Former PC cabinet ministers, MLAs spotted at Alberta Party AGM

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Former PC cabinet ministers, MLAs spotted at Alberta Party AGM

A number of former Progressive Conservatives were at the Alberta Party annual general meeting in Red Deer on Saturday, including former cabinet ministers  Doug Griffiths and Stephen Khan and former party president Katherine O'Neill. 

About 400 people are attending this year's meeting in Red Deer, a considerable jump from the 59 who attended the 2016 convention. 

The party is voting for a number of board positions this weekend. The board is expected to announce the start of a leadership race in the coming days.

"I think the majority of Albertans don't want to be angry and talk about what they're opposed to or talk about what life was like in the '80s," Griffiths told reporters. 

"They want to do something new. They're looking for new vision, new energy, new excitement and a very progressive Alberta."

Griffiths, who served as minister of municipal affairs and Service Alberta under former premier Alison Redford, said he bought an Alberta Party membership last spring. Griffiths left provincial politics in 2015 and says he has no desire to run for office again. 

In addition to O'Neill and Griffiths, former PC MLAs Jacquie Fenske, Ron Casey and Dave Quest were spotted in the crowd.

Khan, the former PC MLA ,  Service Alberta minister and PC leadership candidate,, bought a membership several weeks ago and is involved in the newly resurrected constituency association in St. Albert. 

He rejected the characterization of the Alberta Party as the PC Party 2.0. 

"I think that's a narrative that's being floated by a certain group," Khan said referring to the United Conservative Party, which he said has more former PC members than the Alberta Party. 

"What I really believe this is is sort of a coalescing of what I call Lougheed Tories."

Opt in, not out

Kerry Towle, the former Wildrose turned PC MLA who lost her seat in the 2015 election, bought an Alberta Party membership last week.

"I'm just trying to find where I best fit, and I'm not sure where that is right now," she told reporters, adding she also holds membership in the UCP. 

Towle said she may go with the UCP, but she wants to see what direction the membership takes with its policies. 

Other attendees included political consultant Stephen Carter, chief of staff to former premier Alison Redford, and Edmonton Coun. Michael Walters, who ran under the Alberta Party banner in the 2012 provincial election.

The party has attracted many former Progressive Conservatives who were unhappy with the merger with the Wildrose to create the United Conservative Party.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney, in a speech to the Manning Networking Conference in Red Deer Saturday, urged conservatives to join the new united party even if they have doubts. 

"Please express concern through your active involvement in this new party. Not by opting out, but by opting in. We need every voice and this must be a diverse coalition," he said. 

Kenney dismissed the influence of the Alberta Party on provincial politics compared to the UCP. 

"In the last 48 hours, the United Conservative Party has raised from its grassroots members more than the Alberta Party did in the last nine months," he told the crowd. 

Plan to become next government

Calgary-Elbow MLA Greg Clark, who stepped down as leader last week, told the crowd in his keynote speech that he "absolutely" believes the Alberta Party will win government in 2019. 

"I believe that we can win in 2019. I believe that we are on the right path to get there and together, my friends, that's exactly what we'll do."

Potential leadership candidate Chima Nkemdirim, chief of staff to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and Kerry Cundal, former provincial Liberal leadership candidate, are also attending.

Although Nkemdirim has been touted by some party insiders, he remained non-committal about his plans.

"It's always flattered to be asked," Nkemdirim said. "I'm really here to see what's going on this weekend."

Nkemdirim is one of the party's founders and said he is pleased to see it growing.

Kara Levis, a Calgary-based lawyer for TransCanada, may throw her hat into the ring.

"I'm still considering," Levis said. "There are a number of people who have asked me to consider and I'm taking that very seriously."

Other potential candidates include radio host Ryan Jespersen, former Morinville Mayor Lisa Holmes and former Alberta Liberal leadership candidate Kerry Cundal. 

Clark expects a new leader will be chosen by February. He hasn't ruled out running again