Members of the Wildrose party gathered this past weekend at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre, for their annual general meeting where they also heard from party leader Danielle Smith.
Smith stated to party members that if she does not win the 2016 provincial election for premier, she will step down as party leader.
“My time as leader of the Official Opposition is coming to an end — one way or another — in about 500 days,” stated Smith during her speech to the near 500 party members present.
“We think we have about 500 days before the next election and we want to make sure we use every one of those days wisely.”
Smith’s announcement came after a particularly rough past few months for the party, after they were unable to take any of the four ridings away from the reigning Progressive Conservative party in last month’s by-elections.
“Before the by-elections I think we made the assumption that we were doing a lot of things right, but we didn’t make the kind of progress that we hoped we would,” said Smith during a question period at a press conference prior to her address to party members.
“I firmly believe that the ideas of our grassroots members are the ones that will direct us on the steps we need to take and tell us if we need minor tweaks or do we need to do something more significant.
“I think a leader has to be willing to be open-minded and willing to hear that feedback and I have been greatly encouraged by a number of members saying that, ‘We don’t think the problem is you but we do think there are problems’.”
Smith explained how she was looking forward to Saturday’s ‘reverse bear pit’ where she would open the floor to party members to ask them what they felt were the issues facing their party. She also fielded questions during the press conference regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, to which she answered, “We can always hope that we can get closer to the Keystone getting passed but I think it will require some changes in the White House first as the House of Representatives has passed endorsements for it a number of times, but I think we need to continue down the path of looking at ways for us to get our product to market through a variety of mechanisms and means.
“Right now we have rail which fills the gap for next few years but certainly by 2018 and definitely by 2020 seeing some progress on the Energy East pipeline, the Kinder-Morgan or the Gateway is going to be essential,” said Smith.
Smith finished the press conference by saying in the coming weeks she believes Albertans can expect to hear a lot of questions about the province’s fiscal situation.
“It does feel a bit like Groundhog Day to us, the fact that we had a recent by-election that kind of mirrored what we saw in the general election, we have seen lots of funding promises, lots of announcements for spending, all at the same time that the bottom of some of those revenue projections have fallen out,” said Smith.
“Last time I checked oil was at $75 a barrel, and that is going to have a big impact on the promises that the current premier has made and an impact on the budget they are going to put forward in the spring session.
“We’ve always been the kind of party that believes we need to truly live within our means, have an honest reflection of our dollars in and dollars out, be honest with Albertans about whether we are in surplus or deficit and I think that those issues are going to dominate the fall sessions.”