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Monday, February 23, 2015

MLA Pat Stier preparing for next election

MLA Pat Stier
C. Davis file photo
Chris Davis

In a recent interview, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier reiterated his continued dedication to the Wildrose party and his intention to run in the next provincial election, should one be called in the near future as anticipated. "Yes, I am running again, and I am excited to go at it, frankly, because of what's happened now," Stier said, referring to the December floor crossings of former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and 8 other Wildrose MLAs. Stier said that positive comments he has heard from constituents regarding his decision to remain a Wildrose MLA were gratifying. "It has given me renewed belief in what I am doing."

"Your reputation is the most important thing you have as an individual, and I could not risk my reputation. I had agreed with the people in this riding to take on a contract. That is what I intend to do, and I am going to keep on doing it."

With the defections came a significant reduction in staff for the Wildrose. "We have had quite a blow to our organization, there is no question, but we still have our main executive committee team, we still have our main legislative office team," Stier said. "We have lost a lot of our front line soldiers. Regardless of that, we have a renewed spirit. People are invigorated, beyond belief."

"With the renewed vigor and interest in us, I think we are going to be stronger than ever."

I think the most important thing to get out is that a lot of people have said the Wildrose is no longer. A lot of people are saying they don't know where to go now. I would like to get out that we're still here. We're still strong, our team is still there, we're still strategizing. We were the best opposition that Albertans had seen for years. Yes we have a few less soldiers, but we will continue to be a good opposition."

Stier said June 6* has been set as the date for the selection of a new Wildrose leader, who will take the place of interim leader Heather Forsyth. "That would be after the predicted election."  Nominees must be members of the Wildrose party for a minimum of 6 months beforehand. "They can't parachute in."

I asked him if he was thinking of running for the leadership himself. "I would enjoy that perhaps, but I'm more the guy that likes to stay working with his sleeves rolled up and the pencil over his ear, in the back room and really getting in sync with his assignments."

I asked him what he thought the Wildrose's chance might be if an election is called soon. "440,000 people in Alberta voted for us in the last election, and we are getting increased attention from this (the defections) of course," he replied. "We are also getting a lot of people who want to come in and help us out." He likened the situation to neighbours after a flood. "They are coming out from places we've never heard from before, asking if they can help. It's been absolutely wonderful. In this business you don't often get accolades, and we've been getting a lot of them."

Despite stating his readiness to face a snap election, Stier also expressed his disapproval of the possibility that the Progressive Conservative government may hold that election this spring instead of between March and May of 2016, as set out in the Election Amendment Act passed in December of 2011. "It is disappointing, to be honest with you. Every indication says he (Premier Jim Prentice) is going to go around that law, and go to the Lieutenant Governor and ask for that law to be rescinded, or repealed, or whatever they have to do, and go to an election this year."

"The last two elections, I believe, have cost 10 to 12 million dollars respectively."

"They already have a huge majority, there is no need for this sort of thing, especially when we are facing some very difficult times. Let's get down to business."

"It's our understanding that he is going to drop the budget in our laps and say 'Here's what we're proposing to do'. He's not going to give us the chance to debate that. The bigger indications are that he's going to drop the writ right then and there." Stier said it concerned him that there might be no time to debate the budget or look at every ministry line by line, and with the Liberal and Wildrose parties currently leaderless "It looks as though they are attempting to totally exterminate what opposition there is remaining".

"It's quite precedent setting, in fact."

"We usually propose a new alternative budget when the budget comes out."

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) was a major issue in the last election, and former PC MLA for Livingstone-Macleod Evan Berger paid a price for it. Many in the riding were opposed to the SSRP and Berger was the PC point man for it. Stier spoke to concerns about it on a regular basis, particularly related property rights issues. I asked him if he thought the SSRP was going to be a factor in the next election, should it happen soon. "I don't think it will be on the forefront of people's minds, just because of the fiscal situation with the government and the lack of revenue, compared to normal," he replied. "It will be an election really focused on the fiscal situation, primarily. There is no question that is a big story."

"The biodiversity section, in other words the section to do with mother nature, is starting to roll out."

"The environmental movement is very important to us. In terms of development planning reflecting in the SSRP he said "Those proponents of those changes, left unchecked, could go in a direction that some time or another could cause us to reach a saturation point, or some other negative impact of development."

"I do think the environmental movement, the conservation movement is vitally important."

Note: Evan Berger was acclaimed as the PC candidate for Livingstone-Macleod since this interview was conducted.

Stier explained that the Wildrose party has pledged no new taxes or tax increases. "This is noteworthy I believe: They are talking about charging us more, and giving us less. I don't think that is necessarily what Albertans want." He spoke of former Premier Ralph Klein and former Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning. "They wanted to create a province that had a reason to grow and had a reason to attract more business. They wanted to solve it that way, rather than trying to tax their corporates, their businesses, and their people to death."

"They created the Alberta Advantage and it worked very well."

Stier said he has learned a lot since becoming MLA after the 2012 Alberta general election. He said he has received a lot of support from constituents and party members, and has made a lot of contacts, gaining a better understanding of the people and issues of the area. "I have had to get right down into the trenches and face some pretty heavy, heavy situations."

*date subject to change

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