Friday, November 28, 2014

MLA Pat Stier is Wildrose all the way

Pat Stier (T. Lucas file photo)
Chris Davis

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier says he's sticking with the Wildrose Party for the foreseeable future. The party has experienced a series of shocks recently. On Monday MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan quit the Wildrose caucus to join the Progressive Conservatives. Perennial Wildrose gadfly Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin quit the Wildrose Party to sit as an independent on November 2, following the byelection that saw the PC's win all four seats. Anglin's departure was already seemingly inevitable after losing his Wildrose constituency nomination for the next election.

Pat Stier is not planning to cross the floor. "It's not in the cards, I have not even thought about it," he said. "I'm fully in support of our leader." Stier said the defections of Towle and Donovan came out of the blue for the party. "Frankly, we had no knowledge whatsoever beforehand about this. It was a shock, and we were frankly totally appalled at the way it was done." Stier said that to his knowledge none of the affected staff were aware of the situation ahead of time either. "It was absolutely shocking, for everyone."

"I think that the MLAs involved in the last little episode have made an honest mistake. I think that if they decided that they were unhappy, they should have considered talking to us first, to their constituents, their members."

I asked Stier if the Wildrose were still united behind leader Danielle Smith. "Oh, 100%," he replied. "We all are. We are 14 (sitting Wildrose MLAs) now, but we are all 100% united, always were."

"She is young, she is dynamic, she is extremely bright and extremely talented. We are fortunate to have her as a leader."

"It's been a blow to her, there is no question about that."

"All of us have been talking about this quite a bit obviously, in the last few days, having meetings how we are going to re-strategize, change positions, and keep on going. We have had great success as an opposition team. We probably have the best record of any opposition so far. We hope to continue on with that, and we shall. We have probably become a little closer to each other, having dealt with a crisis that we all shared."

I asked Stier what may have precipitated the Towle and Donovan departures. "My guess is that there may have been some conversations with the government's side, ahead of that day, that enticed them to make the decision that they did," he said. According to the Edmonton Journal, both Towle and Donovan say they came to their decisions independently of each other, and were unaware that the other was also switching sides.

"At our convention, there were some resolutions that came up that were full of contentious issues," Stier said. "There were things that caused us a little bit of disgruntlement with the media," he continued, saying that perception of the Wildrose Party's stance on gay rights has been distorted by the press.  He referred to the existing Wildrose policy that denounces intolerance of all sorts, approved overwhelmingly at the 2013 Wildrose convention.

At the 2014 Wildrose convention reworded version of the policy was defeated, in favour of the 2013 policy. Why? Stier said, "Our group of members that attended our convention decided that it was more appropriate to leave the policy as it was, because they thought 'All Albertans' was more inclusive (than the new wording)."

"The media thought because we didn't approve the more detailed one, that suddenly we were off the wall, and bigots. That's not the case, whatsoever."

For the record, Pat Stier clearly indicated his distaste for intolerance during this interview and has done so with this interviewer on many previous occasions.

Both the Progressive Conservatives and the Alberta Liberals are presenting bills to support gay-straight alliances (GSA) in Alberta schools, to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students from intolerance.

Regarding the recent byelections Stier said "I think a lot of people in Alberta, including some of our own staff, had high hopes, and perhaps some of them were even unreasonable expectations. These were heavily held PC ridings, strong camps of volunteers on the other side. I think we did fairly well there. We came within 300 votes of actually taking one of those seats, which is Calgary West, where former MP Ken Hughes was an MLA. So we had extremely high amounts of growth in that riding particularly. The other two, we ran a fairly good campaign as well, although we didn't come in as well in those other three ridings. Nonetheless, we gave it a good try. "

"Just like any team sport, we didn't do so well, but we will soldier on, and will continue to soldier on. It is another chapter in our lives and we will be stronger for it."

Infrastructure has been added to Stier's Transportation opposition critic portfolio. "We have a lot of infrastructure issues to deal with. Roads, schools, hospitals, bridges... Oh, my God, bridges..." he said. The flooding incidents of the last two years took out a lot of bridges and damaged many more. "The Infrastructure Department is also responsible for the Alberta Capital Plan, so most ministries have to go to Infrastructure for money. That's a fairly immense portfolio."

I asked Stier if he had anything to say about Joe Anglin.

"Only in one respect, Mr. Anglin lost his riding a few months back in June, and was no longer going to be related to our party, because the people there decided they did not want him to be their MLA in the next election. He essentially lost support from his Wildrose constituency association, and the members there. So he became an independent."

"He has been seeking to be in the media in the last couple of weeks, particularly in the last 4 days. He has been spreading things that are not factual regarding our MLA group and staff. It's been unfortunate that he has decided to do that. In that regard, actually, I am speaking to my constituency association in Claresholm on Saturday night for our usual monthly association meeting."

"Is the Wildrose still viable?" I asked.

"Without question. Our team is well experienced. I look at this being perhaps a slight correction, like in the stock market."

"You learn by it and use it to make you stronger, sharper, and more on your game."

Wildrose all the way? "Absolutely. I will be rowing this boat as long as I can row it, as hard as I can row it."

"If something unusual comes along to change the world somehow I will have to make whatever kind of decisions later on. If I end up ill, and have to resign when I'm 80 years old, I will still be a Wildrose guy. I am full-bore on board."

"I'm lucky to have the riding that I have."

Stier's been busy as usually, travelling bad roads for long distances to events in Livingstone-Macleod.  "I put over 1,200 km on the truck on the weekend," he said.  Stops included the presentation of Years of Service awards to Crowsnest Pass firemen (including one 60 Year award) and a visit with the Fort Macleod Lions at their 75th Anniversary dinner.

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