After decades in power, Alberta Conservatives meet in Calgary to talk renewal

By Sarah O’Donnell, Edmonton Journal November 9, 2012 7:12 AM

EDMONTON – A proposal to strip Conservative Members of Parliament of automatic voting rights in Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party conventions looks like a “very natural evolution” of how provincial politics is changing, Premier Alison Redford said Thursday.Redford made the comment about a proposed change to the provincial party’s constitution one day before more than 1,000 delegates from across Alberta are expected to gather in Calgary for the party’s first convention since her election as leader.

Under the theme of “Alberta Renewal,” the party will tackle a major review of the party’s constitution which PC Association of Alberta executive director Kelley Charlebois said is the most substantial review since 1989.

The role of the Conservative Party of Canada within the provincial Tory party is an issue Charlebois said he expects will be hotly debated during the members-only sessions. Currently, federal MPs have automatic voting rights and each federal Conservative Party constituency association is allowed to send 15 delegates to the convention.

Redford, who currently has a sign on her lawn for the Conservative candidate in the federal Calgary-Centre byelection, said she sees nothing wrong with having the discussion about changing those policies.

“I don’t think there should ever be any assumption that there will always be that sort of cross over,” Redford said. “You see politics in Alberta has been getting quite interesting and we know that during the provincial election that there were people who had all sorts of memberships in all sorts of parties working on different campaigns.”

During the spring election, there was friction between the Redford PCs and some of the federal Conservatives, as some Alberta MPs appeared to show support for the Wildrose and a number of its candidates.

“This is what politics looks like in Alberta now,” Redford said Thursday. “From my perspective, it looks like a very natural evolution. If I want to be a delegate at a federal Conservative convention, I’ve got to go run for delegateship and that’s a good thing.”

While Redford held onto a solid majority government in the spring, the party lost major ground to the Wildrose in southern and central Alberta, and narrowly held onto some northern Alberta ridings it traditionally dominated.

PC members will tackle the question of renewal both through the constitutional review and the election of a new party president to replace the outgoing Bill Smith. Virtually all of the annual general meeting, with the exception of Redford’s Friday night speech, will be closed to all but party members.

Lorne Olsvik, one of two candidates running for president, said the potential vulnerability of the PC brand and the need to rebuild and prepare for the next election prompted him to seek the post.

“We’ve got orphan constituencies where we’ve never orphan constituencies before. We’ve had close races where we haven’t had close raced before,” said Olsvik, who is well-known in Alberta municipal government circles after two decades of experience as a local politician. “The work begins.”

Olsvik said the party must work to make sure constituents across the province feel like they are being heard and that their needs are being taken seriously.Calgarian Jim McCormick, the other candidate for the PC presidency, said that he believes that rebuilding is already underway and needs to focus on each constituency.

McCormick, currently serving on the party executive as Calgary vice-president, said that the debate about the constitution will be a vital part of the weekend. “I think we have had the ability to adapt and to change as the province has changed,” he said.

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Original source article: After decades in power, Alberta Conservatives meet in Calgary to talk renewal