Saturday, March 25, 2017

MLA Pat Stier to be part of Wildrose/PC unity discussions

  • Includes recent interview with Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier

Chris Davis - In a press release issued yesterday, March 24, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC Party Leader Jason Kenney announced "the composition of the unity discussion group, along with a timeline for the group to report back to the memberships of both parties."  Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier (WR) is to be one of the discussion group members.  According to a similar PC Party press release, "A negotiated agreement for achieving unity is expected to be concluded by the end of Spring 2017."

According to yesterday's Wildrose press release, "This group has been tasked by their party leaders to develop a single unity framework that seeks to respect the principles and views of grassroots members from both parties. Any unity framework agreement that results from the discussion group would need to be ratified and approved by the membership of both parties."

If the parties can reach an agreement by the end of spring 2017. the plan is to hold a referendum in early summer.According to the PC press release, "Following ratification of a unity agreement through an open and democratic referendum, the rest of the summer and fall of 2017 will be spent laying the groundwork for a new party. This will include establishing new constituency association, creating new bylaws for the new party and defining the new party's core values. By late fall (November 2017) a founding convention will occur to establish a new party and elect its Board of Directors."  A leadership election is anticipated to follow in February or March of 2018.

The anticipated new party remains nameless at this time, and the members of both parties are invited to offer suggestions.

Wildrose members of the discussion group include MLA Stier, Wildrose Party treasurer James Cole, Arthur Hamilton (said to be an expert in election legislation and the laws governing political parties), Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House MLA and Party whip Jason Nixon, and Wildrose Fundraising VP M. Brandon Swertz, who has an extensive oil and gas background. Progressive Conservative discussion group members include Calgary Chamber of Commerce Director of Policy and Government Relations Zoe Addington, Chartered Accountant Bridget Hennigar, MLA for Calgary Hays and PC Caucus Leader Ric McIver, lawyer and Edmonton Mill Creek PC Association President Devinder Purewal, and lawyer and Calgary West PC Association President Tyler Shandro.
“I am confident that our discussion team will carry out the will of our members and engage in respectful dialogue with the selected members for the PC Alberta discussion group. Four of our members were selected through a democratic process within our caucus and our executive committee. I am thrilled with the candidates selected and know they are committed to working towards an agreement that can receive support from grassroots members of both parties. We are committed to ensuring the members will have the final say and will remain in the driver’s seat. In the meantime, our consultations with members, supporters and Albertans on creating a single and united conservative party will not stop.” - Wildrose Leader Brian Jean

“I am delighted that these accomplished Albertans from diverse backgrounds have agreed to represent the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta in the forthcoming unity discussions. In asking these individuals to sit on the discussion group, I was looking for a team with a unique combination of skills and backgrounds: legal, policy, financial, and political. I believe they represent the broad mainstream tradition of Alberta Progressive Conservatives, and I know they are committed to the goal of re-uniting free-enterprise Albertans into one big, diverse coalition that can defeat the NDP and get our province back on track. In the days to come, I will be reaching out to Progressive Conservative boards and grassroots members to seek their input on the mandate for this team of representatives.” - PC Leader Jason Kenney

MLA Pat Stier's geographically large riding includes Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.  I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago, about Castle parks issues and on conservative unity issues in Alberta.  As he has done several times in the recent past, Stier said unity was a given and a must for conservatives id they want to defeat the NDP in the next election.

Stier is one of the five Wildrose MLAs who refused to abandon the party when then-leader Danielle Smith crossed the floor and joined the PCs in December of 2014, with eight other Wildrose members joining her in the move.

The PCs were defeated in the 2015 election, after being in power in Alberta continuously since 1971 - a 44 year run.  The NDP party won a 62% majority of seats in the legislature, to form the government.  The Wildrose Party won 24% of the seats, enough to maintain their role as official opposition, which they've held since the 2012 election.  The PCs were reduced to 11% of the seats.

On March 10 Stier told me he had been talking to his constituents and "They seem to be saying the same thing, they keep saying we must get rid of this NDP government. Everybody's unhappy."   He said he was getting the message that people would like to see one conservative party in the province "So that our numbers are higher, so that we can eliminate them (the NDP) from having control in government again."  

Stier said uniting the two parties was not without complications. "It's an interesting set of circumstances, because the Progressive Conservative Party is in debt.  For the most part, the general understanding is that they are about $850,000 in the hole as a party."  

