The Drayton Valley Devon MLA said the founding weekend for the United Conservative Party was not only great motivation, but record-breaking.
Mark Smith said the UCP’s founding AGM in Red Deer the first weekend of May attracted over 2,400 delegates, the most ever for such a meeting in Alberta political history.
“Democracy is an amazing institution,” said Smith by phone May 30. “We have had an amazing two or three years in this province in Alberta politics. As an exercise in democracy, it was an absolute success.”
Smith said the history-making founding AGM was the result of many remarkable achievements for the two “heritage parties,” the Wild Rose and PC’s, the effort to unite the two, and the naming of Jason Kenney as leader, someone Smith has described as the preeminent conservative thinker in North America.
The MLA said the fact it was the founding AGM might have generated a lot of interest in the event, but the schedule of speakers over the weekend was very interesting as well.
Federal opposition and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer spoke to the AGM Friday night, while both former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and UCP leader Kenney spoke on Saturday. Wall is known as an eloquent conservative voice, while Smith said Kenney’s speech was one of the best the MLA has ever heard. In fact, Smith went so far as to say he felt Kenney’s Saturday night appearance was a defining moment in Alberta politics.
He said Kenney’s speech about Alberta’s present and future reminded him in essence of Reform Party leader Preston Manning’s early-90’s speech about the controversial and divisive Charlottetown Accord.
The Drayton Devon MLA said Kenney’s speech really foreshadowed the upcoming election, expected in the spring of 2019 but in reality could be called virtually anytime before May 31, 2019. Kenney also touched on the direction the UCP would go if given the chance to govern Alberta. The MLA stated Kenney’s speech ran long by 30 to 40 minutes because of the spontaneous ovations from the AGM audience.
The Drayton Devon MLA said the AGM weekend was the first time the UCP had really come together since the Wild Rose and PCs united last year. He said it went well. “We are one party,” said Smith.
The MLA said the new entity has united both at the caucus level and party level “seamlessly.” In fact, he calls the UCP a “big tent party.” “It has room for people to coalesce around conservative ideas, but you don’t have to follow all of them. That’s the strength of democracy,” added Smith.
“It allows us to develop consensus around issues.” But the MLA noted there are always times when members disagree, and all other political parties have the same situation.
Smith added that now that the party has had its founding AGM, constituency associations will be doing the same thing over the summer, while some areas that already finished their AGM process may be moving on to nominations for candidates.