The massive majority that Wildrose members gave the “Unite the Right” question July 22 wasn’t really a surprise to local Drayton-Devon MLA Mark Smith.
Speaking by phone July 24, Smith said the overwhelming majority decision for the Wildrose Party at Red Deer’s Radisson hotel didn’t catch him off guard. “No, it was not a surprise,” said Smith. “It was a surprise we got 95 per cent.”
While the PC Party, which also voted in favour of unification this past week, needed only 50 per cent plus one vote to ratify the proposal, Wildrose had stricter rules: 75 per cent approval. It’s estimated about 25,000 members voted, out of a roughly 42,000 total membership.
“It’s a huge majority,” said Smith. “I think it says Albertans have made up their minds. They want a united conservative party and they want us working together so we can become the next government.”
Wildrose members had the choice of either voting in person in Red Deer, or phoning in with a unique PIN, plus the lead-up to the vote involved a number of public meetings. Smith said the Wildrose Party has always been committed to grassroots democracy, and the unification vote was a perfect example. “It’s exactly how it works,” he said.
Some critics pointed out the phone-in part of the vote didn’t go as smoothly as planned. But Smith said with 42,000 members, many signing up very recently, there were surprisingly few glitches. Wildrose staff were very dedicated to ensuring all members could vote added Smith.
At the Red Deer event July 22, Smith said the atmosphere was charged. “I’m going to say it’s very upbeat,” said Smith near the vote stations last Saturday. He added that his constituency office was seeing a lot of interest leading up to the vote, two or three people a day contacting the office to find out more.
“For the most part, I think it’s coming together really well,” said Smith.
Now that the unification agreement has been ratified by both parties, they will choose one interim leader while local constituency associations begin the unification process. The interim leader will not be a candidate for leadership of the new United Conservative Party.
Overall, Smith said attending, voting and observing at the Red Deer vote was a memorable experience. “It was a pretty cool experience,” he added.