CALGARY – Alberta Tories reached a compromise Saturday over a controversial attempt to strip federal Conservative MPs of their automatic voting privileges at provincial conventions and avoided a further poisoning of the well between the federal and provincial parties.
Delegates at the Alberta Progressive Conservative convention voted to allow the MPs to retain their previous status.
However, the federal members will no longer be allowed to bring along 15 extra delegates to the annual gathering in the future.
“I’m smiling,” said Premier Alison Redford.
“I’m always very happy to have our Members of Parliament participating. I think it’s a very mature approach to what we needed to deal with.”
The motion highlighted a growing rift between the two parties.
It was plainly visible in Alberta’s recent general election, which saw a number of federal Conservatives MP’s openly supporting opposition Wildrose candidates.
“This is a good compromise. Just because we both have the word conservative in our names doesn’t mean will always agree on everything and there is no expectation that they will automatically support us during elections,” explained Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk.
“Sure there are some outliers in the federal caucus that simply overtly choose not to support this party.”
Lukaszuk said prior to Saturday’s vote that the 27 Conservative MP’s in Alberta had considerable influence on provincial policy if they decided to exercise their right to bring all 405 delegates they were entitled to.
“It definitely gave them a lot of power,” he said.
“Those would-be delegates who were perhaps not even members of any provincial associations and had nothing to do with the provincial party between AGMs, and yet could determine in a very substantive way affect the outcomes of votes and how this party governs itself internally.”
Federal MP Ted Menzies was one of just two Conservative MPs spotted at the event but he came as a provincial delegate from the southern Alberta riding where he lives.
“I’m supportive of this party and supportive of this premier and she’s doing a great job,” said Menzies, Minister of State for Finance.
“I can see people’s concern. We had divided parties federally and when they came back together I think it’s for the good of the party and for the good of the country.”
Alberta’s Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said the decision was a good compromise and denied there were any hard feelings left over from the April provincial election.
“They can support whoever they want,” said Denis. “I have friends from all four parties.”
Jim Horsman, a former Alberta cabinet minister and deputy premier, said he believes the move was a long time coming.
He said it dates back to when former premier Peter Lougheed was elected and began building in some separation between the provincial and federal wings of the Progressive Conservative parties.
“Over the years we’ve gradually weaned ourselves away,” said Horsman. “I don’t think this particular resolution came about as a result of that last campaign. I think this has been in the works for quite some time.”