The Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta (WIPA) results from two previous groups, Wexit and the Alberta Freedom Party. The choice to use the old moniker was to gain instant recognition of a grassroots movement. Marc Chayer is the newly minted president of the Constituency Association for the West Yellowhead riding and said he is looking forward to introducing people to the new party.
"I attended my first meeting out of curiosity. I felt I wanted to be part of it because it made sense, and I felt it was high time that Alberta stood up for itself. The neat thing was that everyone in the meeting, except for the Wildrose people, were non-political people. I left that meeting elected president for our Constituency Association (CA) because if you are passionate about something, you do it. That's always been my thing."
The party is in its infancy but multiplying. "We have to build this CA because at the end of the day, to win the election, we need a majority. We are realistic. We are a young party, and we have a boat full of rookies. The good thing is that they are all Albertans who are grassroots people that are done trusting politicians." Most WIPA constituency associations are active throughout the province, with only a handful left in the forming stage.
So, what does independence mean? Chayer said it could mean multiple things, including "soft sovereignty," meaning a better relationship with Canada. "People look at equalization payments and say, we are sending all this money to Ottawa, but equalization is only six percent of what we send to Ottawa. So, things like having an Alberta Pension Plan or an Alberta Police Force would give us a degree of autonomy from the federal government, as they are nowhere near responsive to what we need. It's important to have the freedom to make those decisions."
On the party's official website, (www.Wildrose.party), it states its vision that "a government is of the people, by the people and for the people, not over the people" and that "no federal government has protected Alberta's interests or secured its future prosperity." The website also lists 14 missions: being governed by an Alberta Environmental Act, developing/transporting Alberta's natural resources responsibly, establishing Alberta's Immigration Policy, Pension Plan and EI, and holding an independence referendum are just a few.
Chayer said that it ultimately boils down to respect. "There's frustration because the UCP hasn't lived up to what people thought they should have. No matter what political party you belong to, the one undeniable factor is that this isn't working, and we are paying the price. We can look after ourselves here, but we are not being allowed to do that."
On a local level, Chayer said his goals are to build the member list in the area and increase awareness. He said that soon they will have a candidate for the region but that the seat is currently vacant. "Our candidate could be anybody. We have to make sure that the face of our CA when they get to Edmonton, understands that seniors going to foodbanks is unacceptable. People wondering how to look after their kids is unacceptable. Suspending the charter rights and freedoms for any reason is simply not acceptable. Divisive politics by race, religion, class, or creed is not acceptable."
Chayer said that this move isn't about COVID. "The economy sucks. All we wanted to do was take it to Justin Trudeau, and instead, we got a sternly worded memo. We were not asking for a lot. We just wanted to be defended, and that did not happen. I've been a conservative my whole life, and 99 percent of Wildrose people are conservatives who are just fed up and have no faith in federal or provincial governments. This is not to take a political shot. It is about change."
Speaking about dealing with the federal government, Chayer explained that Quebec had gotten away with standing up for itself, and so should Alberta. "Quebec residents are paying $7/day daycare. They used a notwithstanding clause to exempt themselves from Supreme Court rulings. We just ate the carbon tax. Jason Kenney does not even think to use the notwithstanding clause. So, we are paying $1.20 for a litre of gas, and a $30 roast is now $75. I do not know how someone working $15/hour at Mcdonald's is living. How does anybody live at this point? Wildrose, in a nutshell, is changing that."
On a personal level, Chayer, who calls himself a non-political person, said that watching his province deal with blow after blow has pushed him to stand up and do something. "When we look at Wildrose, was independence my first thing? Was becoming the 51st State my second thing? No. I was a UCP guy. We hired Jason Kenney for one thing, and that was to go after Ottawa, and we've done everything but. The mismanagement and putting fences around churches; we are reasonable people, and there could have been some avenue, but instead of finding a way to deescalate, we bring in the police. That is not us. That is not even remotely us."
Chayer explained that becoming part of the conversation is more important than ever now. "Whether you are for us or against us, at least become part of the debate and let the government know you're listening because they are counting on the fact that you're not. They count on the fact that only one-third of you will care, and with the rest, they know they can pass anything, and they won't care. That has to change."
He admitted that it might all sound dreamy. "Does it sound corny? Well, why not? You are Alberta. Jason Kenney is not Alberta. Rachel Notley is not Alberta. You, the guy pounding the fence posts, the guy working at IGA, the ladies in the schools, the nurses, the daycares, and the people wondering if they will have a job tomorrow, that's Alberta. Those are the people that have built the place, and we have asked everybody what they think except for them. For every percent of unemployment, we have two percent go up in suicides. The addiction rate is off the charts. That cannot be ok. We have to do something."
He said the "promises made, and promises kept" from the UCP on recall legislation were a letdown. "You need 40 percent of the riding to recall your MLA. You only need eight-thousand three hundred and seventy signatures on a petition to form a political party. So, I could form a political party with fewer signatures then I would need to recall my MLA. If they wanted it to be meaningful and realistic legislation, why didn't they make it meaningful, realistic, and reachable? It's fluff."
To learn more, email email@example.com or visit www.Alberta.party. "Why the Wildrose? We have a vision of what could be. Some might say that's wishful thinking, but why does it have to be? In this province, of all places here in the country, I think we have the talent, and we can do this together."
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press