The future of the Wildrose Party may hang in the balance as speculation of early provincial elections widens and in the ridings where Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor to the PC Party, the contests will be watched closely.
At the last provincial election, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox took the majority votes under the banner of the Wildrose Party. With an early provincial election now looking increasingly likely in 2015, members of the PC Party, including Fox, are putting their names into the hat to represent the governing party during elections.
“I want to make sure we have a steady voice and a steady hand at the helm,” said Fox, referring to his goals.
While on the campaign trail, he has received questions about switching over from the Wildrose Party. “My values haven’t changed. The way that I think hasn’t changed. I’m still the same guy that they elected in the last election.”
He feels he can represent all the communities in the constituency and suggests the last three years have given him some good experience.
“I’ve spent three years learning in opposition figuring out which hallways to walk down and which doors to open,” said Fox. “Now that I’m on the government side, I have the opportunity to utilize that knowledge to make sure we get what we need for our communities.”
Next in line, Lacombe businessman Peter DeWit said he had been planning for the last year and a half. While he doesn’t have a political background, he feels his experience as a marketer and as a teacher makes him an ideal candidate to be the PC candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka.
“I’ve been involved in many community organizations and boards, so I have a lot of governance experience,” said DeWit.
He is an instructor at Red Deer College as well and those skills will work to represent constituents. “I’m very well connected in this area,” he stressed.
“Of course Lacombe is my home town . . . but my aim is, once I become the candidate, is really to represent all our constituency,” said DeWit.
He suggests the 2015 Alberta budget will be the toughest challenge in upcoming months. That, and voter concern is another worry. DeWit has been working hard to garner PC memberships and drive interest in voting for the PC candidate. He suggests voters, who supported a Wildrose MLA, may have doubts who they will vote for during elections.
Despite the worry, he is pleased all constituencies have been opened up for PC nomination.
Former Ponoka mayor, Larry Henkelman, suggests his years of experience in municipal government will be a benefit for voters. He served nine years as mayor and 12 years as a councillor.
Most recently he took on the role of president of the PC Party for Lacombe-Ponoka to “help regain membership to get back a PC representative in the government.”
Henkelman says towns in the constituency all have similar issues such as balancing budgets and maintaining infrastructure and he feels his knowledge as mayor and as a businessman makes him the ideal PC candidate. Recent political moves added to his desire to run.
“Of course, with what has transpired in the last six months, it has definitely raised some concerns with PC members and non members,” said Henkelman.
He questions if Wildrose members crossing over properly represented the voters. “The people that were voting and had elected their representatives were let down and not really consulted.”
Like, Fox and DeWit, Henkelman suggests the 2015 budget will hurt spending. He says he can speak for the towns in the area as he knows all the mayors quite well.
“I understand the issues of municipalities,” said Henkelman.
This is only the first step in the run up to provincial elections with a Wildrose candidate yet to be named for Lacombe-Ponoka as well as other political parties.
What remains to be seen is if the electorate are too scared their voices won’t be heard if they vote other than the PC Party or if they are pleased with what the governing party is doing.
At the time of writing, a date for deciding the nomination race for Lacombe-Ponoka riding had not yet been set.
As Ponoka News went to press on Tuesday, a further announcement came from Wayne Rempel of Lacombe, declaring his intention to run as a PC candidate. Further information on this candidate will be in next week’s edition of the News.