County of Wetaskiwin MLA supports Jason Kenney for UCP leader

Mark Smith says Kenney has experience to handle new party

Not all of the former Wildrosers are supporting their past leader Brian Jean in his effort to head the fledgling United Conservative Party. MLA Mark Smith, who represents most of the County of Wetaskiwin, is one of them.

On Aug. 4, Smith announced in Drayton Valley he would be supporting former PC leader Jason Kenney in the UCP leadership race.

“It was a very hard decision to make on my part,” said Smith by phone Aug. 9.

“From my perspective, I was looking for several things. We’re going to need a leader with international experience.”

The MLA said Kenney’s impressive resume is packed with political experience, and not just the popularity to beat the NDP in the next provincial election. Smith said Alberta needs a leader with national and international credentials to deal with serious economic issues facing the province, such as the softwood lumber debate, oil and gas and others.

Smith said Alberta needs a leader who knows how to talk to other leaders in BC, Ottawa and the United States and that means Kenney.

MLA Smith himself has shown interest in international cooperation after recently touring parts of Europe to learn more about hemp as a cash crop for Alberta producers.

Also, Smith said he looked at potential leaders knowing the province needs someone who understands the grassroots approach to politics that is so vital in Alberta. The MLA said he is a strong believer in grassroots democracy where leaders are given direction by party members, and Smith said he feels Kenney has the best grasp on that.

Smith also noted that the UCP is a new party, and such a party should have an experienced leader who can handle whatever comes down the pipe.

He pointed out that his decision was in favour of Kenney, and not necessarily against Jean. “I believe Brian is a good leader and a hard working man,” said Smith, noting he has great respect for the former Wildrose leader. “But my decision was based on the things I said to this point.”

The leadership vote will be held Oct. 28.

Stu.salkeld@pipestoneflyer.ca