A new political action committee wants to ensure centrists have an alternative ahead of the next provincial election.
Katherine O’Neill, former president of the Progressive Conservative party is leading the committee. O’Neill stepped down after Jason Kenney won the party leadership in March running on a platform to merge the PCs with the Wildrose.
Done with the PCs and the prospective United Conservative Party, O’Neill says she is excited to be the executive director of the “Alberta Together” movement.
“The big goal is to ensure there is a viable centrist option for the 2019 election,” she said.
On the heels of talks that have been taking place over the last few months, including a previous meeting in Red Deer in April, O’Neill says the next step is a meeting taking place this Saturday in Red Deer, where a few hundred attendees are expected.
“We’re going to come together to get a battle plan towards 2019 and seeing where the commonalities are and where we can work from there,” O’Neill explained. “It didn’t just start because of the PC leadership race. There have been conversations that the Alberta Party has been having about somehow getting people from the middle together, people who are fiscally conservative but are socially moderate and who want to have an option.”
O’Neill, a former journalist, feels Alberta’s political scene has become too polarized, leaving people abandoned between the far left and far right looking for solutions that are socially progressive but fiscally prudent.
“We’ve got big problems in our province. Our fiscal house needs some work, but our best days could still be ahead of us,” O’Neill suggested. “People care about public service, they care about our province and they don’t want to let political labels stop them from getting their work done.”
O’Neill says she had every intention of getting away from politics after leaving the PCs, but the chance to get involved with Alberta Together was simply too exciting to ignore.
“I have three children under six and was really interested in just taking a step back,” she admitted. “But my phone kept ringing off the hook with people saying ‘What are we doing next?’ ‘Where are we going?’ ‘How are we moving Alberta together in a centrist way?’ So that pulled me back in and I’m really excited about this.”
Among those attending Saturday’s meeting are Alberta Party leader Greg Clark, former Edmonton mayor and PC cabinet minister Stephen Mandel, former PC MLA for Drumheller – Stettler Jack Hayden, Kerry Cundall, former Liberal leadership candidate, and Stephen Khan, former PC cabinet minister and leadership candidate. Dozens of others who’ve been working behind the scenes for various political parties will also be there.
“I’m very excited about the diverse groups of people who are going to be there from all around the province,” Clark said while in Red Deer on Monday.
O’Neill says there’s an appetite among her group behind putting all of their efforts behind the Alberta Party.
“The Liberals just went through a leadership race where the candidate who won was very clear he thinks the party can go it alone. We want to respect that decision,” she noted. “Starting a new party, there is no time [and] it’s really not necessary if the Alberta Party has its arms wide open, which they do. We’re going to go through all of that at this meeting, asking participants what they think will be the best way forward.”
Saturday’s meeting in Red Deer goes at the Black Knight Inn from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Details are available at albertatogether.ca.
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