confirmed Nixon's intent to seek re-election, and the former minister of Environment and Parks who later took on the Finance portfolio before being put on the backbench after Danielle Smith won the UCP leadership race, was quoted as saying, “I look forward to the 2023 campaign and working with the new local CA board to defeat the NDP this spring.”
Offering his thoughts on the Take Back Alberta movement, Ingeveld expressed a reluctance to “take a shot at any part of the party.”
But he also questioned the wisdom of growing a rift within the UCP that could imperil the party’s electoral prospects.
“I don’t think it’s good for individual groups to pop up within parties because it starts to divide a party,” he said.
“I mean, that’s what happened to the PC (Progressive Conservative) party back in the day; you know, these partisan groups set up, split the party and it just opened the door for the NDP to slide in.”
Ingeveld added that he is not closely familiar with the movement and said he is not involved, but is nevertheless worried it might undermine the UCP come the spring election.
“Anything that tends to split the right side of the vote, opens the door for left,” he said. “So, it’s going to make it doubly hard for those of us who plan to help and campaign to get the message across, because they are – from what I’ve heard – they’re saying some things that are difficult to buy into.”
Yet he was nevertheless encouraged by the large turnout.
“The fact that we have so many members in our riding, I think, is a real bonus for a party because the more people that are involved, the more synergy you can create,” he said.
“You’re seeing that far more in the rural ridings than in the cities.”