Provincial Progressive Conservatives met in Red Deer this past weekend for the 2016 Policy Convention & Special General meeting.
“After the election loss, we did a total 360 about where the party was and what we needed to do,” explained Katherine O’Neill, PC Alberta president. “We didn’t even have a policy book. Because we were in government so long, what was being passed in the legislature was considered basically our policy book.
“But the party members didn’t have policy book that they worked on.”
O’Neill said last weekend was the culmination in ways of the work that has gone towards developing party policy since then. “They held regional policy meetings across the province and talked about what is important to Albertans – the economy, the environment, education and health care – and they talked about what also would be good policy areas that we should be working on.”
From there, the policy was essentially pushed up to last weekend’s meeting where the delegates voted on it.
“It’s really exciting, because the last time we met was 2013 for a policy conference, and 300 people went to it,” she said. This time around, 850 were in attendance. There were also a number of workshops on topics including fiscal responsibility, health care, education and rural issues among others.
“For me, being the party president, that tells me that we are on the right track, that we are listening to people, that people want to be engaged and that when we give them a place to come, they come,” she said, adding on top of that, the ongoing leadership race is also helping to bolster momentum as well. The leadership election is set for March 18th, 2017 in Calgary. A leadership forum was held last Saturday evening which attracted 1,200 people as well.
“They talked about everything from the carbon tax to Bill 6,” she said, adding that concept of unifying the right also surfaced.
“I’m on the record having said that it’s up to our membership to make these decisions,” she said.
Meanwhile, O’Neill said some people had asked why the policy convention was happening prior to the leadership selection.
“We made the very conscious decision that no – the leader won’t define the party like it has been in the past,” she explained. “We want to be at the table making the decisions.”
That way, following the leadership convention it will be very clear where the party is heading, she said, adding with changes that have made to the process, every single riding will have equal say on who the party selects as its next leader.
“We needed to make sure there were more people at the table making these decisions,” she said.
“We also have some of our strongest ridings in Central Alberta, and I think that this policy conference will be able to show Albertans that we aren’t just waiting for a leader. We are hard at work and we want people to join us and to help us do this work,” she added.
“The issues are so significant. I think people are very stressed out about the economy and where the province is heading. If they are really worried, there is a place to come and do the work and help us.
“Before, I think that a lot of the time we let the MLAs do all the work. But now the membership – the grassroots — are saying, ‘We want to help’.