2014 was not a great year for the Wildrose Party, but they say they are entering 2015 with a renewed vision to serve Albertans as they announced their new interim leader Monday afternoon.
Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth was introduced alongside caucus members, staff and supporters at the party’s Southern Alberta caucus office in Calgary.
Last week, former leader Danielle Smith and eight other MLAs crossed the floor to join Premier Jim Prentice and the PCs.
Forsyth said despite only having five MLAs left, they are not going anywhere.
“Let there be no questions, Albertans did not lose their opposition,” she said. “Their opposition has been renewed and is now refocused on doing a better job more than ever.”
The new leader said she will not seek permanent leadership with the party and touched on the speculation that she was close to retirement, due to medical issues with her family.
“I had a heart to heart with my husband and he’s asked me not to use his health as an excuse and stay strong and fight the fight for the next 16 months and I’m going to do that,” she said.
As for the party’s status, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw said he has sent a letter to the House Speaker saying a new leader has been chosen and they intend to remain the official opposition.
“All precedents that are available out there clearly indicate that in a situation like this that the existing official opposition retains that status provided they now have a leader,” he said. “We now have a leader and a very good one, so we expect a ruling tomorrow.
Saskiw is also the new House Leader and like many of the other MLAs, said there are no current plans to run for the permanent leadership.
Also in attendance was former MP Rob Anders, who was asked if he was going to run.
“I’m renewing my membership because I believe in a principled, effective, credible opposition for Alberta, I think it needs it and so I’m here just to simply do that and show my support for the cause,” he said. “I’ve had people talk to me about it obviously, but like I said, I have no declaration at this stage, I’m just here to renew my membership.”
When asked how the party feels with regards to Smith and the other eight MLAs crossing over, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier gave an answer.
“The other day, nine of my colleagues grabbed each other’s hands and jumped off a cliff,” he said. “We’re all dedicated even more now, we’re strong, we’re alive and we’re going to keep holding this government to account and we’re going to carry on with the good fight as we always have.”