"We can't just merge, it's illegal in Alberta. We need to follow some steps."

"We can forge ahead, together. We are accepting of maybe a name change, we are accepting of even a leadership race."  (Note this was said two weeks before yesterday's announcements, which indicate there likely will be a leadership race in February or March of next year.)

"That in a nutshell is what it's all about."

"We want to be sure that we are for sure in place with candidates by 2018, without question."

"We usually have a nomination opportunity within our party partway through our term.  I think it would be premature to get into a nomination race at this time."

"Will there be acceptance of a new small c conservative party? I believe, a wonderful acceptance."

"Both parties have an almost identical constitution and policy document match-up. When it comes down to it, there probably isn't a lot we don't agree on." 

Other issues:

From 2004 to 2007 Stier was a municipal councillor with the Municipal District of Foothills #31. Now he represents 22 communities as an opposition MLA. "I hopefully provide a voice to pass on messages." When he was first elected to the provincial legislature Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach had just introduced the new Royalty Framework for Oil and Gas, "That was really driving business in the wrong direction."

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan was (and remains) a hot-button issue in Livingstone-Macleod and other rural jurisdictions. "A lot of people from the municipal sides were pretty upset with that as well." The Bill 36 Land Stewardship Act was another hot topic. "They were going to cancel all sorts of permits and leases, and all kind of things." Stier said the act prevented the need for compensation to landowners, and curtailed their legal recourse. "That is what totally upset a lot of rural people, and that is what started the Wildrose."  In the last session of the legislature he introduced Bill 210 "to take out the draconian ministerial powers in Bill 36, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA), and to improve landowner rights with regard to energy exploration."

The session ended without the bill being processed, so, according to a Match 24 press release, on March 22 Stier introduced Bill 204 which would also reform ALSA by addressing fair compensation concerns for landowners "when their livelihoods are directly and negatively impacted by regional planning;" would include "rights for holders of statutory consents (such as Forestry Permits, Intensive Livestock Operation Licenses, Oil and Gas Leases, and Grazing Leases) to recover financial losses through the courts if they are negatively impacted by regional planning," and would repeal clauses of ALSA "which give Cabinet the power to make any law or regulation within the authority of the Legislature; and. Amend the Responsible Energy Development Act to incorporate the rights from section 26 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act so that owners of private land will be properly notified of access requests, learn and challenge the facts supporting an energy resource application, and be fully involved with the hearing."

Stier has also been encouraging the government to cancel squatters rights.  "We are one of the last Provinces in Canada to still allow that to take place", he said on March 10. "It's been ignored for years and years, and we are going to fix it."

On March 23 he introduced an enhanced bill to protect property rights that would remove adverse possession, or squatters’ rights, from Alberta law.  According to the March 24 press release on the subject, "Bill 204 would bring Alberta law up to speed with the rest of the country by removing squatters’ rights - an archaic law that permits untitled occupants of land for ten years or longer to take possession of that same land without a valid agreement with the original owner – from the books. The Alberta Property Rights Advocate recommended scrapping the law in 2014. Alberta and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with a law like this still in place."

“It’s high time we caught up to the rest of the country and abolished squatters’ rights in this province,” Stier said. “In addition to the many good things my Bill would do to protect property rights, this is the big issue that so many hardworking landowners have been waiting patiently to see fixed. It’s time for the NDP to put its money where its mouth is and get this done for Albertan landowners.”

A Wildrose motion on abolishing squatters' rights received all-party support from the Resource Stewardship Committee last February, but according to the press release "there is no indication that legislation will be coming from the government."

Stier said the NDP needs to support his Bill or risk raising alarms with landowners across the province.  “Once upon a time the NDP supported property rights and opposed Bill 36, but now that they’re in power, I have seen little effort on their part to fix ALSA or squatters’ rights,” Stier said. “There’s no place for squatters’ rights in Alberta in 2017. This is a golden opportunity for the government to work with the Opposition and accomplish something good for Albertans.”

Stier's no fan of the carbon tax either.  He said $21.5 million of the carbon tax is being used to buy light bulbs. power bars, shower heads, and thermostats for Alberta homes, to be installed by a contractor hired out of Ontario. "Who would have believed that?" He said the government spent another $9.5 million advertising the initiative.. "That is appalling Twilight Zone - type stuff."

Other portions of my March 10 interview with Pat Stier can be found in this story: 
Castle parks management plan open house held in Pincher Creek

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