Wildrose Alliance members asked to help federal Tories
Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith, left, and deputy leader Paul Hinman, right, are joined at a news conference by former MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth in Calgary, on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. (Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, April 21, 2011 6:53AM EDT
OTTAWA - Alberta Conservative MPs aren't allowed to wade into provincial politics, but members of the Wildrose Alliance are being asked to dive straight into the federal campaign.
With popular leader Danielle Smith at the helm, the young, right-of-centre party is trying to wrest power away from the Progressive Conservatives after 40 years in power.
Federal Tory politicians are divided in their allegiances to the two parties and have been told to keep their feelings to themselves.
One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaign advisers, Ken Boessenkool, had been working to unite the Wildrose Alliance and Progressive Conservatives.
Nevertheless, the Wildrose Alliance's executive director, Vitor Marciano, recently encouraged members to volunteer with federal Conservative candidates across the province because of "valuable practical political opportunities."
"Not only will volunteering for a Conservative campaign team help elect a majority, it will also be an opportunity to get some additional campaign experience prior to the next provincial election, which could come as early as this October," Marciano recently wrote to supporters in an email obtained by The Canadian Press.
"Specifically, this is a great opportunity to learn on-the-ground skills and discover new ideas for how to spread the Wildrose message in the next campaign. The skills, experience, and relationships we develop will surely strengthen our own Wildrose team for what will be one of the most important provincial elections in Alberta's history.
"It is also a great way to meet, make friends with, and recruit like-minded Albertans who haven't heard the Wildrose message yet."
Do Conservative MPs actually need any help? A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll released Tuesday put the federal Tories at 59 per cent in the province. NDP-held Edmonton-Strathcona is the only riding the Conservatives don't hold.
Marciano said in an interview that other than offering a good chance to "exercise campaign muscles," political engagement is something that should be encouraged.
"The truth of the matter is Canada becomes a stronger place and Alberta becomes a stronger place when more people are involved in politics," Marciano said.
"The more people who are actively taking an active interest in doing things, I think that's just a good thing."
Marciano isn't counting on any helpful quid pro quo from federal MPs after the campaign, because they're unlikely to express public support for the Wildrose Alliance.
Former Conservative MP Myron Thompson says he knows of several MPs who have an affinity for the party, particularly those who came from the Reform Party like himself.
He says having some members cut their teeth on the federal campaign is a good idea. Thompson helped set up the Wildrose Alliance constituency association in his provincial riding.
"I think that there's a lot to learn. They're pretty grassroots people, and they haven't had a lot of experience, that's for sure," Thompson said.