EDMONTON — The former leader of the Reform Party says he made a mistake when he encouraged members of Alberta’s Wildrose to unite with the governing Progressive Conservatives without first consulting the grassroots of the party.
Preston Manning met last week with the Wildrose caucus to talk about his experiences when the Reform Party joined the federal Conservatives to form the Canadian Alliance.
A day after the meeting, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight others crossed the floor of the provincial legislature and called on the party to merge with the Tories.
Mr. Manning said in a statement Monday that he should have recommended more consultation with constituents in the meeting with Wildrose.
He said the Canadian Alliance formed only after a discussion with grassroots members and several conferences and referendums.
“My failure to strongly recommend a similar process to the Wildrose caucus was a mistake on my part. It was a disservice to those who sought my counsel and to those who have placed their trust in my commitment to democracy — a mistake for which I now sincerely apologize to all concerned.”
Meanwhile the Wildrose named as its interim leader Heather Forsyth, one of the five remaining Wildrose members in the legislature.
Ms. Forsyth, a former solicitor general who crossed the floor from the PCs in 2010, will lead the party until a permanent replacement is chosen. That will not occur before March.
“This is a pivotal moment for Alberta. In the pursuit of power, democracy has been swept aside,” Ms. Forsyth said in a speech to chanting supporters at the party headquarters in Calgary Monday.
“There is no doubt an overwhelming number of Albertans feel hurt — who feel that the most noble notion of public life has been shattered. Folks, let there be no questions, Albertans did not lose their Opposition.”
Members of the party are still angry about the departure of Ms. Smith and their colleagues.
“The other day nine of my colleagues grabbed each others hands and jumped off a cliff,” said Livingstone-Macleod member Pat Stier.
“It’s been a difficult week I can tell you, but our group here are dedicated even more now. We’re strong, we’re alive and we’re going to keep holding this government to account.”
Earlier this year Ms. Forsyth indicated she would not run again due to family reasons. She said she now plans to stick around until at least the next election call expected in 2016.
With the defections, the Tories hold 72 of 87 legislature seats.
The Canadian Press