By Letter to the Editor on August 11, 2017.
The recent birth of the United Conservative Party from the parent PC and Wildrose parties has not been easy and we can expect more growing pains ahead.
The lightning fast speed at which the unification of the centrist PC party and right wing Wildrose party left little time to organize and or anticipate potential problems. One unfortunate result of the creation of the new party that it appears many of its proponents didn’t consider is the reality that all 29 current UCP members were elected under either the PC or Wildrose banners and they now will sit as UCP MLAs.
Some, like local MLA Drew Barnes, justify this change by suggesting that neither the Wildrose nor PC parties exist any longer and so they had to follow the unity plan and join the new party. This is, in fact, false, as these two entities do technically still exist and one MLA, Richard Starke, did not cross to the UCP.
Another excuse used for switching parties is that 95 per cent of members of each party supported the unification of the parties. From a party perspective this is overwhelming support, but from an MLA perspective it is meaningless as it is not just the membership of these two parties that elect members to the Legislature. The public as a whole reserves this right.
The voters outside the party membership were never consulted and had no opportunity to vote on who would represent them as their MLA and under which party. There is a term for MLAs elected under one party banner and who then choose to move to another party between elections. The term is floor crosser.
If we hearken back to December of 2014 when many of the Wildrose caucus, including their leader, crossed the floor there was outrage, especially from Mr. Barnes. He is quoted as saying that “he isn’t going anywhere and that he was elected as a Wildrose member and told voters he would represent them as such for the next four years.”
I am curious how Mr. Barnes will now justify crossing to a new party without consulting the voters that he promised to represent. Is this his version of grassroots democracy? As a member of the UCP, I think the right thing to do is have all 29 resign and run in byelections under the new party banner. This will erase any taint on the legitimacy of these MLAs standing with the voters. I also see it as an opportunity to gauge support for the new party and potentially send a clear message to the current government.
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