It’s not really a shrinking caucus if people refuse to run for re-election but the number of former Wildrose MLAs on that list is rising at a steady enough rate to warrant some consideration. All Wildrose and PC MLAs became UCP MLAs when the parties merged. Prior to the merger, the Wildrose caucus consisted of 22 MLAs including Derek Fildebrandt, Strathmore-Brooks and its leader, Brian Jean, Fort McMurray-Conklin.
As a refresher, Fildebrandt stepped down from the caucus in August 2017 to allow Albertans to focus on the UCP leadership rather than the reasons he stepped down. In February of 2018 a press release on behalf of Jason Kenney informed both Albertans and Fildebrandt that Fildebrant “can’t return to UCP caucus”. Within a week Don MacIntrye resigned over sexual assault allegations and Brian Jean resigned in March of his own volition.
The latest trend is current UCP MLAs (who also happen to disproportionately be former Wildrosers) announcing they will not be vying for the party nominations in their ridings. On April 9, Scott Cyr, MLA for Bonnyville – Cold Lake announced he would not be seeking the UCP nomination and he was joined by Wayne Drysdale, MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, Pat Stier MLA for Livingstone MacLeod, and David Schneider, MLA for Little Bow who made announcements on Friday, April 20.
The former PC caucus has remained relatively untouched, aside from Dave Rodney stepping down to give Kenney his seat in November 2017 and now Drysdale not seeking re-election. One has to wonder if there’s something in the air at the UCP that is making former Wildrose MLAs a little uncomfortable. From a public relations perspective, it certainly seems smarter to have as many MLAs as possible announce they will retire from politics in 2019 rather than drag it out over four or five months (or more).
Schneider’s riding won’t exist under the new boundaries and neither would Derek Fildebrandt’s as his was carved up mightily. Under the new boundaries, Fildebrandt’s Strathmore-Brooks riding lost the most populated areas; Strathmore merged with Chestermere (Leela Aheer) and Brooks merged with Cypress, (Drew Barnes).
While some MLAs have announced their intention to run again, some notable others have not. Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler) has not yet announced and with his unenviable public relations issues with the Wildrose, it would not be surprising if he did not contest the riding. One contender, Nathan Horner, is currently registered to vie for the UCP nomination in Drumheller-Stettler.
Prasad Panda, Calgary-Foothills, has not announced either and there are currently two individuals registered to seek the nomination in his riding; Connor Staus and Jason Luan. It may also be worth mentioning that the ridings of Barnes, Orr, Nixon, Pitt, Cooper, Hunter, McIver and Smith have no other contenders registered.
Perhaps it’s true that these former Wildrose MLAs are all ready to move on and they are all happily heading back to being citizens at large for their own reasons. And someone once told me there are no coincidences in politics. So there’s that.